The other day in this space, we lamented that, in the wake of yet another mass shooting, neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney showed the least interest in reviewing the sad state of U.S. gun laws.
There is another issue, though, on which neither the president nor his challenger wishes to be silent. Neither candidate, apparently, feels that he can afford to come in second in the race to be seen as the most determined defender of the state of Israel. Like the candidates' stereophonic silence on gun issues, their bidding war over the American Jewish vote is an embarrassing display that may win votes but does not serve the public interest. Or Israel's.
In just the last few days, Romney has traveled to Israel, met top government officials, visited the Wailing Wall, insulted the Palestinians, threatened Iran and generally tried to make himself beloved of the Israeli people. No matter that much of what he was saying from suggesting that Israel's wealth is a sign of a culture superior to that of the Palestinians, to declaring that no option would be excluded from the effort to make sure Iran never becomes a nuclear power can only undermine any chance of turning the weak Arab Spring into a long-term move toward modernity.
Obama, for his part, was hardly less transparent. He chose this particular moment to release a previously approved $70 million in U.S. military aid for Israel, as he signed a new bill expanding U.S.-Israeli military and civilian cooperation.
The sad state of affairs, one that neither the sitting president nor the Republican nominee presumptive has any power to overcome, is that support for the earthly state of Israel has become a key measure for determining whether an American politician is anti-Semitic. The more they love Israel's current government, and the more they threaten Israel's perceived enemies, the more immune they are to charges they are not sufficiently friendly to the Jewish people. And the more likely they are to carry swing states such as Florida.
It has come to the point that U.S. leaders are required to enable any bad policy options the Israeli government which is not the same thing as the Jewish people of the world prefers. The most frightening example of that is the delusion that bellicosity on the part of Israel and the U.S. can somehow convince the leaders of Iran that they would be safer if they would abandon their nuclear aspirations.
The United States should be a friend of Israel. But supporting dangerous behavior on the part of others isn't real friendship. Or leadership.