Why do GOP presidents hate Israel?

Right-wing heads exploded as President Obama landed in the Jewish state for the second time since 2008 – and his first as President of the United States – for a visit that will culminate in a lavish state dinner thrown by the Israel government in his honor.

So much for hating Israel.

In fact, President Obama has visited Israel more times than Saint Ronald Reagan ever did, who clocks in at an astounding zero visits. I’m sure those summits with Michael Jackson took a lot out of the old gipper. And even Reagan’s vice-president and successor, George H.W. Bush, also managed to totally avoid visiting Israel.

Too busy worrying about throwing up on then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, I guess.

Right-wing pundits have had a field day with President Obama’s supposed anti-Israel positions, completely ignoring the fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the president’s support, going so far as to claim Obama deserves a “badge of honor.”

Israeli flag

Israel via Shutterstock

2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney also got in the action, releasing a campaign ad during the election criticizing the president for not visiting during his presidency, although Mitt had neglected to mention that he himself had also forgotten to visit Israel until he decided to run for president. And when he finally decided to go, it went about as well as Lindsay Lohan in Lifetime’s “Liz and Dick.”

Since it seems like Republicans are deciding that physically visiting the country dictates the level of solidarity one has with Israel, it’s safe to assume that neither Reagan nor Bush liked Israel much. Gerald Ford never visited either. And the most recent GOP President, George W. Bush, waited until his final year in office to visit the Holy Land, twice, obviously thinking it less important than the 77 presidential trips he made to his ranch instead.

Even today’s Republican leaders are coming out as anti-Israel, with GOP House Majority Leader Eric Cantor astonishingly declining an invitation to accompany the president to the Jewish state, claiming he’s too busy working on a budget and voting to repeal ObamaCare for the 44th time.

Counting by the numbers, it appears Democrats are in fact the most pro-Israel party. President Obama has visited twice. Jimmy Carter visited once. And Bill Clinton visited a record four times, while still finding time to balance a budget, create millions of jobs, preside over the most prosperous economic period since WWII, and stop fights between Buddy and Socks.

And if you go back even further, Nixon visited Israel once, but like W Bush he waited until the last year of his presidency.  And Johnson, Kennedy, Eisenhower and Truman all skipped visiting Israel all together.

When you add it all up, over the past seventy years Democratic presidents have visited Israel 7 times, while Republicans have only visited 3 times.

Now who hates Israel?

Though in all fairness to the GOP presidents, it’s hard to visit Israel when you can’t even find it on a map.


Gabe Ortíz is a San Francisco-based writer. He has contributed to the Mission's bilingual newspaper "El Tecolote," and the political blogs AMERICAblog, AMERICAblog Gay, and Veracity Stew. He's also a Stevie Nicks lover and shameless catlady. Follow him on Twitter: @Tusk81.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000558555113 David Leon

    I have to say one thing about you, you are a democrat who cares how many times any president visits the country, you don’t give all the facts Reagan did meet with Isreal, or did you forget he was in conflick with Russia at the time. You are another Obama suck ass liberal who don’t look at every thing. As far as bush is concern that was another mistake the republicans put in office, i think his whole family is corrupt, just as i think Obama is another low life who became president. A man who hates america and everything it stands for, Bye the way most blacks are the biggest racist in this country.

  • Nemo

    Most Israeli Jews supported Romney. 39% of Israeli Jews think Obama is a secret Muslim, only 9% think he is pro-Israel. Their prime minister openly endorsed Romney. They called him an anti-Semite because he didn’t manage to keep Mubarak in power in Egypt like the Israelis ordered him to. If he had any self-respect, Obama would remember who his enemies are and treat them accordingly.

    And, by the way, the Israelis snubbed Reagan’s funeral. Look at all the foreign heads of state who were there, but Israelis sent the ambassador who had nothing better to do anyway. These people never hesitate to fly to Washington to demand money from Congress, but they can’t be bothered to attend a former president’s funeral, after the billions of dollars the US has lavished on them.

    Israelis ought to be grovelling at our feet, not the other way around.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Support for the ethnic cleansing, apartheid, theft of Palestinian land and other racist policies of the zionist bunkerstadt is bipartisan and has been so since 1947.

    Now who hates the zionist colony in Palestine?” Trade unions, anti-colonialist, opponents of apartheid and mass murder and decent people around the world.

    The solution is a Palestinian, secular, inclusive state encompassing the whole of Palestine.

    http://www.endtheoccupation.org/section.php?id=203

  • Ford Prefect

    It’s a bit like finding out our friend has taken up a monstrous heroin habit and instead of getting him or her into treatment, we’ve decided to share needles instead. (Insert opiate of the masses joke here)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    You put your finger on it, my friend. The jingoism is entirely for domestic consumption, not because it in any way helps America’s foreign policy or standing in the world.

  • Ford Prefect

    +1000. What’s especially irking to me in this instance of rhetorical misdirection is the fact that the GOP’s own “pro-Israel” stance is largely based in outright anti-semitism. The fundies are all looking for Armageddon when Israel fails as a state. The Neo-Cons aren’t quite as bigoted, but the result will be the same in any case: a nation-state that fails under the weight of its own hatred and devotion to war-making at all costs. That the Democratic apparat thinks all this is somehow desirable tells me they’re unhinged and don’t give a tinker’s cuss about what naturally follows.

    So in a sense, all this professed fealty to an “ally”–that was never an ally by their own choosing–is only helping to accomplish what they say they’re trying to avoid. Chances are, they really don’t care about how it turns out in the end. And that is undoubtedly the biggest problem of all, since they don’t really care about anything other than their precious impulse to conflict.

    Still, no sense in toning down the jingoism, right? It serves some kind of domestic political purpose, regardless of how toxic it is in the long run.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Republicans clutch pearls, make up some BS to be outraged over, turns out indeed to be BS, Dems proven once again to be operating from what used to be moderate to center-right GOP policies 10-20 years ago. And the rough beast, it’s hour come round at last, slouches onward…

    (with apologies to Yeats, one of my favorite poets)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Couldn’t agree more. This rah-rah “We lurve Israel moar than you do!” jingoism is right up there with “See? We love the military so much we always appoint Republicans to be SecDef and raise the budget even more than you do!” And, “Hey, we’re gonna cut the heart out of the New Deal! See how serious we are!”

    Every time a U.S. leader goes out of his or her way to indicate they adore Israel more than any other nation on the planet, it undercuts the ability of our diplomats and negotiators to broker fair deals with the other nations that don’t like Israel very much — whatever their reasons, even when it’s anti-Jewish bigotry. The point is, when you sit down at a negotiating table, you cannot be presumed to be fair and impartial if you’ve already said you favor one side exclusively over the other.

  • Ford Prefect

    Oh I see. So this is a competition as to which party is more obeisant to the Israel Lobby? Or which party loves apartheid and war crimes the most?

    Okay then. Dems win!

    Sarcasm aside, these kinds of pieces serve a negative purpose: 1), in defining Democrats solely within Right-Wing memes–“We’re more Right-Wing than the Right-Wingers! Yay for us!”– and 2), essentially close off the more important discussion as to what US policy in the ME should actually be and why.

    So we’re supposed to take some absurd pride in the fact that Democrats are, on the whole, more supportive of Israel’s war crimes than Republicans? Because in the end, that’s what this fealty boils down to. That’s what we’re subsidizing and those are OUR cluster munitions they’re dropping on civilians.

    Ya know, Liberals might enjoy more credibility if they weren’t so busy sizing themselves up in terms of how well they use reactionary rhetoric in furtherance of reactionary objectives. Just sayin’.

  • Naja pallida

    I see it more as evidence that there is no significant policy difference between the parties.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Sure, I think Gabe’s point, and I agree, is that regardless of one’s opinion of Israel, this is yet another Fox News lie that the Republicans like to put out there, that somehow Democratic presidents are “bad on Israel” while GOPers love them. Yet GOPers seem to avoid them like the plague.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Kennedy might have gone if he had served two full terms. Presidential travel didn’t really happen in Eisenhower and Truman’s day.

    In general Democrats are more likely to visit as they have the majority of the Jewish vote. That southern strategy thing was not too popular with Jews.

    The recent GOP fad for evangelical Zionism probably won’t last much longer than the GOP being competitive in Florida. Muslims are the new gays as far as the GOP is concerned just like gays used to be the new blacks.

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