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Few did more to reassure Jews it was "safe" to vote for Barack Obama than Martin Peretz, financier and editor-in-chief of The New Republic since 1974.
"Can friends of Israel -- and Jews -- trust Obama?" he asked in an article in January of last year.
His answer was yes. "Obama's points, which he has made many times, should reassure anyone who is concerned about what his presidency would mean for the security of Israel," Mr. Peretz wrote then.
In May of last year, Mr. Peretz assured Jews concerned about the endorsement of Mr. Obama by Hamas leader Ahmed Yousef that "Obama's own personal history and his political convictions predisposed him towards Israel."
Harvard professor Samantha Power has accused Israel of war crimes, and once recommended U.S. troops be sent to impose upon the Israelis a peace settlement by force. She's been appointed by President Obama to a senior foreign policy job at the White House. Mr. Peretz assured his readers in December that Ms. Power "truly, truly loves Israel and the people of Israel."
But Mr. Obama's appointment of Charles "Chas" Freeman to be director of the National Intelligence Council is causing Mr. Peretz second thoughts.
Mr. Freeman is a former diplomat who was ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992. He also was an assistant secretary of defense in the first Clinton administration. Since 1997, he's been president of the Middle East Policy Council, a lobbying group funded mostly by Saudi Arabia.
As director of the National Intelligence Council -- a post which does not require Senate confirmation -- Mr. Freeman would be the official most responsible for preparation of National Intelligence Estimates -- the classified documents that give the president and Congress the intelligence community's assessments of the medium- and long-term threats to the security of the country.
Mr. Freeman is a man of strong opinions. He thinks Hamas is a key to peace in the Middle East and Israel the chief barrier to it. He's been effusive in his praise of the Saudi king, whom he has described as "Abdullah the Great," and of a book by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer on the "Israeli lobby," which has been denounced as riddled with factual errors and by some as anti-Semitic.
Mr. Freeman's fondness for tyrants goes beyond the Middle East. He supported the disabling of the "democracy movement" in Tiananmen Square in 1989. "The truly unforgivable mistake by the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud," Mr. Freeman said in a 2006 e-mail uncovered by the Weekly Standard.
"Chas Freeman is actually a new psychological type for a Democratic administration," Mr. Peretz wrote Feb. 25. "He has never displayed a liberal instinct and wants the United States to kow-tow to authoritarians and tyrants, in some measure just because they may seem able to keep the streets quiet ... That Freeman would be chosen to be the president's gatekeeper to national intelligence is an absurdity."
Another who assured Jews that Mr. Obama is their friend is Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic magazine. "Obama and I spoke over the weekend," he wrote last May. "He seemed eager to talk about his ties to the Jewish community, and about the influence Jews have had on his life."
More troubling than Mr. Freeman's hostility towards Israel is "the obvious inappropriateness of hiring a well-known advocate for the interests of Middle Eastern autocracies to produce national intelligence estimates for the Obama administration," Mr. Goldberg wrote Feb. 23.
Mr. Peretz and Mr. Goldberg treat the Freeman nomination as if it were an aberration. But placed within the context of the Obama administration's flirtation with the idea of attending the Durban II "Zionism is racism" "human rights" conference and the administration's plan to provide $300 million in aid for Gaza, which is controlled by Hamas, the Freeman nomination may be a more accurate reflection of the president's innermost feelings than the assurances he gave to Mr. Peretz and Mr. Goldberg during the campaign.
First Published March 8, 2009 12:00 am