Gauging U.S. presidents on the basis of how much weight they are willing to throw behind their Middle East ally Israel is a political tactic that has been around for long.
Of course it is mostly a rhetorical question that generally never leads to a conclusion.
If best friends are supposed to be judged during bad times, it is worthwhile to assess how good a friend Obama is to Israel, in the light of an international debate which questions and supports the Jewish state's right to defend itself from the existential threat posed by Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions.
In an interview held earlier this week, Obama said that U.S. has Israel's back and that it would initiate a military strike on Iran if Tehran failed to pull the plug on its nuclear arms program.
I think that the Israeli government recognizes that, as president of the United States, I don't bluff, Obama told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic days before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington. I also don't, as a matter of sound policy, go around advertising exactly what our intentions are. But I think both the Iranian and the Israeli governments recognize that when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.
Without in any way being under an illusion about Iranian intentions, without in any way being naive about the nature of that regime, they are self-interested, Obama said.
While Israel considers nuclear Iran an existential risk, Obama said Iranian nuclear bomb poses a profound national security threat to the U.S. even if Israel were not being targeted directly.
You're talking about the most volatile region in the world, he said. It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe.
Without indulging in any sort of desperate pro-Israel tactic to ward off speculation that Israeli government is rather annoyed at Washington's reluctance to give a green signal for a pre-emptive military action, Obama effectively made it clear that a nuclear Iran is a threat to the international community and not just to Israel.
The Iranian nuclear crisis is something that needs to be evaluated in the light of the upcoming U.S. presidential election, which Obama isn't sure of winning.
The best he could do to earn the support of the American Jewish community and the influential Jewish campaign sponsors is to steer the situation in such a way that Iran becomes an international problem and not just a threat to Israel. Unless one is willing to stoop low like Newt Gingrich by declaring that Palestinians are invented people to earn Jewish support, Obama is doing just right.
Every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security, I have kept, Obama told Goldberg during the interview. Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they've had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that?
Whether or not Netanyahu agrees with Obama's claim, Israel's former military intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin has said that Obama is the best president ever for Israel.
The president claimed, and I think so rightly so, that from a defense point of view, from a security of Israel point of view, (he has been) the best president for Israel and I agree with that, Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Yadlin said, close on the heels of Israeli premier's Washington visit.
Come to think of it, Israel has been somewhat an arrogant ally to the U.S. despite the former's lack of considerable support from anywhere else in the world.
In a recent report by the Associated Press, a U.S. intelligence official, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the Israeli authorities would keep the U.S. in the dark to reduce the likelihood that Washington would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel from initiating a crisis situation in the already turbulent Middle East. But Tel Aviv's stance also signifies its frustration over Washington's reluctance to support Israel in initiating a military action, the report noted.
Moreover Netanyahu isn't exactly the kind of premier who is revered by the rest of the world. The embarrassing incident of French President Nicolas Sarkozy calling Netanyahu a liar during his private conversation with Obama underlined the fact in November last year, during the G20 summit in Cannes.
Instead of contradicting Sarkozy's description of Netanyahu, Obama appeared to reiterate the sentiments: You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you.
Though Obama has had a difficult relationship with Netanyahu, the White House immediately issued statements to limit the damage caused by the liar statement and the President's reply.
Israelis may still not consider Obama their best friend, but he has always at least tried to clear up the mess that Israel manages to get itself into.