Shmuley 2012

Obama’s failed Israel policy inspires celebrity rabbi to run for Congress

May 7, 2012

Superstar Rabbi Shmuley Boteach thinks President Obama’s principal foreign policy failing is that "he doesn’t hate evil."

Boteach, an Orthodox rabbi, author, and possible Republican candidate for Congress, opened up to the Washington Free Beacon during a wide-ranging interview in which he articulated his distaste for Obama and explained why he is running as a Republican.

The rabbi’s main gripe, however, is that President Obama, a politician he admires and once supported, squandered his political capital and failed to live up to lofty expectations, particularly on the international stage.

"President Obama’s principal failing is on foreign policy. He doesn’t hate evil," said Boteach, who is currently mulling a bid for a seat in Congress. "It doesn’t make his skin crawl or break out in a rash."

The rabbi went on to scold Obama for lacking moral clarity—a deficiency that Boteach says has led the president to embrace murderous dictators and desert the state of Israel.

"I really don’t think President Obama hates evil and that bothers me," explained the former television star, who among other things gained international notoriety for his relationships with a slew of celebrities including deceased pop star Michael Jackson. "From the beginning of the administration, there have been signs the president did not hate evil—he hugged Hugo Chavez!"

The president’s shortcomings, as well as a general coarsening of the political culture, led Boteach to publicly declare his candidacy as a Republican in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District—making him somewhat of a rogue in a Jewish community that still skews Democratic.

"God gave Obama the oratorical skills to be the biggest champion of freedom and life. He could have been another Martin Luther King Jr.," he said. "Obama never utilizes it for anything grand."

Rather, the president has kowtowed to Saudi Arabian dictators and "given a pass" to evildoers such as Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has murdered thousands of his own citizens as the U.S. stands idly by, Boteach said.

"I struggle to find a single foreign policy success for Obama," he said.

Foremost on Boteach’s mind, however, is his upcoming race for a seat in the House of Representatives, a bid that could make him the chamber’s go-to rabbi.

The race in New Jersey’s Ninth District, which has a sizable Jewish population, would pit Boteach against the winner of a hotly contested Democratic primary race between Reps. Steve Rothman and Bill Pascrell—a contest that has already been plagued by accusations of dual loyalty and anti-Israel bias.

Political observers have branded Rothman the favorite to win. That means Boteach could face-off against one of his biggest enemies in Congress.

The rabbi’s revulsion at New Jersey politics is rooted in a 2009 flare-up between him, Rothman, and the late Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi.

At the time, members of Qaddafi’s Libyan regime were trying to move into a home located next door to Boteach in Englewood, N.J., for two months in 2010 during the U.N. General Assembly.

Rothman, the rabbi charged, had helped broker the deal, and publicly urged New Jersey residents to welcome the regime. The Rothman camp flatly disputed the claim.

The bad blood between the two men runs deep.

"His fortunes are tied to Obama," Boteach said of Rothman, a candidate he views as highly vulnerable. Boteach declined to pick a favorite in the race between Rothman and Pascrell.

It remains unclear whether Boteach would be able to pull an upset win against either Democratic incumbent in a district that is extremely liberal. The rabbi’s progressive stance on a range of social issues such as gay marriage and what he calls "social-sexual issues"—views that could place him at odds with the Republican base—make things more complicated.

The 2012 presidential election, like his own congressional race, could hinge upon Jewish voters, Boteach said.

"President Obama is going to have huge problems with the Jewish community in this election," he said. "Huge numbers of Jews are beginning to distrust him."

The president "does not get it on Israel at all," said Boteach, explaining that while Obama has stopped publicly chastising the Jewish state, he fails to grasp the fundamental importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance.

"The American Jewish community is asking itself, ‘What does Obama not see?’" Boteach said. "For all his attempts to dial back on Israel … it’s not working."