March 12, 2010
Biden Trip Reveals Ominous Side of Obama's Treatment of IsraelBy Leo Rennert
The most salient part of Vice President Biden's speech in Tel Aviv came toward the end of his address -- after he spoke about the "unbreakable bond" between the U.S. and Israel, after he assured his audience that the administration has an "ironclad commitment to Israel's security," and after he reassured skeptical Israelis that America "stands shoulder to shoulder" with the Jewish state.
Once these nice pieties were out of the way, Biden got to the real, unbalanced U.S. position vis-à-vis Israel and the Palestinians -- again "condemning" Israel for moving ahead with plans for more housing units in East Jerusalem, while showering fulsome praise on Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.
Having lauded Abbas and Fayyad as "willing partners" for peace and competent leaders to bring about a genuine two-state solution, Biden added in the same paragraph this contrast with the Israeli government:
Biden's comments are doubly revealing.
First, the vice president made clear that it was Obama who made the decision to "condemn" the Israeli government -- one of the harshest criticisms ever leveled against Israeli leaders by an American president.
Second, Biden -- voicing Obama's views -- refrained from uttering anything approaching similar incendiary criticism of Abbas's multiple anti-Israel and anti-peace provocations.
The closest the vice president came to expressing any displeasure with Palestinian provocations was when he told his audience that "you've been frustrated by the unwillingness of some Palestinian leaders to curb incitement." This remark didn't even rise to a slap on the wrist, and it carefully omitted identification of who these Palestinian leaders might be. It's not something that need worry Abbas in the slightest.
Biden's juxtaposition of slamming Israel hard and refraining from bringing up anything about Abbas's multiple impediments to advancing the peace process makes a mockery of Obama-Biden pledges to hold all sides equally accountable when they get out of line.
Repeating words spoken earlier in the week by U.S. envoy George Mitchell, Biden told his Tel Aviv audience: "The United States will continue to hold both sides accountable for any statements or any actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of these talks."
If Biden were true to his words, he would have denounced Abbas's persistent glorification of suicide bombers; Abbas's incitement campaign against Israel in Palestinian Authority media, schools and mosques; and Abbas's retention of clauses in the PLO/Fatah charter that call for the total elimination of the Jewish state. He also might have "condemned" Fayyad for joining Abbas in legitimizing terrorist murderers. Doesn't such conduct also "undermine trust required for productive negotiations"?
But while firing away at Netanyahu, Biden kept his powder dry with Abbas and Fayyad.
The answer rests with Obama's failure to make good on his promises to hold the Palestinian Authority, Arab leaders, and Israel equally accountable for their actions and statements. When the chips are down, only Israel's government arouses Obama's ire -- never Arab leaders or Abbas.
It's this unbalanced pursuit of an elusive peace that has thrown Obama's diplomacy off-track from the start. First, while overlooking Arab/Palestinian provocations, the president pursued a one-dimensional pressure campaign to get Netanyahu to impose an absolute freeze on housing construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That got him nowhere, except that Abbas was so delighted with Obama's exclusive focus on Netanyahu that the Palestinian leader abandoned direct negotiations and decided that he could get more by using Obama as his negotiating proxy.
Now, Biden and Obama have repeated the same diplomatic mistake. Faced with Israel's ill-timed announcement of plans for more housing units in East Jerusalem, they immediately fired their heaviest verbal guns at the Israeli government -- without pausing to consider that these housing units are not apt to be built for another several years and without thinking through that this unprecedented U.S. slap at Israel would again stoke Abbas's disinterest in direct negotiations while making Israelis wonder why the U.S. picks on only them.
Even the Israel-unfriendly New York Times opined on its editorial page that Obama's diplomacy has been clumsy and counterproductive.
In recent days, Syrian President Assad played host in Damascus at a chummy get-together with Iranian President Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah chieftain Narsrallah -- without Obama sallying forth with fulsome denunciation of the Syrian leader and his guests. In fact, it was just the opposite: Obama is making new diplomatic overtures to Assad by sending a U.S. ambassador to Damascus. A few days later, Ahmadinejad was embraced by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, who listened patiently as Ahmadinejad uncorked his vile tirades against Israel and the U.S. Again, no harsh condemnation of what happened in Kabul.
Only Israel seems to get Obama's dander up, as illustrated by Biden's sharp comments this week. It's not exactly something to inspire confidence or expectations of even-handed U.S. mediation down the road.