Obama and the Settlements

Why is Barack Obama spending so much time focusing on Israeli settlements in the West Bank? Two thoughtful explanations of the widening dispute on the settlements issue have been developed  by Dore Gold and George Friedman.

What is clear is that Obama has chosen to pick a fight with Israel. Friedman argues Obama has chosen his fight carefully, on an issue on which the Jewish community both in Israel and the US is split, and therefore resistance will be weaker. The question of course is why? Is it because Obama believes he will now get more support in the Muslim world for US actions in Iraq and Afghanistan if he appears to be cutting Israel loose? How likely is this?  What kind of support in each country does Obama expect to get if only Israel froze settlement growth?  Could it be that the policy people around Obama actually believe a resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict is within reach if only settlement activity were totally frozen?  I have trouble believing this level of naïveté exists in the Administration, given the number of people who have been involved in failed peace processing efforts over the last few decades.

I think the real key to understanding the policy shift is the linkage the Administration has laid out between Israeli Palestinian negotiations (which the Administration is arguing depends  almost exclusively on an Israeli halt to settlement activity) and the effort to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. It is my belief that the Obama team has thrown in the towel on stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Obama will never use military force for this, and the Administration's new engagement approach seems to have been developed as if we had all the time in the world to reach an agreement with Iran.  

So in order to provide an excuse for the Administration's failure to stop Iran, they will make Israel the reason for this happening-- Israel refused to stop settlement activity. The Palestinians were then unable to reach a deal with Israel. And US allies in the Arab world world, and in Europe as well as Russia and China, were then unwilling to pressure Iran with stepped up sanctions to stop its nuclear program. So it is all Israel's fault.  

The Obama team can then hope for the Israelis to be disgusted enough with the poor state of Israel's relations with the US and Iran's new nuclear reality that they throw Netanyahu out of office. Then a more compliant Israeli prime minister can take over, and give away the West Bank to the PA for nothing.  

What is particularly disgusting is that two court Jews in the administration -- Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod -- appear to be the primary forces encouraging Obama to stick it to Israel  . They have calculated that American Jews are so blindly liberal, and in rapture to the almighty Obama that Obama can push Israel around without doing damage to his standing in the Jewish community.

Sadly they may be right in their assessment. Where are the major Jewish organizations to push back? Where are the Jewish Democrats in the Senate and House challenging a President of their own party when he sells out Israel?  I guess that would require a spine.

It is also sad to see Hillary Clinton, who many of us thought would be much better on US Israel relations than Obama during the campaign last year, turning into the loyal warrior for Obama on this initiative, knifing Israel at every opportunity.  She has gone back to the future, and we can see her again hugging and kissing Suha Arafat after the Palestinian first lady trashed Israel in a speech Clinton attended years back. It was easy for her to play the über Zionist as a Senator in New York, and in her need to corral Jewish campaign cash for her failed Presidential run. Her loyalty to the US Israel relationship is as thin now as it was in the early 90s. 

There is a fourth possibility -- that Obama simply wants to be loved by the Muslim masses around the globe. He has determined that separating the US from its long historic close friendship with Israel is a small price to pay to achieve this.  It is frightening to consider that the current policy shift might be occurring for narcissistic reasons and not strategic ones. Frank Gaffney suggests that there may be something to this argument, in that Obama is transforming himself into America's first Muslim President, much as Bill Clinton was hailed as the first black one.

Regrettably for Israel, none of this is a laughing matter.

Richard Baehr is cheif political correspondent of American Thinker.