March 19, 2010
How Obama Is Turning America against Israel
At best, Barack Obama committed the latest big mistake in his conduct of foreign policy last week. At worst, the president carried out a deliberate operation intended to weaken the U.S.-Israel relationship and turn the public against the Jewish State.
An announcement was made by a ministry of the Israeli government during Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel that building permits were to be issued for a neighborhood in Jerusalem. The area concerned was expressly excluded from the moratorium on building that Prime Minster Netanyahu had offered to encourage the Palestinians to come to peace talks. The area is already filled with Israelis, and it was always considered an area that Israel would keep in any peace deal with the Palestinians. Indeed, the Palestinians never pushed to include this area in any previous dealings. The area is strategically important for the Israelis, being located on a higher elevation ideal for snipers to kill Israelis traveling on key highways.
Nevertheless, the announcement during Biden's visit was a diplomatic faux pas. Joe Biden made his displeasure clear while there, standing up Netanyahu for dinner (he was late by ninety minutes) and verbally lashing out.
Netanyahu and the Israeli government apologized profusely. That was not enough. When Biden returned home, the president (Mr. Cool) was "livid" and met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to work out word by word what the American response would be.
The building plans were "condemned" by the State Department -- a word that is rarely employed (especially by this administration) and usually used to criticize mass murder. Compare and contrast this "condemnation" with the somnolent response to the mullahs' murders of Iranian protesters. That is just one glaring inconsistency.
Sec. Clinton -- at the direction of Barack Obama -- blamed Israel for insulting America, weighed Israel down with additional demands, tied American national security to the Israel-Palestinian peace effort, and stretched what should have been an unfortunate incident to a dressing-down of Israel that can be fairly described as unbalanced and surreal. A bureaucratic mistake became an "insult to America." This was the phrase used by Hillary Clinton and was deliberately chosen by the president and our nation's chief diplomat (this is the president, by the way, who famously declared that "words matter").
One would have thought that Obama would be too busy dealing with his signature issue, health care reform, to take time out to draft a reply to the Israelis. The fact that he would make this rebuke a priority reveals something disquieting about his sense of balance -- as does a comparison of how he responds to provocations and actual insults from our adversaries.
Obama's vaunted equanimity and judgment are not on display when it comes to the Israelis. Hugo Chávez, Syria's Basher Assad, the Chinese, and Iran's Ahmadinejad constantly humiliate America, and the administration does not make a peep. Instead, Obama reserves his ire for an ally. The minor public relations gaffe was a pretext that gave the Obama team an opening to criticize Israel again, and in very disturbing ways.
But that was not enough. Barack Obama sent out Robert Gibbs and David Axelrod to spread the word on the airwaves that this dispute was somehow a threat to American servicemen -- an absurd proposition at best, but one that would serve to inflame feelings against Israel. Remember: The administration had already heard an abject apology from Netanyahu and had a period of time to reflect and accept the outreached hand. Instead, gratuitous slaps followed.
This happened just months after both the Israelis and Americans pledged to keep their disagreements private. The Israelis kept their end of the bargain. The Obama administration broke its pledge -- not the first time they have done so with the Israelis. Friendships are built on trust, as are true and effective peace agreements. These are principles to which Barack Obama apparently does not subscribe.
This minor gaffe on the part of Israelis has been used by the Obama administration to lambast Israel before the American people, and in effect blame it for endangering our soldiers and marines.
What of the Palestinians? They have been engaged in an orgy of anti-Semitism (fueled by American taxpayer money sent as aid): honoring terrorists who murdered Israeli children and petulantly refusing to engage in peace talks with the Israelis because by his own admission, Mahmoud Abbas expects Israel to be delivered to him on a silver platter. Not a whit has been said about Palestinian intransigence by this administration.
Clearly, the double standards that are at work cast doubt not only on Barack Obama's competency, but also his judgment and equipoise. He ignores true insults to America, such as Syria's invitation to Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah right after America announced that we were returning our Ambassador to Syria. His apathy towards Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons is also notable.
Does Barack Obama have a hair trigger only when it comes to Israelis?
The president's words and actions have perpetuated and promoted the victimology mentality that is so pervasive in the Muslim world, and that has been a curse not just for the Israelis, but also for the Palestinians themselves. In this worldview, the Palestinians can do no wrong, and the Israelis -- who under Netanyahu have announced that they will accept a two-state solution, who have offered peace talks with no conditions to deal with all final status issues -- can do no right. We saw this view of history on full display in the fractured history that Barack Obama presented to the Muslim world in Cairo (where fiction and propaganda were transformed into history).
What is the result of Obama adopting the Arab narrative of victimology and broadcasting it to the entire world?
Americans are not supporting Israel as much as they have in the past. As Helen Thomas would say, "thank you, Mr. President." Via Commentary:
Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters now say Israel is an ally of the United States, while two percent (2%) view the Jewish state as an enemy. For 32%, the country is somewhere in between the two. In a separate survey in August of last year, 70% of Americans rated Israel as a U.S. ally.
James Kirchick, a liberal writer, noticed way back in July of last year that "Obama was treating our friend like a fiend and turning public opinion against an ally." Kirchcik continued:
... those who harbored suspicions about Obama's approach to the Middle East had good reason to be worried. A confluence of factors -- including his administration's undue pressure on Israel, a conciliatory approach to authoritarian Muslim regimes, and the baseless linkage of the failed "peace process" to the curtailment of the Iranian nuclear program -- point to what could become "the greatest disagreement between the two countries in the history of their relationship," as Middle East expert Robert Satloff recently told Newsweek.This dramatic shift in American policy began several months ago when the administration signaled that it would make the cessation of Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank the centerpiece of its policy to revamp the region. And that approach, mostly hinted at through anonymous leaks, became as good as official when Obama delivered his vaunted address to the Muslim world in Cairo earlier this month. In that speech, Israel (and, specifically, its policy of settlement construction) was the only state to merit specific criticism from the president of the United States. Among all the degradations and injustices in the Middle East, from the abhorrent treatment of women in nations like Saudi Arabia, to Syrian-backed assassinations of pro-sovereignty politicians in Lebanon, to the arrest and imprisonment of gay men in Egypt, the leader of the free world singled out America's one, reliable democratic ally in the region for rebuke.
This latest contretemps, in other words, is not a one-off event. There is a pattern that may very well reveal a strategy of turning American public opinion against Israel. Eventually, accumulated criticisms can accomplish just such a thing.
Even an appointee of Bill Clinton's to the United Nations has taken exception to this administration's policies towards our ally.
F.F. Robbins, who served in the United Nations under Bill Clinton, sees damage from the salvos launched from the Oval Office. The Boston Globe also sees this recent behavior as intended to undermine the US-Israel relationship:
Still the Obama administration has opted to turn these events into something that borders on ugly. Knowing full well that the Israeli governmental coalition is a complicated affair that the prime minister has worked hard to carry with him in order that Palestinian demands can be met, and knowing that Netanyahu had already apologized for the announcement, the Obama administration deliberately took a course that it knew would inflame anti-Israeli intransigence throughout the Arab world, and would undermine support for Israel in the United States.
Elliott Abrams told the Council on Foreign Relations,
It appears the United States and Israel are divided over all this now because the Obama administration is imposing new demands on Israel, and building tensions in the bilateral relationship, in an effort to destabilize the governing coalition in Israel. It is a shameful way to treat an ally.
Is this president deliberately trying to turn the American people against Israel? There has always been a bedrock of public support for Israel in America, especially when compared to American feelings towards Palestinians. But public opinion fluctuates and can be fickle. Changes can emerge on the margin -- cracks can spread, and bedrock can erode, too -- especially when it is under continual assault by our leaders.
This process of erosion may occur incrementally, but the end result is the same. Is this the type of climate change the Obama administration desires?
Ed Lasky is News Editor of American Thinker.