April 19, 2010
The Jews of Silence
The New York Times, in a front page article, described how President Obama appears to be reconsidering, if not turning away from, the historic strategic alliance between the U.S. and Israel. In remarks made at the end of the multinational nuclear security talks, Obama reinforced this message, saying the following:
It is a vital national security interest of the United States to reduce these conflicts because whether we like it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower[.] ... And when conflicts break out, one way or another, we get pulled into them. And that ends up costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure.
It is almost impossible to exaggerate the significance of these two lines as to the president's thinking. It is also impossible to read these and not realize that this president is the greatest threat to the strategic alliance of the U.S. and Israel since the founding of the modern Jewish state in 1948. The first sentence is in some ways the more incredible. No prior American president has been resentful or unhappy about leading the world's greatest superpower. This can mean only one of two things:
1. The president is suggesting that he believes that America has used our military power improperly for the most part in the past and has not been a force for good in the world.
2. Obama thinks it unfair that America has power and others don't. He is, in other words, a redistributionist in everything, including military power, among the nations of the world.
So it is better, it would seem, to weaken the U.S. and spread power around. A lot of what has occurred the last fifteen months makes sense in light of this extraordinarily foolish statement. Obama appears to think that the world would be a better place if, say, Russia, China, or maybe Venezuela and Sudan had more power, and the U.S. less.
The second sentence is further evidence of how Obama is poisoning the well by implying, if not directly suggesting, that U.S. combat deaths (and our deficit, too) are due to Israeli intransigence. For over a year, the president has pushed hard against Israeli construction in Jerusalem and the West Bank, arguing that the settlement issue has been the reason for the failure to achieve peace or even get peace talks started between Israel and the Palestinians. This has been a colossal misreading of the history of the conflict.
Direct peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians have proceeded for years, despite Israeli construction in the territories or in Jerusalem, which has been a unified city and legally part of Israel since 1967. It was only after Obama demanded publicly that Israel halt all settlement construction east of the Green Line that the Palestinians refused to come to any talks with Israel without Obama's demands first being met. Why would the Palestinians appear to be more pro-Israel than the American president, who was working to deliver Israeli concessions to them before talks began?
The "blood and treasure" comment indicates that the president's approach to Israel has become far uglier and more ruthless. Not only has he driven the Palestinians away from any peace process, but he appears to be suggesting that the failure to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians -- which, of course, in the words of the president and his administration, is primarily due to Israeli stubbornness on settlement construction -- is causing U.S. combat deaths and imposing a heavy burden on our Treasury. When the president says we are "drawn into these conflicts," which ones does he mean? Which wars did Israel pull us into? Have American forces ever been called in to fight with or for Israel?
The president must mean Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a blood libel signifying that the president has gone even farther than Professors Steven Walt and John Mearsheimer, who in their book The Israel Lobby blamed the Iraq war on Israel. But Walt and Mearsheimer did not accuse Israel and its lobby of drawing the U.S. into war with Afghanistan. This new pattern of very cheap shots aimed at blaming Israel for combat deaths started with leaks about what General Petraeus supposedly said in a private briefing to Defense Department officials. It turns out that the leak of what Petraeus said was (surprise, surprise) not exactly what the general had argued.
More to the point, is there really anything new about Arab and Muslim majority nations having problems with Israel and mentioning them to every American official within earshot? For sixty years, U.S. ambassadors to these countries have been routinely sending messages to the State Department that America would be loved more in these countries if only the U.S. would abandon its support for Israel. Leaders in these countries have for decades used Israel to divert attention away from their own corrupt, totalitarian rule and economic failures. American ambassadors, practicing a bit of dual loyalty of their own, have served as mouthpieces in Washington for these regimes.
But the new dual loyalty charge is not for the people who spout the Arab or Muslim party line within the State Department, but for Dennis Ross, who was set up as the poster boy for dual loyalty for being sensitive to Israel's domestic political considerations when offering advice to the president on future policy in the area. Ross actually has some experience in this area of diplomacy, unlike many key Obama aides. Ross's experience has taught him that when the U.S. and Israel enjoy good relations, Israel is more willing to make concessions to the Palestinians because they can trust that America stands with them and has their back -- and won't stab them in the back. Obama has tried to abrogate agreements with the Israelis that previous presidents have made -- and that Congress has affirmed. Obama himself has a habit of breaking his own promises; he promised to keep disputes with Israel behind closed doors -- where, diplomatically, they belong. Instead, he has violated this pledge, and much more frequently of late.
Finally, some Jewish organizations and leaders are pushing back, including the Anti-Defamation League, The Orthodox Union, Ron Lauder and the World Jewish Congress, Elie Wiesel, and the America-Israel Friendship League. Regrettably, little has been heard from the Jewish Democrats in the House and the Senate, who seem reluctant to take on a president of their own party. They have signed on to AIPAC letters, but refused (with very few exceptions) to go public with any criticism. It is rare, to say, the least, for Chuck Schumer to hold his tongue on anything he cares about.
Increasingly, the president's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems to mirror that of his former Hyde Park friend and mentor, Israel-hating Professor Rashid Khalidi, whose most recent article on the conflict appears to channel Obama's latest assault on Israel over Jerusalem.
During the presidential campaign, Obama's defenders in the Jewish community argued that Reverend Wright -- and Ali Abunimah, and Rashid Khalidi, and Bill Ayers, and Samantha Power, and Zbigniew Brzezinski -- really had no role in influencing the president's thinking on Israel and that he was as reliably pro-Israel as, say, Bill Clinton. It has turned out that Obama really is a man of the left, and his position on Israel reflects the dominant thinking on Israel in academia and other elite leftist circles. Israel does not move him (except to anger). But the Palestinian story (or at least the Palestinian narrative of their story) and the sympathy for the perceived weaker party do seem to drive his thinking. Despite the obvious, some Jews, such as Ron Kampeas, continue to carry water for him and parse his words to try to mask the blatant hostility to Israel.
If you were expecting any mea culpas from some in the Jewish community, you won't get them. Martin Peretz, Alan Dershowitz, and Ed Koch are among the very few Jewish Obama-supporters who have become very critical of the president's sharp turn against Israel. The Jews of silence greatly outnumber them. History, I think, will not judge the latter group kindly.
All of this serves as a backdrop for Iran and its nearly completed nuclear program. Iran was not the focus of the multinational nuclear talks last week. Increasingly, there is talk from the administration that sanctions may not do the job, but the alternative of military action is never discussed anymore, even as a fallback option. A New York Times story Sunday reveals that Defense Secretary Gates wrote a "secret" memo to administration officials in January, distressed that the U.S. lacked a strategy to curb Iran's nuclear program. It is hard to see how the Iranians would fear an American military attack when the president is at the same time pushing for a pullback in American commitments abroad and sees military strength as a burden.
Obama has worked to delay sanctions measures coming out of Congress. He seems willing to accept a lowest-common-denominator sanctions resolution from the Security Council, just to show that something was passed. The stage is set, I think, absent Israeli military action, for the U.S. to accept a nuclear Iran and the enormous strategic vulnerability that that outcome will bring to Israel (and other U.S. allies), given Iran's fanaticism and genocidal urges.
Iran already has a history of aggressive behavior to create death and destruction for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it has used its proxy terror army Hezb'allah in Argentina, Lebanon, and with Hamas in Gaza. A nuclear Iran will test the West far more than the country does today. When the balance of power in the region changes and the threats grow, the administration's party line will be that more could have been done to win stronger international support to challenge Iran if only Israel had made our job easier by caving in to the demands of the president and the Palestinians.
The abandonment of an ally is on display. It is not a pretty picture. The people who may have some leverage with the president include the leaders and other elected officials in the Democratic Party, particularly the nearly four dozen Jewish House and Senate members. They need to do a lot more than sign letters. Of course, the hard left, including many Jews in that toxic environment, are thrilled with Obama's attacks on Israel.
What is more discouraging is that individual Jewish Democrats and organizations such as the NJDC, who maintain that they support a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, are blinded by partisan politics and continue to shill for the president and his pro-Israel bona fides -- a more ludicrous proposition each week. It is time for those who actually care about Israel's future to speak up and push back.
Unlike 1938, we cannot say this time that we could not anticipate the horrors that might be in front of us. A nuclear Iran is not just a game-changer, but a potential game-ender. The Obama administration chose to go to war with Israel over new housing in a Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem, while Iran marches on towards becoming a nuclear menace. This suggests incredibly misplaced priorities. Or far worse.
Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.