After the last meeting between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, some thought that finally after, seven weary years, they had found common ground. Their meeting focused on working to limit Iranian influence in the region; discussing a new 10-year $50 billion U.S. aid package to Israel, unprecedented in terms of average yearly aid; and Obama conceded that a peace deal with the Palestinians is not on the horizon. A few days later, Jonathan Pollard, after 30 long years, was released from prison, something Netanyahu attempted unsuccessfully with former U.S. presidents. Thus, despite stark differences on the Iranian deal, the peace process, and overall views on foreign policy, some think that relations between the two leaders will finally improve. Yet, with all these positive developments, the only words that are sufficient to explain this situation is: Israel Beware.
Israel must beware because these gestures and statements by the Obama administration are calculated, hold a high price tag, and their purpose is to numb the prime minister, the Israelis, and their supporters in the U.S. It is to create the impression that everything is fine, the worst is behind us and now we can continue as friends with common goals. But Obama and his clever political team are not finished with Israel, and they have ominous plans for the future.
Israel must understand that, like it or not, barring some major event, a Palestinian state will be declared and accepted by the UN Security Council before Obama finishes his presidency. The Hill reported that according to the administration’s rulemaking schedule for 2016, Obama is not slowing down on any of his goals. Though not included in The Hill’s report, a Palestinian state has been an important goal for Obama since the beginning of his presidency, and he has made the case for it numerous times.
For example, last year, the Times of Israel quoted senior White House official, Philip Gordon, saying that Israel “should not take for granted the opportunity to negotiate” with a reliable partner like Abbas, and continued occupation is a recipe for resentment, instability, and extremism. A few months ago, the Washington Post quoted Obama asking his audience to internalize the hopelessness the Palestinians find themselves in; and the LA Times quoted Obama in that interview saying we need actions, not words, to restore a hopeful situation for the Palestinians.
The current rhetoric by the administration - that a peace process “isn’t in the cards” -- is something that Aaron Miller, a veteran State Department official who worked on the peace process for more than two decades, has called ‘unprecedented’ and wonders if it was an ‘honest admission’ of a failed goal or if there is a ‘peace process surprise for 2016’.
Barack Obama ran for president, as he said himself, to fundamentally change America, and this goal continues to be central to his presidency. Obama’s view of what America should be and its place among the nations is fundamentally different from the average American. His support for a Palestinian state has nothing to do with Netanyahu, occupation or the Palestinian people, rather it is in sync with his anti-colonialist worldview which pervades his policy -- from removing a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval Office, renaming a mountain in Alaska named after President McKinley to Denali, and allowing the mullahs to brutally subdue a legitimate uprising in Iran. In Obama’s worldview, Israel is a colonialist outpost in the Middle East, as delineated in his Cairo speech, and a manifestation of American power and influence which needs to be cut down to size.
Since President Obama aspires to fundamentally change America, in the last year of his presidency, his ideology and goals will shift into full gear as much as possible using executive orders, borrowing power, and other actions which allow him to implement policy without permission from Congress. Unfortunately, many commentators criticize Obama’s policies as inconsistent, naïve, or ill-fated. However, they fail to realize the deep ideological divide between most Americans and the president; and mistakenly think that they share the same goals and objectives as the president, but disagree on the tactics.
Yet, in America, support for Israel is broad, and the overwhelming majority of Americans believe either that there should not be a Palestinian state, or that it should only be established through a peace agreement with Israel. Obama does not need anyone’s consent in order to instruct his UN ambassador to support a Palestinian state proposal at the Security Council, but at the same time he has no reason to anger many Democrats by shoving this decision down their throat when there is another way. Obama, the master of rhetoric and expert in framing the narrative, need not use force; and he will succeed in convincing many that this is not only the correct decision, but the inevitable decision.
First, Obama will frame the concept using rhetoric which places his solution as the only logical alternative, as he has done on other issues. He will say: Some believe that we should force Israel to return to 1967 borders and force Israel to allow all Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, and others believe that we should allow the conflict and cycle of violence to continue while we just stand back and do nothing. I believe we need to find a middle ground and allow the Palestinians to have a state while not compromising on Israel’s security or its democratic fabric.
His supporting arguments will claim that just about the whole world agrees that a Palestinian state needs to be established next to Israel, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has repeated this since 2009, and he takes the prime minister at his word. The dispute is only regarding the borders.
A Palestinian state, Obama will continue, is in everyone’s best interest. It is in Israel’s best interest since the Palestinians, being a stateless people, have been a source of tension between Israel and other Arab nations which will subside after the establishment of a Palestinian state. In supporting a Palestinian state, the U.S. will be eliminating an issue that generates anti-Americanism, extremism, and is a point of tension with its allies in the Middle East, which hinders cooperation on various issues.
Furthermore, he will proclaim that Israel needs to be strong as it faces new security threats across the region and the Palestinian issue cannot be hanging over its head, threatening the democratic fabric of the country and preventing cooperation between Israel and its Middle East neighbors. Obama will restate his commitment to Israel’s security more than any other president mentioning the $50 billion aid package, continuing to develop the Iron Dome, continuing joint exercises, and selling advanced weapons that Israel’s friend, George W. Bush, refused to sell. He will credit himself with the Pollard release and remind everyone that the two-state solution was George W. Bush’s idea and vision, so he is not creating a new idea here. Having a Palestinian state will also place responsibility on the Palestinians and their leadership. They will no longer have any excuses for terrorist attacks or supporting terror, and we will hold them accountable. He will finish by saying that running away from important decisions is un-American, and that a Palestine state is in line with American values and tradition, especially that set out by President Woodrow Wilson.
This argument sounds forceful, yet is filled with many flaws and half truths. Some of them being that this president has used aid, weapons sales, and other security measures to flaunt his support for Israel while damaging Israel in the diplomatic arena, making sure that they have no legitimacy to use the weapons. He has pledged that America ‘has Israel’s back’ on Iran, while simultaneously thwarting any Israeli attack on Iran either through leaks or outright threats, and in general has presented Israel as a liability for the U.S. However, Obama’s case for a Palestinian state will be enough to disarm well intentioned Democrats and citizens alike who are generally supportive of Israel and believe that a Palestinian State should only be established through negotiations.
The last year of Obama’s presidency will be an all-out offensive to implement his ideology through his policies and Israel will not be spared. Therefore, Israel must beware, a Palestinian state is on the horizon, and if a counterplan is not devised, we will all be witness to a terrorist organization receiving a state without even making one concession, being facilitated by the enlightened Western world.
Gideon Israel is a political consultant in Israel and researches U.S.-Israel relations