The president has, to put it mildly, been sending mixed messages about what he intends to do and say about the non-existent Peace Process. Coming up empty handed, because of course there is no viable Palestinian government to negotiate with, he took to the airwaves to bully Israel. That, as we reported yesterday, went over like a lead balloon in the U.S. So now his team is out spinning and back-tracking. Ben Smith reports:
The White House is reassuring Jewish groups that it will strive on good terms with Israel’s government, handling the issue of settlements “quietly, professionally, and without rancor or ultimatums.”
“While we may have some differences of view with Israel at the moment over settlements, we are trying to work through them quietly, professionally, and without rancor or ultimatums, as befits a strong relationship with an important ally,” a White House official wrote to an offiical the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “We are confident we can do that.”
Actually, they aren’t working quietly — they are bullying Israel in advance of Obama’s trip to the Middle East to gain . . . . well, to gain what isn’t clear. But the entire spin is quite, shall we say, audacious. Take this portion of the administration’s email which Smith quotes:
[The president] does believe Israel has an obligation to stop settlements – that is clearly what Israel agreed to in the Roadmap.
Well, and what did the U.S. promise with regard to the Roadmap? Is the Obama administration standing by the U.S. government’s letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004? Obama isn’t saying. So perhaps the only country that must keep its obligations is Israel.
This sounds suspiciously like other hare-brained maneuvers the Obama administration has undertaken (e.g. release of the detainee abuse photos, closing Guantanamo). The president makes some grand pronouncement and soaks of the applause of one or another left-wing group. Word gets out that what the president is suggesting is ludicrous (e.g. there is no better place to put the Guantanamo terrorists, there is sense in bullying Israel to make unilateral concessions) and so a hasty bit of spin must ensue. This is a poor way to run national security policy. Soon both our allies and foes will learn not to listen when Obama speaks.