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The Audacity of Bullying

Peter Beinart pens a column in which he, I think inadvertently, suggests just how ill-conceived Obama’s overt hostility toward Israel is. Beinart suggests the president is doing it to show he’s a tough guy, and because he can get away with it. He writes:

By taking on the Israeli government over the issue of settlement growth, Obama is showing that he’s a gambler overseas as well. Despite the conventional wisdom that an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal is impossible anytime soon, he seems hell-bent on pursuing one. And if he breaks china in the process, so be it.

Had Obama disclosed during the campaign that “broken china” included the Israel-U.S. relationship, one wonders if he would have garnered much support from voters who think the U.S.-Israeli relationship is so precious and valuable that it shouldn’t be discarded in a macho display by a neophyte president who has no game-plan for dealing with real threats to American security. (No, not ad-ons to East Jerusalem settlements, but Russia, North Korea and Iran.)

Beinart never addresses whether it makes sense to strong-arm Netanyahu. He just applauds the effort to, you know, show Israel who’s boss. But he gets several points wrong. He seems to think Netanyahu doesn’t have the domestic support in Israel to defy a bullying U.S. president. But what domestic consensus exists for halting natural growth of existing settlements? None. Even if Netanyahu wanted to, how would he maintain a government and enforce such a decree?

Beinart also seems to think Netanyahu is counting on Obama to come to his aid on Iran:

He knows that sometime in the next year or two, he could well end up paying a visit to the White House to ask for U.S. support for a military strike against Iran’s nuclear program. For an Israeli Prime Minister, alienating a U.S. President is almost always bad politics, but it’s particularly bad politics when you need his help to stop what you’ve called an existential threat.

On this Beinart is simply daft. Netanyahu, of all people, realizes Obama will not support Israel’s military efforts. After all, Obama has already told us that no country has a right to tell Iran it can’t have a nuclear program. Beinart may be under the delusion that Obama hasn’t accepted the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran. Netanyahu is not so dense.

The entire tenor and thrust of Beinart’s piece suggests that Obama is being a bully because he can get away with it. No concern is voiced as to whether there is any rhyme or reason to the bullying. (Where is the Palestinian offer to recognize Israel?) Nary a mention is made of U.S. historical and strategic ties to Israel, or whether such tactics are likely to promote or retard “peace process” efforts. It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is for Obama to be tough. Because when you can’t be tough with Iran, Syria, North Korea or Russia the next best thing is to beat up on Israel, right?


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