Commentary Magazine


Contentions

They Didn’t Think It Through

However it is that the Obami extract themselves from the current tempest with Israel, a bad taste will be left in the mouths of the administrations’ supporters, the American Jewish community, and Israel. The Obami have revealed themselves to be seriously lacking in both sensibility and understanding when it comes to the U.S.-Israel relationship, and to be in thrall to the Palestinian narrative. Bret Stephens explains the fallacy they’ve embraced:

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t territorial. It’s existential. Israelis are now broadly prepared to live with a Palestinian state along their borders. Palestinians are not yet willing to live with a Jewish state along theirs.

That should help explain why it is that in the past decade, two Israeli prime ministers—Ehud Barak in 2000 and Ehud Olmert in 2008—have put forward comprehensive peace offers to the Palestinians, and have twice been rebuffed. In both cases, the offers included the division of Jerusalem; in the latter case, it also included international jurisdiction over Jerusalem’s holy places and concessions on the subject of Palestinian refugees. Current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also offered direct peace talks. The Palestinians have countered by withdrawing to “proximity talks” mediated by the U.S.

And of course if it were about “settlements,” peace would have broken out before 1967. Moreover, as Stephens notes, if this were a land issue, the withdrawal from Gaza would have brought a cessation of hostilities, not an escalation. Dismissing the assurances given Israel by the Bush administration with regard to settlement activities, the Obami started a diplomatic war over an existing site within Jerusalem — one that would in any future deal remain in the Jewish state. The “affront” is an artificial one, a pretext for impressing the Obami’s audience in the “Muslim World.”

The lesson to be drawn by the Israelis is that the Obami don’t share a common understanding of the nature of the Palestinian conflict and are unpredictable partners, prone to fly off the handle when it suits their purposes. How in such a scenario does the Israeli government take “risks for peace”? And more to the point, why would the Israeli government rely on the U.S. when it comes to protecting the Jewish state against an existential threat from Iran? Once an ally proves unreliable, it’s every man for himself. That was precisely the opposite message the White House bullies no doubt intended to convey. But like so much else, they really didn’t think this through.