Commentary Magazine


Obama to Jewish Donors: I’m Going to Weaken U.S.-Israeli Alliance, But Only a Little

Continuing his Day 1 policy of putting “daylight” between the United States and Israel, the President yesterday warned his Middle East diplomacy would soon heighten “‘tactical’ disagreements” between the United States and Israel. He did this at a dinner where Democratic Jewish donors, the cheapest dates in American politics, paid between $25,000 and $35,800 for the privilege of having the President pat them on the head and tell them everything is OK:

Marilyn Victor, a supporter at the fundraiser, characterized the attitude of Jewish donors thusly: “We support you, but we’re a little insecure, so make us secure.” “We were very reassured,” said Randi Levine, who attended with her husband, Jeffrey, a real estate developer in New York City.

At  first you might be inclined to cringe at how pathetic Obama’s Jewish supporters sound, or to get outraged about their self-willed naivete. But at some point you really have to acknowledge the social scientific evidence  they just can’t help it. You can’t reason someone out of what they haven’t been reasoned into, and you especially can’t do it when they’re literally begging for soothing words so they don’t have to reason at all.

Also, dwelling on Jewish politics might distract from the sheer geopolitical incoherence of Obama’s continued efforts to detonate the U.S.-Israeli alliance.

Now it’s worth noting the President did promise never to fully break the alliance, limiting himself to predicting there would be tension if the Israelis didn’t accept the parameters of his goalpost-moving, agreement-abrogating, security-undermining Winds of Change speech. So everybody keep that in mind. No breaking. Just weakening. Weakening with absolutely no hope of a payoff when we’re down to one stable ally in the Middle East – but just weakening.

Geopolitically, the Arab Spring has been a 100 percent loss for the United States. There’s much to be said for the overthrow of Arab dictators – democratic freedom, the American left’s new-found appreciation for same, etc. – but on the map we’ve done nothing but lose ground. Two nominally pro-American autocrats are in jail and will probably remain there for the rest of their lives. Iranian proxies have taken over Lebanon and are hanging on in Syria. The rest of the Arab world is teetering on the brink of collapse.

That leaves Israel as the only stable ally the United States has in the Middle East. The President’s advisers resent the hell out of that, and during the Egyptian uprisings they fed journalists vicious and petty quotes about how the Israelis were gloating over their last-ally status. They resent it so much they’ve apparently made the decision to proceed as if it doesn’t exist.

That’s the possible explanation for why they’d be willing to weaken the only reliable ally we have left in the region in exchange for zero,which is the precise chance the peace process has of progressing during the next couple of years. It’s what critical theorists used to call overdetermined: there are so many potential problems, each sufficient to totally kill progress, that one is bound to hit. Here’s an easy one. Fatah-Hamas unity is a prerequisite to making peace, but Israel can’t be expected to negotiate with Hamas’ genocidal regime. No Israeli government will hand over Jewish holy places to an Arab government after what happened last time, but thanks to Obama’s new “1967 borders” stance that’s exactly what the Palestinians are demanding as a prerequisite to talks. Thanks to that same stance the Palestinians are demanding 1-for-1 land swaps as part of a final status agreement, but there isn’t enough land for that. And so on.

The President’s understanding of the Middle East was incubated in anti-Israel university echo chambers. Until he learned better during the campaign he casually spoke like an anti-Israel academic, using “pro-Likud” as a term of derision. Many on his staff, and perhaps the President himself, simply don’t like the Israelis very much.

Fair enough. But they’re not elected to indulge their sentiments. Their job is to increase the number and intensity of our alliances, and to coopt or contain our enemies. Many of their failures in this regard could be written off as mere incompetence. But here is the President explicitly setting out to drive a wedge between us and our last Middle Eastern ally. No worries though – that’s not a particularly important or unstable part of the world.