Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Bibi and Barack After Gaza

As Operation Protective Edge wound down in Gaza, talk in the media turned to the U.S.-Israel relationship. It has been an unusually tense few months for Washington and Jerusalem.

What’s puzzling is not President Obama’s desire for peace. It is always admirable to want wars to go on for no longer than they must. But in this case, once Israel discovered the terror tunnels, the state had to act in its own defense. The New York Times has a story today on the administration’s frustration with its lack of control over another sovereign state’s actions, but the entire piece can be boiled down to the following paragraph, appearing early on in the story:

With public opinion in both Israel and the United States solidly behind the Israeli military’s campaign against Hamas, no outcry from Israel’s Arab neighbors, and unstinting support for Israel on Capitol Hill, President Obama has had few obvious levers to force Mr. Netanyahu to stop pounding targets in Gaza until he was ready to do it.

Well that pretty much explains it, doesn’t it? Not only did Israel have public support in the U.S., but its actions were backed by its Arab neighbors and the U.S. Congress. Obama was the odd man out–or one of the few, anyway. There was a rare consensus in Israel’s part of the Middle East that included Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. Everyone was on the same page both with Israel and the U.S. for once. It was an easy diplomatic call for Obama, but he still made the wrong one.

Additionally, the efficacy of American pressure on Israel depends to a large extent on the Israeli public. In this particular case, Hamas had constructed an underground city with tunnels that led into Israeli territory. Of course the Israeli public wanted those tunnels gone. And the threat from the rockets flying from Gaza, often derided by the world as glorified firecrackers, had increased as well. The rockets practically shut down Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel’s gateway to the outside world, which had the effect of temporarily isolating a Jewish polity that, for clear and rational reasons, is a bit sensitive to their enemies’ attempts to ghettoize them.

As Ruthie Blum writes today in Israel Hayom:

One could argue that the reason public support for Operation Protective Edge reached a ‎whopping 95 percent was the utter justice of its cause; that the incessant rocket-‎fire from Gaza, now hitting the center of country, was too much even for the peace ‎utopians to bear. ‎

One could assume that no matter what an Israeli’s personal political leanings, he would ‎see the virtue in defeating an enemy that glorifies death; uses children as canon fodder; ‎abuses women; tortures homosexuals and the disabled; and vows to annihilate the world’s ‎Jews while converting or slaughtering its Christians. ‎

Nevertheless, it is usually impossible to get even those Israelis with similar outlooks to ‎agree on anything, including where to hang a communal clothesline, for more than five ‎minutes. Hence the quip, “Two Jews, three opinions.”‎

Blum also mentions the surprising fact that this unity occurred under the premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, whose essential pragmatism tends to leave Israelis wary of his intentions. Netanyahu doesn’t really have a political base in the traditional sense, since the right wing doesn’t trust him. Yet in this current conflict, virtually the entire country was his base.

Such unity of spirit and support for Israel in the Arab world should have been inspiring. To Obama, it was a source of aggravation. As the Times notes:

The blunt, unsparing language — among the toughest diplomats recall ever being aimed at Israel — lays bare a frustrating reality for the Obama administration: the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has largely dismissed diplomatic efforts by the United States to end the violence in Gaza, leaving American officials to seethe on the sidelines about what they regard as disrespectful treatment.

Obama has always been more receptive to the angst of the Democratic Party’s base than other elected Democrats who didn’t, after all, become the most powerful person in the world by riding a wave of feverish antiwar anger. And the Democratic Party’s base is the one sector of American politics whose open hostility to Israel is not only growing stronger by the day but also seeping into the rest of the party from the margins.

Obama has often left commentators perplexed by the battles he chooses and the fights he picks, since they’re so often with steadfast allies. And it should be noted that he hasn’t abandoned Israel in the military realm–far from it. But the diplomatic aggression toward Israel is far from meaningless. The Times explains that “a senior American official predicted that the tough State Department statement would ‘box [Israel] in internationally.’”

Despite having the Arab world on their side in this fight, not to mention the U.S. Congress and the public they represent, the Obama administration is trying to rally international–European, presumably–opinion against Israel. It’s strategically foolish and diplomatically illogical. Perhaps the end of Operation Protective Edge, then–if indeed this is the end–will serve to protect the Obama administration from itself by preventing further self-inflicted wounds, or at least remove Gaza as their source.



Join the discussion…

Are you a subscriber? Log in to comment »

Not a subscriber? Join the discussion today, subscribe to Commentary »


7 Responses to “Bibi and Barack After Gaza”

  1. ALBERT KIRSHEN says:

    At what point did the world fail to recognize B.H. Obama for what he was? Did his education in a Madrassa, or his long-time active church attendance with Mr. Wright not give an inkling? Why is now different?

    The REAL question, however, is how/why the entire administration is supporting his actions? It cannot simply be that he is the president. What else is driving this?

  2. E B TRAININ says:

    duh, Albert, you should have answered your own question.
    Anti-Semitism plain and simple.

  3. FRED EHRMAN says:

    The president at all times greatly influences his party’s leanings on all issues. The Democratic Party moving away from solid to lukewarm support for Israel is hopefully a temporary phenomenon. Depending on who the next president will be, the direction should begin to shift to the suupportive side for Israel again after 2016.

    • MIKE BATTERMAN says:

      I doubt it, Obama merely reflects the sattitudes of his “base” which sadly is undenyably anti-semitic. What emeges post Obama is the Anti Semitic, ant-Israel Democratic party, a very unhealthy phenomenonfor America. and, where’s Schumer? Levin? Durbin? and others, where are the roars? the revoltagainst Obama and Kerry/ They are stifled by fear of the boss and rspect for the integrity of the party.

      • MANUEL LAZEROV says:

        Why is Israel so vilified? One can trace that development to the ’67 war, another war of aggression against it in which it also prevailed. That transformed Israel in the eyes of many from a David to a Goliath. That , plus the anti-Colonial narrative, “moving beyond” the Holocaust, the growth of illiberalism in the West,appeasement, the loss of colonial empires, and Israel’s military and economic achievements, and the US emerging as a superpower, with Israel as a partner were critical factors.
        The world would have been more sympathetic had Israel lost. Then,Israel might have elicited a kind remark for what was a noble, but failed project–a “bridge too far”.

  4. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    Suddenly Obama is playing the « Good Guy » as he signs for sending US$220 Million to Israel for buying replacement rockets for its Iron Dome system. It is very hard to understand whether Obama is a friend of Israel or a friend of Hamas. I wonder if the Israelis will not be confused. Is Obama in reality helping the Hamas terrorists and Qatar against Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Israel? Or just to confuse them all?

    When the Soviet Union sent ballistic missiles to Cuba, Kennedy did not tolerate this. The tension was so high, that the Russians finally removed them. Now thousands of rockets fall on Israel, on every city and every village, and we ignore this? Are the children of Israel not as precious as any other children? Why should they live in fear? And the press shuts its mouth, only showing indignation about the Palestinian children.

    What’s surprising, is that all of the sudden the Europeans believe that Israel targeted children, when the contrary is correct. They expressly sent millions of leaflets and made phone calls to warn the population of imminent actions, asking them to evacuate the sites of operations. The UNWRA offices were the storage facility for Hamas’s weapons. Who is UNWRA anyway? I know that Europe cannot pride itself of being innocent. The war they waged in Kosovo did not spare the population and the children. Everyone wants to appear clean, while their hands are dirty. What double standard! On one hand Obama says that Israel has the right to defend itself, but when it does just that, it is accused of using too much force.

    For the first time, several Arab countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan support Israel. Together they are able to establish calm and create an environment that fosters economic development in the turbulent Middle East. And you want to throw this movement off-track? I salute Abdel Fattah El Sisi who saved Egypt from the Muslim Brotherhood which started destroying the country. Does this really bother the US that El Sisi is saving his country? Who are we? Is this the example we give to the world? America should know better.




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.