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Disconnect From Reality? Obama, Not Bibi

Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg made quite a splash with his column earlier this week in which he enticed some of his buddies in the Obama administration to dish on the world leader they most love to hate. Goldberg’s piece might not have added the term “chickenshit” to the American or international political lexicon but he gave it new meaning as some of the president’s minions trashed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu as a coward. We all knew the Obami despised Netanyahu and aren’t exactly in love with his country. But the brazen and childish nature of the insults exposed the nature of this unraveling alliance in a way that few other stories have. Yet instead of following up by concentrating on getting to the bottom of the administration’s anti-Netanyahu mania, Goldberg has chosen to act as its lawyer both in the original article and in a follow-up piece published today in which he seeks to justify the attack on the Israeli. In doing so, he shows that not only does he share the White House’s foolish obsession but also misses a larger point about the collapse of American foreign policy under Barack Obama.

Goldberg’s argument is that whatever one may think of the astonishing slurs slung at the prime minister, it is Israel that is to blame because Netanyahu’s politics are “disconnecting from reality.” Citing an editorial in the New York Jewish Week by Gary Rosenblatt, Goldberg claims that American Jews are abandoning their traditional support for Israel because of its government’s counterproductive policies. His point is that if the U.S.-Israel relationship is coming apart it’s not because of the clear personal animus of everyone in this administration from the very top down toward Netanyahu but because Israel’s moves in Jerusalem and the West Bank are making peace harder to envision and lowering its standing in the international community. Rather than focus on what the “senior administration officials” think about Israel, he thinks we should be concentrating our attention on just how out of touch Netanyahu is with both international opinion and that of American Jews.

There is a lot to unwrap here, but let’s start with Goldberg’s assumption that the widening divide between many American Jews and Israel is somehow the fault of the latter’s current government. This is a fallacy that, to be fair, Rosenblatt, whose editorial in the weekly’s current edition was clearly written before Goldberg’s chickensh*t hit the fan on Tuesday afternoon, isn’t trying to promote. Goldberg argues that Israel is making a mistake by asking American Jews to choose between a liberal Democratic president and policies that are viewed as “illiberal.” But the crackup of American Jewry has far more to do with demographic issues stemming from soaring intermarriage rates and assimilation that have led to a diminution of a sense of Jewish peoplehood, not a serious critique of the specific policies of an Israeli government.

Last year’s Pew Survey on American Jewry amply illustrated that the disconnect between American Jews and Israel had everything to do with the changes in the way non-Orthodox viewed issues of identity. If most American Jews have been disinclined to withdraw their support from the president despite his predilection for picking pointless fights with Israel, it has to do primarily with their lack of affection for his domestic opponents and increasing lack of interest in all parochial Jewish topics of which Israel is just one that has fallen by the wayside. The survey showed that the unaffiliated and Jews who no longer choose to label themselves as Jewish by religion are increasingly unsupportive of Israel, but that has more to do with them than anything Israel might be doing. As Anti-Defamation League head Abe Foxman noted at the time, the Jews who care about Israel still support it; those that don’t fall into a different category. Moreover, at a time when international attacks on Israel are being driven by what even the U.S. State Department has acknowledged is a rising tide of anti-Semitism, to claim that Netanyahu or settlements are the key issues is particularly obtuse.

But whatever problems Israel may be having in retaining Jewish support here (and I’ll go out on a limb and say that I doubt even most Jewish Democrats were particularly happy with the way Obama cut off arms supplies to Israel during the war with Hamas last summer or think his aides should be calling Netanyahu chickensh*t while hiding behind Goldberg’s pledge to protect anonymity), any discussion about the U.S.-Israel divide needs to start with the fact that most Israelis remain on their prime minister’s side in this fight. They may not love Netanyahu or be right-wing zealots but the majority understands that there is no Palestinian peace partner and that pressure from the international community on their government to make more concessions seems to stem from prejudice against Israel, not a sober assessment of the situation.

As Goldberg himself again acknowledges, a push to withdraw from the West Bank would be insane under the current circumstances since doing so would open up the possibility of replicating the Hamas terror state in Gaza in the larger and more strategic territory adjoining Israel’s main population centers. Nor do they think much of strictures on Jewish life in Jerusalem or even in the West Bank settlement blocs that everyone—even President Obama—agrees would remain within Israel in the event of a peace treaty. Goldberg’s rejoinder to this salient point is to claim that, “the Palestinians haven’t agreed to this” (the italics are Goldberg’s). Of course, they haven’t because even the so-called moderates like Mahmoud Abbas, whom Goldberg extols as the best hope for peace, have never agreed to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn and have either turned down every peace offer of a Palestinian state that would include almost all of the West Bank and a share of Jerusalem or fled the negotiating table anytime peace might be in the offing.

Like President Obama and the rest of his crew that provide him with juicy quotes, Goldberg reiterates the left’s mantra that “the status quo is unsustainable” without providing a coherent alternative that also includes Israel’s survival. But as much as they don’t like the current situation, the majority of Israelis believe it is preferable to more trading land for terror as was the case with the Oslo Accords and Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza. That’s why Netanyahu, with all his faults, is almost certain to win a third consecutive term in office the next time Israelis go to the polls and will likely have a better relationship with whomever it is that succeeds Obama, whether it is a Democrat or a Republican. Israel has shown it can sustain itself in the absence of a peace deal that Palestinians are not interested in.

Even more important, by joining his sources’ gang tackle of Netanyahu, Goldberg is ignoring the fact that it is the policies of Obama, and not the Israeli, that have led to chaos, instability, and violence in the Middle East. As he well knows, moderate Arab countries are far more worried about Obama’s appeasement of Iran and apparent desire to withdraw from the region than they are about Israeli settlements. That’s why they find themselves agreeing more with Netanyahu about Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the threat from ISIS than the president. They are deeply concerned about an administration that is more interested in stopping Israel from attacking Iran than in preventing Tehran from becoming a nuclear threshold state.

If the “chickensh*t” affair played so badly for the president, it’s because most Americans (the vast majority of whom are deeply supportive of Israel and critical of the Palestinians) think there is something off-putting about an administration that is angrier at its sole democratic ally in the Middle East than at an international terror sponsor like Iran. With polls showing the president’s disastrous conduct of foreign policy being one of his party’s distinct liabilities this fall, it is obvious that if anyone is disconnecting from reality, it is the lame duck Obama and his petulant aides, not Netanyahu.



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9 Responses to “Disconnect From Reality? Obama, Not Bibi”

  1. MANUEL LAZEROV says:

    Why not call Obama’s actions what it actually is–a strategic shift, with a growing detente with Iran, and a shift away from Israel and the Sunni Arabs. No matter what Israel officials say or do will make any difference whatsoever. To call thew administration’s actions “incompetence” is to give it a pass. It’s worse, much worse than incompetence. It’s a virtual abandonment of our nation’s values, not just in foreign policy, but in general.

    • MARC SALZBERGER says:

      . . . “It’s a virtual abandonment of our nation’s values…”

      Obama’s real, not virtual, abandonment of the nation’s values was signaled in 06-07. Back then 5.5 million Iraqis, at the risk of their lives, had created the Arab world’s first elected govt. It was under siege by around 15,000 insurgents who rammed exploding cars into civilian crowds and called voting and freedom of speech, abhorrent to God. American soldiers were fighting and dying to protect that infant democracy.

      At that point Senator Obama, born and bread in the US, demanded, the US flee that battlefield. Not since the Nazis had hanged liberals from meathooks had our most fundamental principles been so nakedly challenged, and yet Barack Obama was not ashamed to demand we withdraw and give those savages Iraq.

      That was a real and true abandonment of American values. Now, in September, President Obama decided that our humanitarian values could not watch passively as 40,000 Yazidis were threatened by those same barbarous Islamists.

      We elected an unprincipled charlatan who masquerades in whatever disguise gets him the most candy at the moment. Politicians are almost by definition, opportunist, but they invariably are sincere about US core values. Obama is ready to throw them under the bus as quickly as his grandmother, as easily as his Christian faith lets him oppose gay marriage in one election and support it in another.

  2. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    Who Will Trust You ?

    In order to keep the US government’s credibility, it is time that the Obama administration punishes the one who used these dirty words towards Netanyahu. This incident alone greatly diminishes the seriousness of Obama and his policy as it became very childish and no one will consider the Obama administration seriously. This kind of behavior is Un-American and unacceptable. As for Secretary of State Kerry, he is wasting his time and the American taxpayers’ money and he is also wasting the Israeli officials’ time, who let him do because they are polite. He does not know the ways of the Arabs, or of the Palestinians, or of the Jews. Obama can try again and again; the Israelis will never trust him or his administration.

    • EMILE TUBIANA says:

      Obama and his administration are playing a very dangerous game, ignoring the facts in the Middle East. After all, Netanyahu is the one who acknowledged the change in the Middle East constellation, as conservative Arabs are more concerned about f Iran and ISIS, than the situation of the Palestinians. This is because they have to look-out for their own safety first. They realize that the danger comes from Iran should it acquire nuclear capability, and furthermore from ISIS, that is threatening to take over Mecca and the rest of the Arab countries. Obama does not realize these facts, because Iran is his pet project, although it is detrimental to both the Arabs and Israel and later on to the US as well. He acts in a way to enroll Europe and the UN in his actions against Israel in the near future. I believe that Obama and the Europeans are wrong, as usual, because if Iran becomes nuclear, it will control the entire Middle East and dictate its policies. By acting as he is acting now, I believe that Netanyahu has the tacit understanding of the major conservative Arab countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that have the same interests as Israel. I don’t believe that the US and Europe will knowingly push Israel to the extreme without an acceptable solution.

  3. STEPHEN LANSET says:

    Obama has senselessly alienated liberals who support his domestic agenda, particularly health care reform, but disagree with his appeasement of clerical fascist Iran and other foreign enemies.

    It is unfortunate that our Constitution does not provide for a Congressional no-confidence vote to dissolve the Administration and allow Congress to elect a new interim President.

  4. KEEFE GOLDFISHER says:

    A nation that would withhold arms resupply, merely mouthing its pro forma moral support during a just war initiated by a mutual enemy… brings shame upon itself. At a minimum they become a liability to the security of one’s ally. Israel has to accept this and plan for it. Obama can dish this treatment out, and apparently not be stopped. His successor might do the same; the disadvantages of size and constant jeopardy force the Israeli mind to focus. The same sort of eye exercise that Taiwan, Hong Kong and Cyprus must practice.

    In the rarefied air of historians of US politics–if you saw Aaron David Miller recently discussing Presidents with Charlie Rose–it is possible to declaim about the ‘great’ Presidents, and the near-great, and to debate organizing principles for the categories. All the while, the viewer, being led to find out what this fellow has to say about the current White House occupant, must wonder what manner of faint praise Miller felt he was offering up when he said he sees President Obama lacking fire for the job!!! It’s possible to be kind and absurd in the same breath.

    The same kindness that was bestowed on this President by his countrymen who trusted that his woeful lack of experience would be overcome by good instincts and compassion and later, upon first failure, could be re-gifted him with an election mulligan, has been dashed on the reality of a revealed mean spirit devoted to principles that are not shared by most of these same countrymen, fire or no fire. The President can force his will on the vulnerable Israelis, unconstrained, but the spectacle is a display of willfulness to test the idea that giving away Israel as a sovereign ally to the wolves of the world will win favor among the wolves, not a reasoned response about US values and interests… the sole reality that should inform all Presidential action. It marks us as a kind of betrayer, until a sense of propriety is restored.

    A state like Israel that has had to contend with existential issues since its modern founding cannot afford the luxury of a wayward leader who will not accede to reality. In truth, neither can we. It’s hard to tell which country is in greater danger.

  5. BARRY MEISLIN says:

    So many people lament that “this is no way to treat an ally”.

    Note to “so many people”:

    Israel is not considered an ally by the current US administration.

    One might add that Israel was never considered an ally by the administration—in fact Israel has always been viewed as an American foreign policy liability, consistent with the President’s—and President’s men and women—fervant attachment to the “hope and change”/progressive/”realist” dogma and narrative.

    (This should have been obvious from all kinds of signals sent by the administration; at least from the time of administration’s response to the Turkish flotilla affair.)

    Still, appearances, for reasons of internal real-politik, had to be maintained by Obama and his cabal.

    However, these no longer have to be maintained, especially not after Tuesday’s mid-term election, following which Obama and his merry crew will believe themselves to be “unbound”.

    Yes, the gloves are off. (But then they are also off for the current administration’s conflict with the American People and its Constitution. And yes, there is a connection between his animus for Israel and his animus for America.)

    So please, please, stop with the fiction that Israel is an ally of the Obama administration.

    And while you’re at it, kindly desist from mentioning other, related fictions such as “I-P peace” or “peace process” or “two-state solution” or “areas which, in any case, would be part of Israel after a peace agreement is agreed to”. Etc.

    Please.

    Unless, you qualify your remarks by prominently noting that for Abbas and his Hamas allies, “peace” means, necessarily, the elimination of Israel.

    And has always meant this. From the get go.

    That’s right. Arafat, with his keen intelligence for such matters, correctly read and anticipated the West’s reaction to the I-P “peace process”. Clever, clever, man, that he was.

    And Abbas is merely following the script.

  6. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    Obama and his administration are playing a very dangerous game, ignoring the facts in the Middle East. After all, Netanyahu is the one who acknowledged the change in the Middle East constellation, as conservative Arabs are more concerned about f Iran and ISIS, than the situation of the Palestinians. This is because they have to look-out for their own safety first. They realize that the danger comes from Iran should it acquire nuclear capability, and furthermore from ISIS, that is threatening to take over Mecca and the rest of the Arab countries. Obama does not realize these facts, because Iran is his pet project, although it is detrimental to both the Arabs and Israel and later on to the US as well. He acts in a way to enroll Europe and the UN in his actions against Israel in the near future. I believe that Obama and the Europeans are wrong, as usual, because if Iran becomes nuclear, it will control the entire Middle East and dictate its policies. By acting as he is acting now, I believe that Netanyahu has the tacit understanding of the major conservative Arab countries: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE that have the same interests as Israel. I don’t believe that the US and Europe will knowingly push Israel to the extreme without an acceptable solution.

  7. EMILE TUBIANA says:

    The fact that Obama or his administration wanted to succeed in leading Israel to peace with the PLO was a big error and showed lack of maturity as they did not know either the Palestinians or the Israelis and did not check what happened before and why negotiations never succeed until now.

    Secretary of State Kerry did not know the Israelis at all and he didn’t try to find out why until now the Palestinians didn’t succeed to make peace with the Israelis. Even now he will never succeed to make the two parties comfortable for a peace treaty.

    Furthermore the fact that Obama suddenly called-in the Hamas to be part of the deal was a major error. I believe that our administration pushed the Hamas to join the PLO. This was the most damaging action they could do in a very short time. The administration listened to the advice of Qatar and Turkey and not to that of the Egyptians or any other party, while we know that Qatar is financing the Hamas and one of Hamas’s leaders who lives in Turkey gave orders or advice to Hamas in Gaza.

    Our administration didn’t take into consideration that the Israelis are burned kids whose past does not allow them to make any mistake. That also reflects that Obama wanted to force the Israelis and by doing so he put into question the trust they used to have in the United States. Besides, the Palestinians never accepted to recognize a Jewish state and by forcing them now, our administration will never succeed. Saying to an ally that the US will not cover them or help them in the UN seems like blackmail.

    Obama thinks that the Israelis have no other choice. It is wrong; they still have a lot of friends and brothers in the United States and the Congress to defend them. If we let the UN do harm to Israel, the Jews and the Israelis and their friends have other avenues.

    And in reference to Iran, the Israelis will not have it any other way but to block them with different means.

    In reference to the housing problem, we should remember that after Israel occupied the Sinai from Egypt and built a city there, they were fair when they made peace with Egypt and complied with the agreement, by tearing down this entire city the Egyptian did not want, in order to respect the peace treaty. But asking them now not build in their own country, which they conquered with their blood, seems like we want to dictate to them what to do and what not to do.

    Those facts will damage the Democratic Party in the United States in the near future. Until now Israel loved to know that the United States was an ally, which gave them the feeling of security.




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