Commentary Magazine


The Antagonist in the White House

Obama apologists in the Jewish community who have spent five years offering sophistic reassurances to supporters of Israel in the United States about this administration’s conduct toward the Jewish state must now reckon with the words of the Psalmist: “O Jerusalem…let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not.”

American Jews may choose to defend or praise Barack Obama for his liberal domestic policies, for his nice family, or because doing so makes them feel good. But they cannot do so, with any honesty, on the basis that he is a friend of Israel. Or a lukewarm supporter. Or even a neutral party. He is none of these things. He is an antagonist.

There is no other way to explain the flabbergasting decision by his secretary of state, John Kerry, to go before the Senate in the second week of April and lay the blame for the collapse of the “peace” negotiations Kerry initiated solely at the feet of Israel. Kerry reported that two decisions by the Israelis led to the demise of the talks: first, delaying the release of 26 Palestinian terrorists from Israeli jails, and then announcing permits for 700 new apartment units in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.

Quoth Kerry: “The prisoners weren’t released on the Saturday they were supposed to be released. And so day [one] went by, day two went by, day three went by. And then in the afternoon, when they were about to maybe get there, 700 settlement units were announced in Jerusalem and, poof, that was sort of the moment.”

This isn’t even an arguable claim. It’s a bald-faced lie.

First, Israel delayed the prisoner release because the Palestinians had already made clear they were going to walk away from the talks once it was completed; the Israelis said they would go ahead with letting the prisoners out of jail if the Palestinians agreed to continue talking after the April 30 deadline imposed by the United States.

And what about the Gilo apartments? That is an even more appalling excuse. Kerry knew perfectly well that the permits for the apartments had been issued in August 2013.

To be sure, he and his team had clearly hoped they could add a freeze on the Gilo apartments to the negotiations to sweeten the pot for the Palestinians. But Israel has never consented and would never consent to such a thing in Jerusalem, which is where Gilo is—not even during the 10-month “settlement freeze” in 2009–2010.

As a senior Israeli official told the Jerusalem Post: “In the understandings reached prior to the talks, Israel did not commit to any limitation on construction. Therefore, the Palestinian claim that building in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, was a violation of the understandings is contrary to the facts. Both the American negotiating team and the Palestinians know full well that Israel made no such commitment.”

What did the Palestinians do during this negotiation? Nothing, save welcome murderous terrorists with open arms and $100,000 stipends. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and his colleagues exploded with rage at the very idea they might sign a piece of paper affirming Israel’s existence as a “Jewish state,” which was, after all, the very basis on which Israel was founded. “No way,” Abbas said in March.

On the matter of surrendering the “right of return”—according to which millions of Palestinians not even born in 1948 would have a claim on Israeli land—Abbas was even more rejectionist. “The choice is yours,” he told a crowd of Palestinians in January. “You want to return? You will return. You don’t? You’re free to remain.”

Then, in early April, Abbas announced that the Palestinians would seek membership as some kind of virtual state in international organizations—which is universally understood as a dagger at the heart of any serious negotiation on a two-state solution. Which Kerry also knows full well.

The choice to blame Israel for the failure of these talks—the choice to spread a falsehood—was deliberate. And it tells us something that can no longer be denied by anyone with eyes to see. There can no longer be the slightest doubt as to the essential hostility of the Obama administration toward the Jewish state.

And there can be no doubt that the Jews who refuse to see this, or continue to speak sweet nothings about Barack Obama when it comes to Israel, are lying to themselves and lying to you.

About the Author

John Podhoretz is editor of COMMENTARY.




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