Commentary Magazine


Topic: Binyamin Netanyahu

Less Engagement on the Middle East, Please

It was George W. Bush’s supposed “cowboy diplomacy” — high-handed, unilateral, and dismissive of valued allies — that incurred the ire of the left. (Never mind that we had warm relations with Europe, Israel, India, and other democracies.) Yet it is Obama who is unrivaled when it comes to shunning allies. If consensus with allies was really the order of the day in the Obama era, we would not have pulled the rug out from our Eastern European allies, repeatedly snubbed the Brits, irritated the French, bullied the Hondurans, and assaulted the Israelis. Jackson Diehl observes:

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been defined so far by his attempts to “engage” with adversaries or rivals of the United States, such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The results have been mixed. But now the president’s focus is visibly shifting. In the next 18 months, Obama’s record abroad will be made or broken by his ability to do business with two nominal U.S. allies: Hamid Karzai and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Obami of late have tried to repair the frayed relationship with Karzai but have shown no indication that they desire a more hospitable relationship with Bibi. Diehl speculates that perhaps it was “hubris from health care that brought on this burst of presidential imperialism” that precipitated the public war of words with both Karzai and Bibi. But there is, I think, a fundamental  difference between the assault on each leader and the clean-up-the-mess gambit that has followed.

With Karzai, it appears that the Obami reacted out of pique and with the nastiness that surfaces whenever — be it a foreign leader, a cable-news network, or a Supreme Court justice — they are confronted with insufficiently obsequious rivals. But with regard to Karzai, the verbal fisticuffs did not imply a change of policy. The Obami are not pulling up stakes, at least not yet, in Afghanistan and seem committed, at least for the balance of Obama’s 18-month time frame, to achieving success.

Bibi is a different story. Here the deliberate and sustained assault (from the fit over Jerusalem housing to the threats of an imposed peace plan and an abstention in the UN Security  Council) suggests that more than personal ire or irritation is at play. Here Obama plainly intends — he’s told us as much — a change in American policy. The charm offensive is meant to quiet domestic Jewish opinion, not to repair or moderate its stance toward the Jewish state.

Diehl argues that a personal failing on Obama’s part is at the root of these conflicts. (“Public bullying won’t do it. Assurances of U.S. support and stroking by special envoys go only so far. What’s missing is personal chemistry and confidence, the construction of a bond between leaders that can persuade a U.S. ally to take a risk; in other words, presidential ‘engagement.’ Isn’t that what Obama promised?”) But with regard to Israel, there is something far more fundamental at issue. Despite the PR offensive, Obama’s goal is not to re-establish a more robust relationship with the Jewish state; it is merely to mask the animus that bubbled to the surface over the past two months. It is not through neglect that relations with Israel have been strained — it is by design. We therefore should not expect that increased presidential attention will result in an improved U.S.-Israel relationship. Frankly, the more Obama focuses on Israel, the more damage to the relationship is likely to occur. At this point, benign neglect would be a welcome development.

It was George W. Bush’s supposed “cowboy diplomacy” — high-handed, unilateral, and dismissive of valued allies — that incurred the ire of the left. (Never mind that we had warm relations with Europe, Israel, India, and other democracies.) Yet it is Obama who is unrivaled when it comes to shunning allies. If consensus with allies was really the order of the day in the Obama era, we would not have pulled the rug out from our Eastern European allies, repeatedly snubbed the Brits, irritated the French, bullied the Hondurans, and assaulted the Israelis. Jackson Diehl observes:

Barack Obama’s foreign policy has been defined so far by his attempts to “engage” with adversaries or rivals of the United States, such as Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran and Dmitry Medvedev of Russia. The results have been mixed. But now the president’s focus is visibly shifting. In the next 18 months, Obama’s record abroad will be made or broken by his ability to do business with two nominal U.S. allies: Hamid Karzai and Binyamin Netanyahu.

The Obami of late have tried to repair the frayed relationship with Karzai but have shown no indication that they desire a more hospitable relationship with Bibi. Diehl speculates that perhaps it was “hubris from health care that brought on this burst of presidential imperialism” that precipitated the public war of words with both Karzai and Bibi. But there is, I think, a fundamental  difference between the assault on each leader and the clean-up-the-mess gambit that has followed.

With Karzai, it appears that the Obami reacted out of pique and with the nastiness that surfaces whenever — be it a foreign leader, a cable-news network, or a Supreme Court justice — they are confronted with insufficiently obsequious rivals. But with regard to Karzai, the verbal fisticuffs did not imply a change of policy. The Obami are not pulling up stakes, at least not yet, in Afghanistan and seem committed, at least for the balance of Obama’s 18-month time frame, to achieving success.

Bibi is a different story. Here the deliberate and sustained assault (from the fit over Jerusalem housing to the threats of an imposed peace plan and an abstention in the UN Security  Council) suggests that more than personal ire or irritation is at play. Here Obama plainly intends — he’s told us as much — a change in American policy. The charm offensive is meant to quiet domestic Jewish opinion, not to repair or moderate its stance toward the Jewish state.

Diehl argues that a personal failing on Obama’s part is at the root of these conflicts. (“Public bullying won’t do it. Assurances of U.S. support and stroking by special envoys go only so far. What’s missing is personal chemistry and confidence, the construction of a bond between leaders that can persuade a U.S. ally to take a risk; in other words, presidential ‘engagement.’ Isn’t that what Obama promised?”) But with regard to Israel, there is something far more fundamental at issue. Despite the PR offensive, Obama’s goal is not to re-establish a more robust relationship with the Jewish state; it is merely to mask the animus that bubbled to the surface over the past two months. It is not through neglect that relations with Israel have been strained — it is by design. We therefore should not expect that increased presidential attention will result in an improved U.S.-Israel relationship. Frankly, the more Obama focuses on Israel, the more damage to the relationship is likely to occur. At this point, benign neglect would be a welcome development.

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Martin Indyk’s Israel Animus

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

Last week I took a look at Martin Indyk’s latest bit of Israel-bashing and questioned his account of Ariel Sharon’s motives in the Gaza withdrawal. Isi Leibler takes note as well of Indyk’s new role as apologist for the Obami’s assault on Israel. (“Indyk has been intensifying his attacks on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, blaming him for the crisis and slandering him as an instrument of extremist nationalist elements.”) Leibler examines the cheerleaders for Obama’s anti-Israel stance:

Jewish supporters of Obama’s harsh and one-sided offensive against the current government fall into two broad categories.

There are those like J Street who are either genuinely anti-Israel or convinced they know better than Israelis what is best for Israel and are willing to lobby their government to force the Jewish state to continue making unilateral concessions. Needless to say, according to the most recent poll, more than 90 percent of Israelis are opposed to Obama imposing a solution.

The second category are the acolytes of Obama seeking to ingratiate themselves with the administration by acting as its apologists. Indyk understands both the Arab-Israeli conflict and the nature of Israeli domestic policies, and on the basis of his ferocious criticisms of the government, one is tempted to conclude that as a member of the administration, he is not merely promoting a partisan agenda, but deliberately distorting reality.

Leibler then points to even more egregious comments by Indyk. In this Jerusalem Post report, Indyk sounds like he’s auditioning for the directorship of J Street, threatening Israel over the Obami’s obsession (settlements):

When asked by Army Radio if Israel had to choose between Washington and a settlement such as Nokdim, Indyk responded, “Yes.” He warned that Israel stood to jeopardize its historically strong relationship with the US if it continued to take steps that harmed America’s vital interests in the Middle East.

Indyk then plays the foreign-aid card: “If Israel is a superpower and does not need $3 billion in military assistance and the protection of the US, and the efforts of the US to isolate and pressure Iran, then go ahead and do what you like. If you need the US then you need to take American interests into account.” And he then goes around the bend and beyond the pale, invoking the deaths of American servicemen:

What is at issue here is that the US now believes that a continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict harms its strategic interests in the Middle East, he said, adding that this perception emerged under former US President George Bush, and is not just a consequence of the policies of Obama’s administration.

“It is important for Israelis to understand that something fundamental has changed,” said Indyk.

The situation is now such that when it comes to east Jerusalem, “A zoning committee in the ministry of the interior can now do damage to the national interests of the United States,” said Indyk.

As a result, “Israel has to adjust its policy to the interest of the United States or there will be serious consequences,” he said. …

The US is now involved in two wars in the Middle East, said Indyk. Obama signs 30 to 40 condolence letters a month, which is “many more than the Israeli prime minister signs,” he added, so it has a vested interest it reducing tensions in the region.

These comments are especially noxious. First, the notion that Obama’s Middle East policy is simply the natural continuation of the Bush years is bizarrely untrue — a fantasy not even the Obami accept. They celebrate their break with past policy and have touted their new course. If Indyk wants to get a job with the Obami, he’d do well to stay on the same spin page. No, it’s the Obami who’ve decided to advance the hooey that the peace “process” is necessary for America’s war against the Taliban, its democracy-building in Iraq, and its non-efforts to stave off Iranian aggression in the region. And here Indyk, in loathsome fashion, suggests that American troops are dying because of Bibi’s intransigence. In fact, more Americans than Israelis are dying, he boasts. This is vile stuff.

Leibler speculates why Indyk has taken such a turn: he’s afraid of incurring the “dual loyalty” charge that’s been thrown in Dennis Ross’s face. Maybe. Or Indyk is auditioning for a job in the Obama administration. Or Indyk has spent his life on fruitless peace-processing and now must place blame for decades of failure. It’s fashionable in his circles to blame the Jewish state, and he does so with abandon. Well, if he keeps it up, he can look forward to joining Richard Goldstone among the heroes of the anti-Israel left.

But the reasons for Indyk’s descent into Israel-bashing matter hardly at all. What is certain is that Indyk parrots what he thinks the Obami want to hear. And that is what is most disturbing. Indyk’s public career may be over, but Obama’s term is not.

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Spinning Obama’s Foreign-Policy Flops

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

Earlier this month, Jackson Diehl detailed Obama’s lack of success in forging productive relationships with foreign leaders. Now Obama’s dutiful flacks and media handmaidens take to the front page of Diehl’s paper to explain Obama was merely making use of his “charisma.” Now he is getting around to those relationships. There is this jaw-dropping bit of spin:

The change from a year ago is stark. In his widely broadcast address in Cairo last June, Obama called Israeli settlements in the occupied territories “illegitimate.” By contrast, he met last week at the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for two hours, urging him privately to freeze Jewish settlement construction.

What relationship is Obama making use of there? If this is Obama’s idea of a forging bonds with foreign leaders (condemning his country, reading the prime minister the riot act, twice snubbing Netanyahu during his White House visits), our foreign-policy apparatus surely is guilty of gross malfeasance. Then the blind quotes are trotted out to — surprise, surprise — ding George W. Bush and explain how Obama’s newfound personal diplomacy is vastly superior to his predecessor’s:

“Obama is not the sort of guy who looks for a best buddy, and that’s very different than Bush,” said a European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak candidly about perceptions of U.S. leaders abroad. “Sometimes being too personal is not a good thing. You can make mistakes.”

No, Obama is the sort of guy who returns the Winston Churchill bust, gives Gordon Brown and the Queen of England cheap-o gifts, bows to dictators, and slams the elected prime minister of Israel. Completely different. But even the Washington Post must concede that Obama has not forged really any productive relationships with world leaders:

Obama, who was an Illinois state senator just four years before he was elected president, knew few world leaders upon taking office. Since then, he has developed mostly arm’s-length relationships with fellow heads of state, including many from developing countries that previous presidents largely ignored or shunned to protect U.S. relationships with more traditional allies.

Let’s get real — Obama has not really used his charisma to promote anything but himself:

Republican critics say the approach has unsettled the United States’ best friends, and failed more than succeeded in promoting American interests on some of the most far-reaching foreign policy challenges of the day.

Obama’s direct appeal to the people of China and Iran[ Did we miss this? Was he championing democracy at some point?], for example, has produced little change in the attitude of their governments, showing the limits of a bottom-up approach when it comes to dealing with authoritarian countries. Middle East peace talks remain moribund after the administration’s so-far-unsuccessful attempts to end Israeli settlement construction or to persuade Arab governments to make even token diplomatic gestures toward the Jewish state.

As Simon Serfaty of theCenter for Strategic and International Studies notes, “He is beginning to face a crisis of efficacy.” In other words, despite all the reverential treatment by liberal elites, Obama has yet to develop effective ties with allies or used public diplomacy to further American interests. His infatuation with dictatorial regimes, his embrace of multilateralism, and his willingness to kick allies (e.g., Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, Britain, Honduras) in the shins have left America more isolated and rogue states more emboldened than ever before. An assessment from Der Spiegel put it this way, recalling Obama’s Cairo speech (which the Obami still laud as an achievement of some sort):

The applause for Obama’s Cairo speech died away in the vast expanses of the Arabian Desert long ago. “He says all the right things, but implementation is exactly the way it has always been,” says Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Obama’s failure in the Middle East is but one example of his weakness, though a particularly drastic and vivid one. The president, widely celebrated when he took office, cannot claim to have achieved sweeping successes in any area. When he began his term more than a year ago, he came across as an ambitious developer who had every intention of completing multiple projects at once. But after a year, none of those projects has even progressed beyond the early construction phase. And in some cases, the sites are nothing but deep excavations. … Obama can hardly count on gaining the support of allies, partly because he doesn’t pay much attention to them. The American president doesn’t have a single strong ally among European heads of state

Perhaps less time spent crafting stories for the Post and more time working on a viable foreign policy built on American interests rather than Obama’s ego would be in order.

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Hostility to Israel Plays out

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

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What Did You Do?

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

As Jonathan has noted, we don’t know exactly how shabby the Obami’s behavior toward Bibi Netanyahu was. It is cause for alarm if it was remotely like this:

After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on Jewish settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisors and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman who spoke to the Prime Minister said today.

“It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House phone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.

But even if lacking the abject rudeness, both the projected air of chilliness and the ensuing deadlines that we have learned have been imposed on the Israeli government are enough to confirm that the relationship between the two countries is anything but “rock solid,” as Hillary Clinton claimed during her AIPAC speech. This report suggests, at the very least, that the Obami are sticking with their modus operandi — preconditions and ultimatums for the Israelis, and water-carrying for the Palestinians:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will convene his senior ministers on Friday to discuss the demands made by US President Barack Obama and his overall trip to Washington – a trip that, because of negative atmospherics and amid a paucity of hard information, has been widely characterized as among the most difficult in recent memory.

Officials in the Prime Minister’s Office continued to throw a blackout on the Netanyahu-Obama meeting, as well as give only very sketchy information about the commitments that the US is demanding of Israel as a precursor to starting the proximity talks with the Palestinians. The US, according to officials, wants these commitments by Saturday so it can take them to the Arab League meeting in Libya and receive that organization’s backing for starting proximity talks. …

According to various Israeli sources, the Obama administration is asking for Israel to commit to some type of limitation on building in east Jerusalem; to show a willingness to deal with the so-called core issues of borders, refugee and Jerusalem already in the indirect talks; and to agree to a number of confidence building measures, including the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners.

There were also reports, not confirmed, that the administration had asked for a commitment to extend the moratorium on housing starts in the West Bank settlements beyond the 10-months originally declared.

Netanyahu reportedly wanted to know where the “reciprocity” was and why he was the one making all the concessions. (“Netanyahu, according to senior officials, said that while the US held him responsible for the timing of the announcement to build 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo, rather than holding Interior Minister Eli Yishai responsible, Abbas was not held responsible when it came to the PA — which recently presided over the naming of a square in Ramallah for the terrorist responsible for the Coastal Road massacre.”) Well, had the Obami been honest, they would have said that they can’t get the Palestinians to agree to anything, so they’ve decided to squeeze the Israelis — even though this seems only to increase the Palestinians’ demands for even more concessions. But, no, I don’t suppose the White House bullies were that candid.

All this makes clear just how disingenuous was Clinton’s entire appeal to AIPAC this week. She protested that it was Israel creating the daylight by announcing a routine housing permit. She pleaded that the fuss was needed to restore the administration’s credibility as an honest broker in the peace process. (Or was it to enhance its credibility to Iran? It’s hard to keep the excuses straight.) She assured the crowd that Israel’s security was paramount to the U.S. Then she declared that of course, of course an Iranian nuclear-weapons program was “unacceptable.” It all seems patently absurd as events continue to unfold.

It is not that the Obami fear daylight between the U.S. and Israel; it is that they flaunt it. It is not credibility as an honest broker that the Obami are establishing but rather fidelity to the Palestinian negotiating stance. And after all this, and the revelation that the proposed sanctions will be pinpricks at best, would any reasonable Israeli leader believe this administration will do everything (or even anything too strenuous) to remove the existential threat to the Jewish state?

The low point in the history of U.S.-Israel relations has come about not because of a housing permit but because we have a president fundamentally uninterested in retaining the robust, close relationship between the two countries that other administrations of both parties have cultivated. The Obami set out to separate the U.S. from Israel, to pressure and cajole the Jewish state, and to remake the U.S. into an eager suitor to the Muslim World. In the process, anti-Israel delegitimizing efforts have been unleashed as Israel’s enemies (and our own allies) sense that we have downgraded the relationship with the Jewish state, the Israeli public has come to distrust the administration, the American Jewish electorate is somewhere between stunned and horrified, and Israel is less secure and more isolated than ever before.

If mainstream Jewish organizations are serious about their stated mission, it is incumbent upon them to protest this state of affairs clearly and loudly and make their support for this president and his congressional enablers conditional, based on a change of policy in regard to Israel. Otherwise, they are enabling a potentially fatal assault on the security of the Jewish state. Silence is acquiescence; meekness is shameful. A generation from now, Jews will be asking those who led key American Jewish organizations, what did you do to protect Israel? What did you do to protest the creep toward a “containment” policy for a nuclear-armed Iran? They better have a good answer.

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The Indifferent Ally

We were told during the campaign that Obama was a worldly man. He had lived overseas. He understood America’s “proper” place in the world. (Yes, there’s American exceptionalism, but also Greek and British exceptionalism. In other words, America’s not exceptional at all.) He “got” the Muslim World. And he just adored multilateralism. So he was going to repair all the damage done by the cowboy who preceded him. But it seems not to have worked out that way. And the number of aggrieved allies is considerably higher than it was when George W. Bush left office.

Jackson Diehl explains:

I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued. … His following means that, in democratic countries at least, leaders have a strong incentive to befriend him. And yet this president appears, so far, to have no genuine foreign friends. In this he is the opposite of George W. Bush, who was reviled among the foreign masses but who forged close ties with a host of leaders — Aznar of Spain, Uribe of Colombia, Sharon and Olmert of Israel, Koizumi of Japan.

Diehl chalks most of this up to disinterest on Obama’s part. He is, after all, consumed with reinventing America. And frankly, he’s been an unreliable ally (ask the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Honduras) and an unfaithful friend. (“Obama also hasn’t hesitated to publicly express displeasure with U.S. allies. He sparred all last year with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu; he expressed impatience when Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama balked at implementing a military base agreement. He has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, and he gave up the videoconferences Bush used to have with Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.”) He’s been obsessed with ingratiating himself with foes who are indifferent to his overtures rather than forging solid partnerships with those whose help we could use. (“In foreign as well as domestic affairs, coolness has its cost.”)

In all this one senses a certain insularity. Obama reminds us he isn’t one for open-ended commitments. (Too bad, then, that our enemies wage open-ended wars.) The serial rudeness to the Brits and constant carping at Israel suggest not merely tone-deafness but also indifference to the concerns and sensibilities of our allies. Where is all that vaunted internationalism and supposed sophistication? Well, he’s got other concerns, but perhaps once ObamaCare and cap-and-trade go by the wayside, he’ll look for other ways to spend his time. Restoring our alliances would be a place to start. It seems they were in better shape when he arrived and could use some tending.

We were told during the campaign that Obama was a worldly man. He had lived overseas. He understood America’s “proper” place in the world. (Yes, there’s American exceptionalism, but also Greek and British exceptionalism. In other words, America’s not exceptional at all.) He “got” the Muslim World. And he just adored multilateralism. So he was going to repair all the damage done by the cowboy who preceded him. But it seems not to have worked out that way. And the number of aggrieved allies is considerably higher than it was when George W. Bush left office.

Jackson Diehl explains:

I recently asked several senior administration officials, separately, to name a foreign leader with whom Barack Obama has forged a strong personal relationship during his first year in office. A lot of hemming and hawing ensued. … His following means that, in democratic countries at least, leaders have a strong incentive to befriend him. And yet this president appears, so far, to have no genuine foreign friends. In this he is the opposite of George W. Bush, who was reviled among the foreign masses but who forged close ties with a host of leaders — Aznar of Spain, Uribe of Colombia, Sharon and Olmert of Israel, Koizumi of Japan.

Diehl chalks most of this up to disinterest on Obama’s part. He is, after all, consumed with reinventing America. And frankly, he’s been an unreliable ally (ask the leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Honduras) and an unfaithful friend. (“Obama also hasn’t hesitated to publicly express displeasure with U.S. allies. He sparred all last year with Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu; he expressed impatience when Japan’s Yukio Hatoyama balked at implementing a military base agreement. He has repeatedly criticized Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, and he gave up the videoconferences Bush used to have with Iraq’s Nouri al-Maliki.”) He’s been obsessed with ingratiating himself with foes who are indifferent to his overtures rather than forging solid partnerships with those whose help we could use. (“In foreign as well as domestic affairs, coolness has its cost.”)

In all this one senses a certain insularity. Obama reminds us he isn’t one for open-ended commitments. (Too bad, then, that our enemies wage open-ended wars.) The serial rudeness to the Brits and constant carping at Israel suggest not merely tone-deafness but also indifference to the concerns and sensibilities of our allies. Where is all that vaunted internationalism and supposed sophistication? Well, he’s got other concerns, but perhaps once ObamaCare and cap-and-trade go by the wayside, he’ll look for other ways to spend his time. Restoring our alliances would be a place to start. It seems they were in better shape when he arrived and could use some tending.

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No George Bush When It Comes to Our Allies

Noting Obama’s decision to skip the U.S.–European Union Summit and spurn its host, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Jackson Diehl sees a pattern by Obama of withdrawal from and growing indifference to international affairs. He writes:

It’s not just Zapatero who has trouble gaining traction in this White House: Unlike most of his predecessors, Obama has not forged close ties with any European leader. Britain’s Brown, France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel have each, in turn, felt snubbed by him. Relations between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are tense at best. George W. Bush used to hold regular videoconferences with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama has spoken to them on only a handful of occasions.

Diehl raises a number of issues here. First, Obama was never that game on international commitments. He told us again and again — although Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton tried to hush him up on this — that he wasn’t going to make an open-ended commitment of American troops in Afghanistan. He repeated in his West Point speech and in interviews that his concern was rebuilding at home (i.e., his ultra-liberal domestic agenda). Beyond Afghanistan, much of his foreign policy arguably can be seen as conflict avoidance — don’t ruffle the Russians, don’t draw a line with Iran, don’t get the Chinese upset about human rights — precisely so he can focus resources and attention on his beloved health-care, cap-and-trade, and other domestic proposals.

Second, to the degree he was inward-focused from the get-go, Obama certainly has become more so as his domestic agenda and poll numbers have cratered. He begrudgingly dragged himself to the microphone to address the Christmas Day bomber (though he was uninformed, and misinformed the public that we were dealing with an “isolated extremist”). He zipped by national-security matters in his State of the Union speech. Maybe once he got that Nobel Peace Prize, he just lost interest.

And finally, could it be (Diehl is certainly providing some evidence) that Obama is less effective as an international diplomat that the Cowboy from Crawford? You mean Obama hasn’t bonded with any foreign leader, as George W. Bush did with Tony Blair, for example? (Well, returning the Winston Churchill bust and the cheesy gifts to the Brits probably didn’t help Obama with that ally.) He’s not keeping up with key leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan the way Bush did, we are told. And then there is the Israel debacle. I don’t suppose Obama would win any popularity contests in Honduras, Poland, or the Czech Republic either.

So to sum up, the president who campaigned to restore our standing in the world and practice “smart” diplomacy isn’t much interested in the world, expends little time and no effort in bolstering democracy and human rights, and doesn’t have effective relationships with key allies — at least not as effective as were Bush’s. Well, he did run as “not Bush,” and now he’s living up to that particular campaign promise. Too bad: the result is the most error-strewn, irresolute, and ham-handed foreign-policy apparatus since the Carter administration. Maybe living in Indonesia as a child wasn’t sufficient foreign-policy preparation after all.

Noting Obama’s decision to skip the U.S.–European Union Summit and spurn its host, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Jackson Diehl sees a pattern by Obama of withdrawal from and growing indifference to international affairs. He writes:

It’s not just Zapatero who has trouble gaining traction in this White House: Unlike most of his predecessors, Obama has not forged close ties with any European leader. Britain’s Brown, France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel have each, in turn, felt snubbed by him. Relations between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu are tense at best. George W. Bush used to hold regular videoconferences with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Obama has spoken to them on only a handful of occasions.

Diehl raises a number of issues here. First, Obama was never that game on international commitments. He told us again and again — although Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton tried to hush him up on this — that he wasn’t going to make an open-ended commitment of American troops in Afghanistan. He repeated in his West Point speech and in interviews that his concern was rebuilding at home (i.e., his ultra-liberal domestic agenda). Beyond Afghanistan, much of his foreign policy arguably can be seen as conflict avoidance — don’t ruffle the Russians, don’t draw a line with Iran, don’t get the Chinese upset about human rights — precisely so he can focus resources and attention on his beloved health-care, cap-and-trade, and other domestic proposals.

Second, to the degree he was inward-focused from the get-go, Obama certainly has become more so as his domestic agenda and poll numbers have cratered. He begrudgingly dragged himself to the microphone to address the Christmas Day bomber (though he was uninformed, and misinformed the public that we were dealing with an “isolated extremist”). He zipped by national-security matters in his State of the Union speech. Maybe once he got that Nobel Peace Prize, he just lost interest.

And finally, could it be (Diehl is certainly providing some evidence) that Obama is less effective as an international diplomat that the Cowboy from Crawford? You mean Obama hasn’t bonded with any foreign leader, as George W. Bush did with Tony Blair, for example? (Well, returning the Winston Churchill bust and the cheesy gifts to the Brits probably didn’t help Obama with that ally.) He’s not keeping up with key leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan the way Bush did, we are told. And then there is the Israel debacle. I don’t suppose Obama would win any popularity contests in Honduras, Poland, or the Czech Republic either.

So to sum up, the president who campaigned to restore our standing in the world and practice “smart” diplomacy isn’t much interested in the world, expends little time and no effort in bolstering democracy and human rights, and doesn’t have effective relationships with key allies — at least not as effective as were Bush’s. Well, he did run as “not Bush,” and now he’s living up to that particular campaign promise. Too bad: the result is the most error-strewn, irresolute, and ham-handed foreign-policy apparatus since the Carter administration. Maybe living in Indonesia as a child wasn’t sufficient foreign-policy preparation after all.

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Stuck in Oslo with George Mitchell

Yes, the man has an impossible job. But making himself complicit in the Palestinian Authority’s desire to have it both ways on terrorism — talk up PA security cooperation in English but celebrate terrorism in Arabic — isn’t going to make it any easier.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, one of the Obama administration’s diplomatic rules appears to be that the Palestinians will never be publicly criticized. Israel, of course, gets publicly criticized by the administration on a near weekly basis. Predictably, this has given the PA room to engage in its favorite double game.

Over the past couple of weeks, the PA leadership has repeatedly lauded Fatah terrorists and their acts of murder. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have personally engaged in the celebrations. This finally provoked the Israeli PM’s office to protest to the Americans that

the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are engaging in incitement by honoring a woman responsible for the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, and calling the men who killed Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai last month martyrs. …

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, said in response that “those Palestinian terrorists are murderers, not martyrs. We expect the PA to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel and not glorify killers and name public squares after them.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction? Could he muster the kind of moral outrage that the Obama administration routinely reserves, say, for Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem? Well, no. He went on the Charlie Rose show and lauded Fayyad as an “impressive leader” and declared that the Fayyad-Abbas team represents “strong and effective leadership for the Palestinian people.” This will not end well.

Yes, the man has an impossible job. But making himself complicit in the Palestinian Authority’s desire to have it both ways on terrorism — talk up PA security cooperation in English but celebrate terrorism in Arabic — isn’t going to make it any easier.

As I wrote a couple of days ago, one of the Obama administration’s diplomatic rules appears to be that the Palestinians will never be publicly criticized. Israel, of course, gets publicly criticized by the administration on a near weekly basis. Predictably, this has given the PA room to engage in its favorite double game.

Over the past couple of weeks, the PA leadership has repeatedly lauded Fatah terrorists and their acts of murder. Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad have personally engaged in the celebrations. This finally provoked the Israeli PM’s office to protest to the Americans that

the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad are engaging in incitement by honoring a woman responsible for the worst terrorist attack in Israel’s history, and calling the men who killed Rabbi Meir Avshalom Chai last month martyrs. …

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s policy director, Ron Dermer, said in response that “those Palestinian terrorists are murderers, not martyrs. We expect the PA to prepare the Palestinian people to live in peace with Israel and not glorify killers and name public squares after them.”

What was Mitchell’s reaction? Could he muster the kind of moral outrage that the Obama administration routinely reserves, say, for Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem? Well, no. He went on the Charlie Rose show and lauded Fayyad as an “impressive leader” and declared that the Fayyad-Abbas team represents “strong and effective leadership for the Palestinian people.” This will not end well.

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In a Tizzy Again

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to show “restraint” in construction in the West Bank, but will not accept any restriction on building in Jerusalem, senior government sources said Tuesday night. Their comments followed the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee’s approval of a plan to build some 900 new units in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the ensuing international objections.

The administration is unhinged again (isn’t it always?) over Jerusalem settlements:

“We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem,” [Robert] Gibbs said in a statement. ” At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations. The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

“Our position is clear,” Gibbs continued. “The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties.”

It’s probably poor form to cite “permanent status” issues since the administration has been on a mission to force Israel to cough up concessions on settlements up front, not as a final-status issue, as has been envisioned on the “road map.”

But this is evidence, certainly, if any more were needed, that the Obama administration has been spectacularly unsuccessful at getting either side in the inert “peace process” to do anything. The Bush administration, you will recall — criticized for being “too close” to Israel — was able to get the Israeli government to withdraw from Gaza, dismantle settlements, slow the growth of new ones and address the issue of checkpoints — not by threatening Israel but by building rapport and demonstrating that we consider Israel an ally, not an impediment to peace. Back in August, former Bush deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who was instrumental in that approach, wrote :

The Obama administration has managed to win the mistrust of most Israelis, not just conservative politicians. Despite his great popularity in many parts of the world, in Israel Obama is now seen as no ally. A June poll found that just 6% of Israelis called him “pro-Israel,” when 88% had seen President George W. Bush that way. So the troubles between the U.S. and Israel are not fundamentally found in the personal relations among policy makers.

The deeper problem—and the more complex explanation of bilateral tensions—is that the Obama administration, while claiming to separate itself from the “ideologues” of the Bush administration in favor of a more balanced and realistic Middle East policy, is in fact following a highly ideological policy path. Its ability to cope with, indeed even to see clearly, the realities of life in Israel and the West Bank and the challenge of Iran to the region is compromised by the prism through which it analyzes events.

And then came months of more of the same ineffective haranguing from the Obami, topped off by the egregious rudeness shown the Israeli Prime Minister on his recent visit. The Obama team now sees the results of its own failed policy.

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is willing to show “restraint” in construction in the West Bank, but will not accept any restriction on building in Jerusalem, senior government sources said Tuesday night. Their comments followed the Jerusalem Municipal Planning Committee’s approval of a plan to build some 900 new units in the southeastern Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo and the ensuing international objections.

The administration is unhinged again (isn’t it always?) over Jerusalem settlements:

“We are dismayed at the Jerusalem Planning Committee’s decision to move forward on the approval process for the expansion of Gilo in Jerusalem,” [Robert] Gibbs said in a statement. ” At a time when we are working to re-launch negotiations, these actions make it more difficult for our efforts to succeed. Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally pre-empt, or appear to pre-empt, negotiations. The U.S. also objects to other Israeli practices in Jerusalem related to housing, including the continuing pattern of evictions and demolitions of Palestinian homes.”

“Our position is clear,” Gibbs continued. “The status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties.”

It’s probably poor form to cite “permanent status” issues since the administration has been on a mission to force Israel to cough up concessions on settlements up front, not as a final-status issue, as has been envisioned on the “road map.”

But this is evidence, certainly, if any more were needed, that the Obama administration has been spectacularly unsuccessful at getting either side in the inert “peace process” to do anything. The Bush administration, you will recall — criticized for being “too close” to Israel — was able to get the Israeli government to withdraw from Gaza, dismantle settlements, slow the growth of new ones and address the issue of checkpoints — not by threatening Israel but by building rapport and demonstrating that we consider Israel an ally, not an impediment to peace. Back in August, former Bush deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams, who was instrumental in that approach, wrote :

The Obama administration has managed to win the mistrust of most Israelis, not just conservative politicians. Despite his great popularity in many parts of the world, in Israel Obama is now seen as no ally. A June poll found that just 6% of Israelis called him “pro-Israel,” when 88% had seen President George W. Bush that way. So the troubles between the U.S. and Israel are not fundamentally found in the personal relations among policy makers.

The deeper problem—and the more complex explanation of bilateral tensions—is that the Obama administration, while claiming to separate itself from the “ideologues” of the Bush administration in favor of a more balanced and realistic Middle East policy, is in fact following a highly ideological policy path. Its ability to cope with, indeed even to see clearly, the realities of life in Israel and the West Bank and the challenge of Iran to the region is compromised by the prism through which it analyzes events.

And then came months of more of the same ineffective haranguing from the Obami, topped off by the egregious rudeness shown the Israeli Prime Minister on his recent visit. The Obama team now sees the results of its own failed policy.

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Netanyahu Embraces Evangelicals

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.

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A Country on Hold

Here’s how Nahum Barnea, perhaps Israel’s most prominent columnist, anticipated the release yesterday afternoon of the long-awaited Winograd Committee report on the 2006 war in Lebanon:

We experienced a failed war during the past summer. It was Israel’s most exposed war. We knew in real time almost everything that was said in the cabinet and in the corridors of the General Headquarters; we knew about the mishaps and the foul-ups, about the army’s helplessness at the frontlines and the collapse of the home front.

It wasn’t the hunger for answers that led to the establishment of the Winograd Commission; it was the need for punishment.

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Here’s how Nahum Barnea, perhaps Israel’s most prominent columnist, anticipated the release yesterday afternoon of the long-awaited Winograd Committee report on the 2006 war in Lebanon:

We experienced a failed war during the past summer. It was Israel’s most exposed war. We knew in real time almost everything that was said in the cabinet and in the corridors of the General Headquarters; we knew about the mishaps and the foul-ups, about the army’s helplessness at the frontlines and the collapse of the home front.

It wasn’t the hunger for answers that led to the establishment of the Winograd Commission; it was the need for punishment.

What is curious about this need, which is palpable, is how restrained its manifestations have been.

Olmert’s 3-percent popularity rating is within the pollsters’ margin of error—or as some have suggested, within the realm of the fat content of cottage cheese. Yet there have not been the mass rallies and media clamor that have brought down previous governments. A strange sense of passivity and resignation has set in. For months, Israel has felt like a country on hold.

On Thursday, a rally criticizing the Olmert government is scheduled in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, where Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 just after speaking to a large pro-government demonstration. The big question: whether this rally will be large enough—somewhere significantly over 100,000 people—to end our national sleepwalk, or will be small enough to brush off.

If the rally is a bust, it will be because, as much as the public wants to be rid of Olmert, it is not happy about the likely alternatives to him. Polls show that former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was run out of office in 1999 in a seemingly career-ending defeat, is poised for a comeback. But the rump Likud party he heads now holds only about one-tenth of the Knesset’s seats. So the public, having become disillusioned with three major paradigms in rapid succession—”Greater Israel,” Oslo, and Sharon’s unilateralism—may see no better alternative even to a government it deems to have failed.

One can only hope that Israel’s next leader, whoever it is, is able to exceed the public’s low expectations. One can also draw comfort from the fact that the same war that discredited Israel’s political and military leadership also demonstrated the resilience of the Israeli people under fire, and the courage and motivation of the country’s soldiers. For its part, the IDF already has new leadership and is busy learning the lessons of the last war. In its ranks, readiness is the new watchword of the day.

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