Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democratic official

Israel Policy Debacle? Order Up More Spin!

Well, for anyone not entirely deluded by visions of peace processing and endless European conferences (yes, we’re talking Obama, George Mitchel, and the band of sycophantic enablers of the Martin Indyk variety), this should come as no surprise:

An American official has played down the prospects of any immediate progress in US envoy George Mitchell’s efforts to resume peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. “Are we expecting a breakthrough this visit? Probably not,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Friday.

Really nothing immediately? But the president had gotten impatient and gone to such great lengths to bash Israel into submission. This was all for naught? It must be disappointing, indeed, to those who imagine that Obama and crew are doing something productive to find out that there is not a hint of peace and the process is grinding to a halt. But Mitchell keeps on flying, meeting, cajoling, and babbling about a two-state solution, which is nowhere in sight. (“Mitchell stressed that the Obama administration was working to advance mutual Israeli and US interests, which he said were led by a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on the two-state solution, Israel Radio reported.”)

Meanwhile, the Obami have decided that what is missing from their exquisite Middle East policy is some more PR. Because it is always about a PR deficiency and never a policy problem with this gang. A voice of sanity pipes up:

“What happened here, is they came to a moment of truth about 10 days, two weeks ago, ‘we have failed,’” the former Democratic official continued. “’Our Middle East policy and posture is in chaos, is in failure, and there is no way to ignore it. And therefore, what do we do about it?’ And they decided, we need to change the posture. They realized they were going down a bad path. So they launched a PR campaign — a blitz — entirely to support the policy.”

Change the “posture” but keep the policy that has proven to be a complete failure. And meanwhile, while spinning their wheels and trying out new spin, the Obami still have no viable plan for halting the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. The steady progress of Iran’s nuclear policy, even more than the wreckaage left in the wake of this administration’s Israel policy, is what we should not ignore and what very well may be the dismal legacy of the Obama team.

Well, for anyone not entirely deluded by visions of peace processing and endless European conferences (yes, we’re talking Obama, George Mitchel, and the band of sycophantic enablers of the Martin Indyk variety), this should come as no surprise:

An American official has played down the prospects of any immediate progress in US envoy George Mitchell’s efforts to resume peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians. “Are we expecting a breakthrough this visit? Probably not,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Friday.

Really nothing immediately? But the president had gotten impatient and gone to such great lengths to bash Israel into submission. This was all for naught? It must be disappointing, indeed, to those who imagine that Obama and crew are doing something productive to find out that there is not a hint of peace and the process is grinding to a halt. But Mitchell keeps on flying, meeting, cajoling, and babbling about a two-state solution, which is nowhere in sight. (“Mitchell stressed that the Obama administration was working to advance mutual Israeli and US interests, which he said were led by a comprehensive peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians based on the two-state solution, Israel Radio reported.”)

Meanwhile, the Obami have decided that what is missing from their exquisite Middle East policy is some more PR. Because it is always about a PR deficiency and never a policy problem with this gang. A voice of sanity pipes up:

“What happened here, is they came to a moment of truth about 10 days, two weeks ago, ‘we have failed,’” the former Democratic official continued. “’Our Middle East policy and posture is in chaos, is in failure, and there is no way to ignore it. And therefore, what do we do about it?’ And they decided, we need to change the posture. They realized they were going down a bad path. So they launched a PR campaign — a blitz — entirely to support the policy.”

Change the “posture” but keep the policy that has proven to be a complete failure. And meanwhile, while spinning their wheels and trying out new spin, the Obami still have no viable plan for halting the mullahs’ nuclear ambitions. The steady progress of Iran’s nuclear policy, even more than the wreckaage left in the wake of this administration’s Israel policy, is what we should not ignore and what very well may be the dismal legacy of the Obama team.

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Obama Isolated

More and more Democrats are stepping forward to slap down the Obami. Among the more terse was from Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The appropriate response was a shake of the head — not a temper tantrum. Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.” Among the more eloquent was Rep. Eliot Engel from the House floor:

We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.

The relationship remains rock solid. The Obama administration and the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu have been cooperating on a number of things: containing Iran, the Goldstone Report, and making sure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge in the region. And there has been good cooperation between our two administrations, the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration. But to seem to question the very nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and to put it in personal terms in a very public way will not contribute to peace in the Middle East. Rather, it’s the contrary. It will cause the Palestinians to dig in their heels, thinking that the Americans can just deliver the Israelis.

Last year, when there was public pressure being put on Israel not to expand settlements, there was no simultaneous public pressure being put on the Palestinians, and we saw that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just sat back, didn’t make any concessions, didn’t say that he would do anything positively to further peace talks, and just thought that the United States would wring concessions out of Israel.

The fact of the matter is that the Israelis have been welcoming peace talks with the Palestinians. The Israelis have said they would sit down and have face-to-face talks for peace with the Palestinians. That’s what you do when you have peace. Instead, the Palestinians have refused to sit with the Israelis, and Senator Mitchell is proposing to shuttle back and forth between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side to have negotiations, but not direct negotiations.

We need to be careful. If we criticize Israel for doing what we think was wrong, then we need to also criticize the Palestinians when they do things wrong. Just recently, the Palestinians named a square in Ramallah for a terrorist who killed 30-some-odd Israelis. I didn’t hear any criticism of the Palestinian side. When the Palestinians dig in their heels and say they won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, I didn’t hear any criticism of Palestinians.

Let me say that harsh words are never a replacement for working together, but I think that harsh words can sometimes make us understand that only by working together can we confront the things that we both know need to be confronted–the scourge of terrorism, the thing that all nations understand emanates in the Middle East from radical forces, and those are the kinds of fights that Israel has every single day fighting terrorism. We learned about terrorism on this soil on 9/11. Israel has to deal with it every day.

So all I am saying, Madam Speaker, is that we need to not only reaffirm the strength of our ties between our two countries, but we also need to understand that in a relationship between friends, as in family, there will be some disagreements. We need to be careful about how we voice those disagreements in public.

Let’s put it another way: not a single Republican or Democratic official has come forward to defend the administration. J Street cheers them on, as one can imagine from the never-enough-venom-directed-to-Israel lobby. The National Jewish Democratic Council is hiding under the bed. But actual elected leaders? Not one of them. On this the administration is totally isolated.

More and more Democrats are stepping forward to slap down the Obami. Among the more terse was from Rep. Anthony Weiner: “The appropriate response was a shake of the head — not a temper tantrum. Israel is a sovereign nation and an ally, not a punching bag. Enough already.” Among the more eloquent was Rep. Eliot Engel from the House floor:

We should not have a disproportionate response to Israel. We need to be careful and measured in our response, and I think we all have to take a step back.

The relationship remains rock solid. The Obama administration and the administration of Prime Minister Netanyahu have been cooperating on a number of things: containing Iran, the Goldstone Report, and making sure that Israel retains its qualitative military edge in the region. And there has been good cooperation between our two administrations, the Obama administration and the Netanyahu administration. But to seem to question the very nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship and to put it in personal terms in a very public way will not contribute to peace in the Middle East. Rather, it’s the contrary. It will cause the Palestinians to dig in their heels, thinking that the Americans can just deliver the Israelis.

Last year, when there was public pressure being put on Israel not to expand settlements, there was no simultaneous public pressure being put on the Palestinians, and we saw that the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas just sat back, didn’t make any concessions, didn’t say that he would do anything positively to further peace talks, and just thought that the United States would wring concessions out of Israel.

The fact of the matter is that the Israelis have been welcoming peace talks with the Palestinians. The Israelis have said they would sit down and have face-to-face talks for peace with the Palestinians. That’s what you do when you have peace. Instead, the Palestinians have refused to sit with the Israelis, and Senator Mitchell is proposing to shuttle back and forth between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side to have negotiations, but not direct negotiations.

We need to be careful. If we criticize Israel for doing what we think was wrong, then we need to also criticize the Palestinians when they do things wrong. Just recently, the Palestinians named a square in Ramallah for a terrorist who killed 30-some-odd Israelis. I didn’t hear any criticism of the Palestinian side. When the Palestinians dig in their heels and say they won’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state, I didn’t hear any criticism of Palestinians.

Let me say that harsh words are never a replacement for working together, but I think that harsh words can sometimes make us understand that only by working together can we confront the things that we both know need to be confronted–the scourge of terrorism, the thing that all nations understand emanates in the Middle East from radical forces, and those are the kinds of fights that Israel has every single day fighting terrorism. We learned about terrorism on this soil on 9/11. Israel has to deal with it every day.

So all I am saying, Madam Speaker, is that we need to not only reaffirm the strength of our ties between our two countries, but we also need to understand that in a relationship between friends, as in family, there will be some disagreements. We need to be careful about how we voice those disagreements in public.

Let’s put it another way: not a single Republican or Democratic official has come forward to defend the administration. J Street cheers them on, as one can imagine from the never-enough-venom-directed-to-Israel lobby. The National Jewish Democratic Council is hiding under the bed. But actual elected leaders? Not one of them. On this the administration is totally isolated.

Read Less