Commentary Magazine


Topic: James L. Jones

Obama’s Diplomatic War on Israel Is Just Getting Started

Apparently, David Ignatius of the Washington Post isn’t the only recipient of White House leaks about an Obama peace plan. Helen Cooper of the New York Times chimed in with her own piece this afternoon about the president’s desire to jump into the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to Cooper, the trigger for this latest instance of administration hubris was a recent gathering of former national-security advisers including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger, and Colin Powell, who were called in to consult with the president and his adviser General James L. Jones. The consensus (only Powell seems to have dissented) was that Obama must put forward his own scheme that would state exactly what the parameters of a peace deal would be. The idea is that peace can only be obtained by the United States imposing it on the parties. The plan is, of course, along the lines of past Israeli peace offers rejected by the Palestinians, plus extra Israeli concessions. The Palestinians give up their “right of return,” and Israel “would return to its 1967 borders,” including the one that divided Jerusalem, with only “a few negotiated settlements” as an exception. The supposed sweetener for Israel is that the United States or NATO, whose troops would be stationed along the Jordan River, would guarantee Israeli security.

Cheering from the sidelines is former Clinton staffer Robert Malley, who advised Obama on Middle East issues during the 2008 campaign until he was put aside to reassure Jewish voters worried about the Democrats having a man on staff who had served as an apologist for Yasser Arafat in the aftermath of the 2000 Camp David talks. For Malley, the logic of an American diktat is simple: “It’s not rocket science. If the U.S. wants it done, it will have to do it.”

This fits in with the messianic self-confidence of the president, and with the vision of his presidency that his staffers exude. They are not interested in the fact that such attempts have always failed because of Palestinian intransigence, or that such attempts have ultimately led to more, not less, violence. It isn’t clear whether they truly believe that weak figures like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad can sign any peace deal that recognizes Israel’s existence within any borders. But the administration’s simmering resentment against Israel seems to be driving this development more than anything else. Even if such a plan failed, as it surely would, the mere exercise of attempting to shove it down a reluctant Israel’s throat would appear to be deeply satisfying to figures like Brzezinski and Malley and perhaps Obama, whose predilection for trumped-up bitter disputes with the Jewish state and its leaders is now an established fact.

The effort to leak this story to multiple outlets appears to be a continuation of Obama’s feud with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Having failed to make Netanyahu bend to his will on the building of homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Obama is now raising the stakes by pointedly holding out the possibility that he will impose his own partition on Israel’s capital after the certain failure of the so-called “proximity talks” — so named because the Palestinians will not even sit in the same room to talk peace with Israelis.

It goes without saying that such a plan from Obama would, itself, constitute the baseline of future Arab demands on Israel because, as even Cooper points out, “once Mr. Obama puts American parameters on the table, the Palestinians will refuse to accept anything less.”

The prospect of an Obama dictat aimed at Israel again raises the question of what Jewish Democrats think about all this. Some may have thought that Obama’s rage at Netanyahu and the histrionics that the president and his staff have engaged in during the last month was just a passing phase, to be forgotten as the administration moved on to other issues. But apparently, Obama’s anger at Israel and his desire to bring down Bibi and to force the Jewish state to surrender on Jerusalem has not diminished. Obama’s diplomatic war on Israel seems to be just beginning.

Apparently, David Ignatius of the Washington Post isn’t the only recipient of White House leaks about an Obama peace plan. Helen Cooper of the New York Times chimed in with her own piece this afternoon about the president’s desire to jump into the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

According to Cooper, the trigger for this latest instance of administration hubris was a recent gathering of former national-security advisers including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Samuel Berger, and Colin Powell, who were called in to consult with the president and his adviser General James L. Jones. The consensus (only Powell seems to have dissented) was that Obama must put forward his own scheme that would state exactly what the parameters of a peace deal would be. The idea is that peace can only be obtained by the United States imposing it on the parties. The plan is, of course, along the lines of past Israeli peace offers rejected by the Palestinians, plus extra Israeli concessions. The Palestinians give up their “right of return,” and Israel “would return to its 1967 borders,” including the one that divided Jerusalem, with only “a few negotiated settlements” as an exception. The supposed sweetener for Israel is that the United States or NATO, whose troops would be stationed along the Jordan River, would guarantee Israeli security.

Cheering from the sidelines is former Clinton staffer Robert Malley, who advised Obama on Middle East issues during the 2008 campaign until he was put aside to reassure Jewish voters worried about the Democrats having a man on staff who had served as an apologist for Yasser Arafat in the aftermath of the 2000 Camp David talks. For Malley, the logic of an American diktat is simple: “It’s not rocket science. If the U.S. wants it done, it will have to do it.”

This fits in with the messianic self-confidence of the president, and with the vision of his presidency that his staffers exude. They are not interested in the fact that such attempts have always failed because of Palestinian intransigence, or that such attempts have ultimately led to more, not less, violence. It isn’t clear whether they truly believe that weak figures like Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad can sign any peace deal that recognizes Israel’s existence within any borders. But the administration’s simmering resentment against Israel seems to be driving this development more than anything else. Even if such a plan failed, as it surely would, the mere exercise of attempting to shove it down a reluctant Israel’s throat would appear to be deeply satisfying to figures like Brzezinski and Malley and perhaps Obama, whose predilection for trumped-up bitter disputes with the Jewish state and its leaders is now an established fact.

The effort to leak this story to multiple outlets appears to be a continuation of Obama’s feud with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Having failed to make Netanyahu bend to his will on the building of homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Obama is now raising the stakes by pointedly holding out the possibility that he will impose his own partition on Israel’s capital after the certain failure of the so-called “proximity talks” — so named because the Palestinians will not even sit in the same room to talk peace with Israelis.

It goes without saying that such a plan from Obama would, itself, constitute the baseline of future Arab demands on Israel because, as even Cooper points out, “once Mr. Obama puts American parameters on the table, the Palestinians will refuse to accept anything less.”

The prospect of an Obama dictat aimed at Israel again raises the question of what Jewish Democrats think about all this. Some may have thought that Obama’s rage at Netanyahu and the histrionics that the president and his staff have engaged in during the last month was just a passing phase, to be forgotten as the administration moved on to other issues. But apparently, Obama’s anger at Israel and his desire to bring down Bibi and to force the Jewish state to surrender on Jerusalem has not diminished. Obama’s diplomatic war on Israel seems to be just beginning.

Read Less

Obama Makes Excuses to Do Nothing About Iran

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

Buried most of the way through this New York Times report is a disturbing reminder of how unserious Obama is about imposing sanctions on Iran that might impact the mullahs’ decision to proceed with their nuclear-arms program:

During the campaign he raised the specter of cutting off refined petroleum supplies to Iran, which cannot refine enough oil to keep cars rolling and factories running. But Mr. Obama has backed away from that step, at least for now, for fear of the popular backlash it could set off.

“What you’ve been hearing on the streets is ‘Death to the dictator,’ not ‘Death to America,’” one of Mr. Obama’s top strategists said in an interview in December. “We’d be foolish to do anything to change that.”

Huh?! Doesn’t the protesters’ clear-eyed understanding of the identity of their enemy — the despotic regime — weigh in favor of imposing those crippling sanctions, which might help galvanize the revolution and topple the mullahs from power? Somehow Obama and his aides have convinced themselves of the opposite — that those brave and perceptive protesters who risked their lives for freedom would suddenly rush to the mullahs’ defense if Obama, in declared solidarity with those very protesters, announced effective sanctions aimed to topple the regime. This implies that the Obami were never serious about sanctions. They’re now making a ludicrous argument to defend their decision to do nothing much at all.

The rest of the article suggests that the Obami are nowhere near achieving agreement from the “international community” on UN-approved sanctions. (Remember that the Obami don’t really want serious sanctions anyway, because the imposition of sanctions might cause the  protesters, who we aren’t helping, to turn on the West.) We hear that on sanctions, “so far the Chinese are unmoved.” And then we learn what is really motivating the Obami:

The list of sanctions is now six pages long. But none have accomplished the central goal: forcing compliance with the Security Council’s demand that Iran halt uranium enrichment. Mr. Obama’s team acknowledges the potential political liability of passing a fourth round that proves equally ineffective. Some are scaling back expectations for what they once called “crippling sanctions.”

“This is about driving them back to negotiations,” said one senior official, “because the real goal here is to avoid war.” (emphasis added)

You see the goal is not to prevent Iran from going nuclear but rather to avoid war. So the Obami’s main obsession is now to deter Israel (which cannot tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran) from acting. (“Top officials — from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, to the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones — have visited Israel to argue that they should give sanctions time.”) But of course, we know that the chances of sanctions working are virtually nonexistent. So we are merely giving the mullahs, not sanctions, just more time.

The picture is becoming regrettably clear. International sanctions are a faint hope. Obama has come up with a rationalization to downsize U.S. sanctions. Our administration has already declared that conflict avoidance, not the dismantling of the Iranian nuclear threat, is the goal. And our real energies are devoted to stopping Israel while our sanctions pantomime plays out. This will not end well. At some point, the Obami’s “no war” will conflict with Israel’s fundamental commitment to protecting itself from an existential threat.

Meanwhile, where is the American Jewish community? Have they not noticed the retreat by the Obami on serious sanctions — and can they not anticipate the moment at which the Obami will declare Iran’s nuclear status a fait accompli? You would think they would be sounding the alarm and registering disapproval of the administration’s sleep-walking-toward-containment gambit. But it seems that they, too, are slumbering. Meanwhile, the mullahs inch forward with their nuclear program as Obama dreams up reasons to do nothing.

Read Less