Commentary Magazine


Topic: Obama’s administration

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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Flotsam and Jetsam

Oops — maybe we shouldn’t have pulled our missile defenses out of the Czech Republic and Poland. “The stated rationale at the time was: Since the sites were intended to defend America and our allies from Iranian missiles, and our intelligence estimated that the Iranians were a long way from fielding such missiles, the sites were unnecessary. Now, this was a transparently flimsy excuse even at the time. … But the story gets even fishier. A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015.”

Oops – Gallup delivers some bad news to the Obami (but then again, they say they don’t look at polls): “President Barack Obama averaged 48.8% job approval for his fifth quarter in office, spanning Jan. 20-April 19 Gallup Daily tracking. That is the lowest of his presidency to date, though not appreciably worse than his 50.8% fourth quarter average. … Obama’s latest quarterly score of 48.8% is below average by historical standards, ranking in the 35th percentile of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has data, dating to 1945. The average historical quarterly approval average is 54%. Additionally, Obama’s latest quarterly average does not compare favorably to other elected presidents’ averages at similar points in their presidencies.”

Oops — message confusion: “Wall Street provided three of Obama’s seven biggest sources of contributors for his presidential bid. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs employees and family members gave him $994,795, Citigroup Inc. $701,290, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. $695,132.”

Oops — for those who vouched for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials: “Israel’s defense minister expressed concern Monday about deteriorating relations with the United States and warned that ‘the growing alienation’ with President Obama’s administration ‘is not a good thing for the state of Israel.’ … As for reports that the Obama administration might try to impose some sort of peace plan on the Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu said, ‘I don’t believe anyone will seriously think you can impose peace. Peace has to come from the parties sitting down with each other and resolving their differences.'”

Oops — apparently no one really likes Charlie Crist. From Public Policy Polling: “It’s his fall with Republicans that gets all the attention, but Charlie Crist’s poll numbers have declined almost as badly with Democrats and independents over the last year as they have within his own party. And that makes me doubt he would be successful in an independent Senate bid even if he did decide to make a run for it.”

Oops — Bill Clinton’s cover is blown. “Mr. Clinton’s opposition to ‘demonizing the government’ would be more credible had he been heard from on the subject during the first eight years after he left office—when, for example, Hollywood demonized George W. Bush by releasing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ or when Mr. Clinton’s own former Vice President railed against the man who beat him in 2000: ‘He betrayed this country!’ Instead, Mr. Clinton’s effort to exploit the memory of Oklahoma City looks like a partisan cheap shot. In his speech last week, the former President observed that, unlike the Boston Tea Party, ‘this fight is about taxation by duly, honestly elected representatives that you don’t happen to agree with, that you can vote out at the next election.’ Our guess is that the next election is what he’s really afraid of.”

Oops — an inconvenient truth for climate-change fanatics: “Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans now believe there is a significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, up seven points from early December just after the so-called ‘Climategate’ scandal involving doctored or deliberately undisclosed scientific evidence first broke.”

Oops– a crack in the Eric Holder stonewall: “For nearly a year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been investigating the Department of Justice’s voluntary dismissal of a voter intimidation suit against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. On Friday morning of this week, the commission will conduct a public hearing on the matter. A number of witnesses are expected to testify concerning the incident that gave rise to DOJ’s lawsuit. A second hearing will likely take place in May to adduce additional evidence from the DOJ. The commission will issue a report on its findings to the president and Congress in the next few months.”

Oops — maybe we shouldn’t have pulled our missile defenses out of the Czech Republic and Poland. “The stated rationale at the time was: Since the sites were intended to defend America and our allies from Iranian missiles, and our intelligence estimated that the Iranians were a long way from fielding such missiles, the sites were unnecessary. Now, this was a transparently flimsy excuse even at the time. … But the story gets even fishier. A new estimate sent from the Defense Department to Capitol Hill puts the date at which Iran could threaten the U.S. homeland with a ballistic missile at 2015.”

Oops – Gallup delivers some bad news to the Obami (but then again, they say they don’t look at polls): “President Barack Obama averaged 48.8% job approval for his fifth quarter in office, spanning Jan. 20-April 19 Gallup Daily tracking. That is the lowest of his presidency to date, though not appreciably worse than his 50.8% fourth quarter average. … Obama’s latest quarterly score of 48.8% is below average by historical standards, ranking in the 35th percentile of all presidential quarters for which Gallup has data, dating to 1945. The average historical quarterly approval average is 54%. Additionally, Obama’s latest quarterly average does not compare favorably to other elected presidents’ averages at similar points in their presidencies.”

Oops — message confusion: “Wall Street provided three of Obama’s seven biggest sources of contributors for his presidential bid. In 2007 and 2008, Goldman Sachs employees and family members gave him $994,795, Citigroup Inc. $701,290, and JPMorgan Chase & Co. $695,132.”

Oops — for those who vouched for Obama’s pro-Israel credentials: “Israel’s defense minister expressed concern Monday about deteriorating relations with the United States and warned that ‘the growing alienation’ with President Obama’s administration ‘is not a good thing for the state of Israel.’ … As for reports that the Obama administration might try to impose some sort of peace plan on the Israelis and Palestinians, Netanyahu said, ‘I don’t believe anyone will seriously think you can impose peace. Peace has to come from the parties sitting down with each other and resolving their differences.'”

Oops — apparently no one really likes Charlie Crist. From Public Policy Polling: “It’s his fall with Republicans that gets all the attention, but Charlie Crist’s poll numbers have declined almost as badly with Democrats and independents over the last year as they have within his own party. And that makes me doubt he would be successful in an independent Senate bid even if he did decide to make a run for it.”

Oops — Bill Clinton’s cover is blown. “Mr. Clinton’s opposition to ‘demonizing the government’ would be more credible had he been heard from on the subject during the first eight years after he left office—when, for example, Hollywood demonized George W. Bush by releasing ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ or when Mr. Clinton’s own former Vice President railed against the man who beat him in 2000: ‘He betrayed this country!’ Instead, Mr. Clinton’s effort to exploit the memory of Oklahoma City looks like a partisan cheap shot. In his speech last week, the former President observed that, unlike the Boston Tea Party, ‘this fight is about taxation by duly, honestly elected representatives that you don’t happen to agree with, that you can vote out at the next election.’ Our guess is that the next election is what he’s really afraid of.”

Oops — an inconvenient truth for climate-change fanatics: “Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans now believe there is a significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming, up seven points from early December just after the so-called ‘Climategate’ scandal involving doctored or deliberately undisclosed scientific evidence first broke.”

Oops– a crack in the Eric Holder stonewall: “For nearly a year, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has been investigating the Department of Justice’s voluntary dismissal of a voter intimidation suit against the New Black Panther Party and some of its members. On Friday morning of this week, the commission will conduct a public hearing on the matter. A number of witnesses are expected to testify concerning the incident that gave rise to DOJ’s lawsuit. A second hearing will likely take place in May to adduce additional evidence from the DOJ. The commission will issue a report on its findings to the president and Congress in the next few months.”

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And Then the Deluge

Like the French aristocracy pre-1789 and the flappers pre-Crash, the Democrats are whooping it up. Thrilled with their own cleverness and accomplishments, they have taken several victory laps. But wait. Even the New York Times warns: there is a black cloud on the horizon that threatens not only their future but also the viability of their “accomplishment”:

Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama’s administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush’s tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year. Mr. Obama’s signature on the health care law did not reduce a national unemployment rate that hovers around double digits and is likely to stay there through the November elections.

The Gray Lady repeats the favored line — this “stabilized” support on the Left — but can’t conceal the fact that this is of minimal value. After all, there weren’t enough liberals to save even Scott Brown in Massachusetts from the united front of independents and conservatives. Moreover, “Younger and minority voters, so crucial to Mr. Obama’s 2008 breakthrough, typically turn out for midterms at lower rates than seniors, the age group most skeptical of the president’s performance and the country’s direction.” In other words, the Obami have pleased people (including the uninsured, the target of ObamaCare) not all that inclined to vote.

So what are Democrats to do? Change the subject: “Democrats will turn unequivocally to the economy, putting forward additional efforts to accelerate the recovery and highlighting improvements already under way.” What — they don’t want to dwell on their victory? One would think that would be their sole topic of discussion, you know, what with the historic accomplishment under their belts. But no, they seem quite anxious to move on.

They repeat the mantra that cramming a grossly unpopular health-care bill through on a narrow party-line vote was a good idea. (“By winning on health care, Mr. Obama and his party ‘avoided disaster’ in 2010, said the Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. But ‘this doesn’t change the overall dynamic.’”) This unproved thesis is apparently providing them some solace as they stare into the political abyss. But the election is not merely a disagreeable ordeal. It is also a referendum on their handiwork, which threatens not only to result in a massive repudiation of their “historic” gain but also to begin the process of obliterating it. The Democrats could defy the will of the voters once, but neither they nor their legislation can survive cycle after cycle of the voters’ wrath. They now might want to change the topic, but the voters don’t. The partying will end, I suspect, once the reality of the electorate’s anger sets in and the recognition dawns that, like those of the flappers and the French monarchy, the days of ObamaCare are numbered.

Like the French aristocracy pre-1789 and the flappers pre-Crash, the Democrats are whooping it up. Thrilled with their own cleverness and accomplishments, they have taken several victory laps. But wait. Even the New York Times warns: there is a black cloud on the horizon that threatens not only their future but also the viability of their “accomplishment”:

Achievement of their decades-long quest for comprehensive health care legislation left Congressional leaders and White House aides jubilant. It broke, at least temporarily, the psychology of failure that threatened President Obama’s administration as it had burdened President George W. Bush’s tenure. But the new spring in the steps of Democratic lawmakers has not reversed the likelihood that there will be fewer of them next year. Mr. Obama’s signature on the health care law did not reduce a national unemployment rate that hovers around double digits and is likely to stay there through the November elections.

The Gray Lady repeats the favored line — this “stabilized” support on the Left — but can’t conceal the fact that this is of minimal value. After all, there weren’t enough liberals to save even Scott Brown in Massachusetts from the united front of independents and conservatives. Moreover, “Younger and minority voters, so crucial to Mr. Obama’s 2008 breakthrough, typically turn out for midterms at lower rates than seniors, the age group most skeptical of the president’s performance and the country’s direction.” In other words, the Obami have pleased people (including the uninsured, the target of ObamaCare) not all that inclined to vote.

So what are Democrats to do? Change the subject: “Democrats will turn unequivocally to the economy, putting forward additional efforts to accelerate the recovery and highlighting improvements already under way.” What — they don’t want to dwell on their victory? One would think that would be their sole topic of discussion, you know, what with the historic accomplishment under their belts. But no, they seem quite anxious to move on.

They repeat the mantra that cramming a grossly unpopular health-care bill through on a narrow party-line vote was a good idea. (“By winning on health care, Mr. Obama and his party ‘avoided disaster’ in 2010, said the Democratic pollster Mark Mellman. But ‘this doesn’t change the overall dynamic.’”) This unproved thesis is apparently providing them some solace as they stare into the political abyss. But the election is not merely a disagreeable ordeal. It is also a referendum on their handiwork, which threatens not only to result in a massive repudiation of their “historic” gain but also to begin the process of obliterating it. The Democrats could defy the will of the voters once, but neither they nor their legislation can survive cycle after cycle of the voters’ wrath. They now might want to change the topic, but the voters don’t. The partying will end, I suspect, once the reality of the electorate’s anger sets in and the recognition dawns that, like those of the flappers and the French monarchy, the days of ObamaCare are numbered.

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Will They Still Stick with Obama?

Last summer, Alan Dershowitz wrote a defense of Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel and, by extension, of the numerous Jewish Democrats who had supported the president’s election and stuck by him despite a rocky first few months in office. Reacting to what he acknowledged was a “harsher approach toward Israel” than had been displayed during his campaign, Dershowitz insisted that despite disputes over settlements and engagement with Iran, the new administration was still solid on what was really important: safeguarding Israel’s security.

But as I wrote at the time, rather than encouraging the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world to finally make peace with Israel, Obama’s decision to distance  himself from Israel and downgrade America’s alliance with the Jewish state encouraged its foes to dig in their heels and to wait for more American pressure. By picking a needless fight with Israel over settlements and expanding a longstanding disagreement over Jewish settlement in the West Bank into one about the right of Jews to build in Jerusalem, Obama changed the dynamic of the relationship with Israel into one characterized by distrust rather than friendship.

Yet by the start of Obama’s second year in office, the situation appeared brighter. The contempt with which Iran had treated his outstretched hand had appeared to sober Obama up about engagement. Having failed in an effort to topple the newly elected government of Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 and been disappointed by the Palestinians’ refusal to talk peace, the president seemed to have finally grasped the limitations on his power to remake Middle East.

But such optimism was dashed this past week as Washington seized on a poorly timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to set off a major confrontation with the Netanyahu government. By choosing to turn a minor gaffe into a major incident while ignoring far worse Palestinian provocations, and specifically attempting to muscle Israel into a pledge to stop building in East Jerusalem — something no previous administration had ever done — Obama showed that brutal pressure on Israel remained high on his agenda. Having already reneged on previous pledges of American support for Israel’s holding on to parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the president is doubling down on his drive to bludgeon the Jewish state into further concessions without any hope of reciprocation from the Palestinians. Washington has placed the onus for the certain failure of peace talks on Netanyahu rather than on a Palestinian leadership that has no intention of signing any agreement no matter what it says. And by responding more forcefully to a minor dispute with its ally Israel than to the endless atrocities and provocations committed by the Islamist regime in Tehran, Obama has sent a clear signal that no one need take his pledge to stop Iran’s nuclear program seriously.

That raises the question of what Obama’s Jewish supporters have to say now. While Dershowitz and other Jewish Democrats may still claim that statements by Secretary of State Clinton and other officials of America’s resolve to stand by Israel reflect the real nature of the relationship, the latest round of bitter and pointless controversy over Jerusalem orchestrated by Obama must leave even the most ardent fans of the president wondering.

Some on the Jewish Left, like the J Street lobby, are happy to see the administration bashing Netanyahu, because they hope American pressure can reverse the outcome of the last election, in which Israel’s left-wing parties crashed and burned. But while the majority of American Jews may not be particularly fond of Netanyahu or supportive of West Bank settlers, they, like the vast majority of Israelis, do not wish to see Jerusalem divided. Nor do they believe that Israel needs to be saved from itself. Like most Americans, they understand that the Palestinians, both the moderates of Fatah and the extremists of Hamas who rule Gaza, are the real obstacles to peace, not a democratically elected government of Israel.

Two years ago, Obama wooed American Jews at an AIPAC conference by pledging his devotion to the alliance with Israel. As AIPAC begins its annual conference this week, the distance that Obama’s administration has traveled from those pledges will be hard to ignore.

Last summer, Alan Dershowitz wrote a defense of Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel and, by extension, of the numerous Jewish Democrats who had supported the president’s election and stuck by him despite a rocky first few months in office. Reacting to what he acknowledged was a “harsher approach toward Israel” than had been displayed during his campaign, Dershowitz insisted that despite disputes over settlements and engagement with Iran, the new administration was still solid on what was really important: safeguarding Israel’s security.

But as I wrote at the time, rather than encouraging the Palestinians and their supporters in the Arab world to finally make peace with Israel, Obama’s decision to distance  himself from Israel and downgrade America’s alliance with the Jewish state encouraged its foes to dig in their heels and to wait for more American pressure. By picking a needless fight with Israel over settlements and expanding a longstanding disagreement over Jewish settlement in the West Bank into one about the right of Jews to build in Jerusalem, Obama changed the dynamic of the relationship with Israel into one characterized by distrust rather than friendship.

Yet by the start of Obama’s second year in office, the situation appeared brighter. The contempt with which Iran had treated his outstretched hand had appeared to sober Obama up about engagement. Having failed in an effort to topple the newly elected government of Israel led by Benjamin Netanyahu in 2009 and been disappointed by the Palestinians’ refusal to talk peace, the president seemed to have finally grasped the limitations on his power to remake Middle East.

But such optimism was dashed this past week as Washington seized on a poorly timed announcement of a housing project in Jerusalem during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to set off a major confrontation with the Netanyahu government. By choosing to turn a minor gaffe into a major incident while ignoring far worse Palestinian provocations, and specifically attempting to muscle Israel into a pledge to stop building in East Jerusalem — something no previous administration had ever done — Obama showed that brutal pressure on Israel remained high on his agenda. Having already reneged on previous pledges of American support for Israel’s holding on to parts of the West Bank and Jerusalem, the president is doubling down on his drive to bludgeon the Jewish state into further concessions without any hope of reciprocation from the Palestinians. Washington has placed the onus for the certain failure of peace talks on Netanyahu rather than on a Palestinian leadership that has no intention of signing any agreement no matter what it says. And by responding more forcefully to a minor dispute with its ally Israel than to the endless atrocities and provocations committed by the Islamist regime in Tehran, Obama has sent a clear signal that no one need take his pledge to stop Iran’s nuclear program seriously.

That raises the question of what Obama’s Jewish supporters have to say now. While Dershowitz and other Jewish Democrats may still claim that statements by Secretary of State Clinton and other officials of America’s resolve to stand by Israel reflect the real nature of the relationship, the latest round of bitter and pointless controversy over Jerusalem orchestrated by Obama must leave even the most ardent fans of the president wondering.

Some on the Jewish Left, like the J Street lobby, are happy to see the administration bashing Netanyahu, because they hope American pressure can reverse the outcome of the last election, in which Israel’s left-wing parties crashed and burned. But while the majority of American Jews may not be particularly fond of Netanyahu or supportive of West Bank settlers, they, like the vast majority of Israelis, do not wish to see Jerusalem divided. Nor do they believe that Israel needs to be saved from itself. Like most Americans, they understand that the Palestinians, both the moderates of Fatah and the extremists of Hamas who rule Gaza, are the real obstacles to peace, not a democratically elected government of Israel.

Two years ago, Obama wooed American Jews at an AIPAC conference by pledging his devotion to the alliance with Israel. As AIPAC begins its annual conference this week, the distance that Obama’s administration has traveled from those pledges will be hard to ignore.

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“Traditionally” Ill-Informed Times Slants News on Jerusalem

The timing of the announcement that Israel planned to build more homes in East Jerusalem has, as others have already written here, rightly provoked criticism of the adroitness of Israel’s government. It did neither Israel nor the Netanyahu government any good to announce such plans during the visit of Vice President Biden. Biden’s efforts to prop up a pointless search for more negotiations with a Palestinian negotiating partner that is clearly not interested in negotiating is risible. So is his message to Israel about the threat from Iran. Assurances of America’s dedication to the security of the Jewish state are welcome but the real context of this mission is an effort to stifle Israel’s concerns about the Obama administration’s wasted year of engagement with Iran, which has given Tehran more time to build nukes with no realistic prospect of the sort of crippling sanctions that might make the Islamist regime halt its nuclear drive. Yet there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost from embarrassing the vice president of the United States. That the announcement was probably a ploy on the part of Netanyahu’s coalition partners to embarrass the prime minister and limit his maneuvering room is little consolation to those who already had reason to worry about the shaky nature of the Obama’s administration’s support for Israel.

However, concern about the foolish timing of the announcement in no way diminishes Israel’s right to build homes in its own capital. Netanyahu rightly opposed extending the freeze on building in the West Bank to Jerusalem. President Obama’s criticisms of Jewish building there were met with almost universal opposition on the part of Israelis, a factor that helped solidify Netanyahu’s popularity and the stability of his coalition. But foreign journalists operating in the city can always find a small number of Israelis to protest the presence of Jews in East Jerusalem. Such articles, like this one from yesterday’s New York Times, are old standbys of Israel coverage. In it, the argument is made that if Israelis expect the world to support their opposition to the Palestinians’ assertion of a so-called “right of return” to parts of the country they fled in 1948, Jews cannot at the same time claim their own right to return to property that was lost to the Arabs even in Jerusalem. Thus, according to this reasoning, the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem or even the reassertion of control over existing buildings that were Jewish property in 1948 across the Green Line is illegitimate and hypocritical as well as an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state with parts of Jerusalem as its capital.

The problem here is that while Arabs and their Jewish supporters assume that keeping all Jews out of East Jerusalem is a prerequisite of Palestinian independence, no one questions the right of Israeli Arabs to live in any part of Jerusalem, including the sections that were under Israeli control from 1949 to 1967. Thus, the hypocrisy is not on the part of Israel but rather its critics. So long as Arabs are free to buy and/or build in West Jerusalem, banning Jews from doing the same in the eastern part of the city that was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 is discriminatory. And even if a peace deal were ever adopted in which parts of the city were given to a Palestinian state, why would the presence of Jews there prevent such a pact, since no responsible person would expect such an agreement to also specify the eviction of Arabs from Israel?

Moreover, the idea that it is a form of colonialism for Israelis to have the chutzpah to attempt to live in parts of Jerusalem is not only wrong-headed; it is based on a historical mistake that East Jerusalem has always been off-limits to Jews. This was reflected in a post on the Lede, the Times’s news blog, in which Robert Mackey referred to Israel building homes in “a traditionally Arab part of Jerusalem.” This is nonsense, as there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the mid-19th century. These areas are seeped in both ancient and modern Jewish history. Indeed, even Mackey’s own post included the information that the most controversial building site, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was “a Jewish enclave” until 1948. The only real tradition here is the Times‘s misreporting of the situation, as well as the Arab campaign to delegitimize the Jewish presence in the city.

The timing of the announcement that Israel planned to build more homes in East Jerusalem has, as others have already written here, rightly provoked criticism of the adroitness of Israel’s government. It did neither Israel nor the Netanyahu government any good to announce such plans during the visit of Vice President Biden. Biden’s efforts to prop up a pointless search for more negotiations with a Palestinian negotiating partner that is clearly not interested in negotiating is risible. So is his message to Israel about the threat from Iran. Assurances of America’s dedication to the security of the Jewish state are welcome but the real context of this mission is an effort to stifle Israel’s concerns about the Obama administration’s wasted year of engagement with Iran, which has given Tehran more time to build nukes with no realistic prospect of the sort of crippling sanctions that might make the Islamist regime halt its nuclear drive. Yet there was nothing to be gained and much to be lost from embarrassing the vice president of the United States. That the announcement was probably a ploy on the part of Netanyahu’s coalition partners to embarrass the prime minister and limit his maneuvering room is little consolation to those who already had reason to worry about the shaky nature of the Obama’s administration’s support for Israel.

However, concern about the foolish timing of the announcement in no way diminishes Israel’s right to build homes in its own capital. Netanyahu rightly opposed extending the freeze on building in the West Bank to Jerusalem. President Obama’s criticisms of Jewish building there were met with almost universal opposition on the part of Israelis, a factor that helped solidify Netanyahu’s popularity and the stability of his coalition. But foreign journalists operating in the city can always find a small number of Israelis to protest the presence of Jews in East Jerusalem. Such articles, like this one from yesterday’s New York Times, are old standbys of Israel coverage. In it, the argument is made that if Israelis expect the world to support their opposition to the Palestinians’ assertion of a so-called “right of return” to parts of the country they fled in 1948, Jews cannot at the same time claim their own right to return to property that was lost to the Arabs even in Jerusalem. Thus, according to this reasoning, the building of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem or even the reassertion of control over existing buildings that were Jewish property in 1948 across the Green Line is illegitimate and hypocritical as well as an obstacle to creating a Palestinian state with parts of Jerusalem as its capital.

The problem here is that while Arabs and their Jewish supporters assume that keeping all Jews out of East Jerusalem is a prerequisite of Palestinian independence, no one questions the right of Israeli Arabs to live in any part of Jerusalem, including the sections that were under Israeli control from 1949 to 1967. Thus, the hypocrisy is not on the part of Israel but rather its critics. So long as Arabs are free to buy and/or build in West Jerusalem, banning Jews from doing the same in the eastern part of the city that was illegally occupied by Jordan from 1949 to 1967 is discriminatory. And even if a peace deal were ever adopted in which parts of the city were given to a Palestinian state, why would the presence of Jews there prevent such a pact, since no responsible person would expect such an agreement to also specify the eviction of Arabs from Israel?

Moreover, the idea that it is a form of colonialism for Israelis to have the chutzpah to attempt to live in parts of Jerusalem is not only wrong-headed; it is based on a historical mistake that East Jerusalem has always been off-limits to Jews. This was reflected in a post on the Lede, the Times’s news blog, in which Robert Mackey referred to Israel building homes in “a traditionally Arab part of Jerusalem.” This is nonsense, as there has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since the mid-19th century. These areas are seeped in both ancient and modern Jewish history. Indeed, even Mackey’s own post included the information that the most controversial building site, the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, was “a Jewish enclave” until 1948. The only real tradition here is the Times‘s misreporting of the situation, as well as the Arab campaign to delegitimize the Jewish presence in the city.

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