It has been suggested that Obama is angling for regime change — in Israel. He seems convinced that Netanyahu is somehow outside the mainstream Israeli political spectrum and that he will either buckle or his government will crack if enough pressure is applied in the form of ultimatums over settlements. Thus the way can be paved for an Israeli government more amenable to U.S. dictates. This approach is, of course, badly mistaken.
This report clarifies:
MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) lashed out Monday against the U.S. demand for a settlement freeze, labeling it “extortion” and warning it could set back Israeli readiness for peace.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Schneller assailed Obama administration officials as holding beliefs shaped by “far-Left opinions outside of the Israeli consensus.”
[. . .]
In his letter to Barak, Schneller argued that “in no case can one agree to freezing natural growth — not even temporarily. Beyond the ideological question (the right of people to give birth, to raise children) and beyond the humanitarian questions (preschools, clinics), the believability of Israel’s government will be tested. There is no legal or public ability to carry out a complete freeze and there is no chance to prevent all building. America’s temporary freeze will cause us to pay a moral price and we will be found untrustworthy opposite the Americans.”
Schneller said there was no legal basis for the government to stop private construction that had already been contracted, or to prevent building by those who already had made down payments, unless “we enforce the government’s will in an illegal and anti-democratic manner. The American pressure endangers Israeli democracy. Human rights and the power of democracy are not dependent upon the interest of a particular nation.”
Instead, Schneller said, the American call to freeze all Jewish building in the West Bank were “unifying the Israeli public against the American demands.”
I suspect Schneller’s sentiments are widely held.
Perhaps Obama has been ill-served by his advisers or perhaps he has disregarded the counsel of those who argued that bullying Israel on settlements was a fruitless exercise. In any event, Obama should remember that when you decide to meddle in another democratic country’s affairs or try to influence public opinion to oppose elected leaders, it is best to know what you’re doing first.
In this case, Obama has done a remarkable job of solidifying Netanyahu’s position, giving false hope to the Palestinians (and therefore encouraging their intransigence), and creating the worst breach in U.S.-Israel relations in a generation. And in this case, he can’t blame his frayed relations with Israel on George W. Bush.