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Contentions

The Good News: It’s a Total Failure

Michael Freund writing in the Jerusalem Post observes:

For a president who has been in office for just over seven months, Barack Obama can at last point to some meaningful change that he has brought about in the Middle East.

US President Barack Obama speaks during a dinner celebrating Ramadan in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday.

Thanks to his administration’s arm-twisting and bullying of Jerusalem over settlements, Obama has unwittingly succeeded in galvanizing the Israeli public like never before. The result is a broad coalition that extends all the way from the moderate left, through the center and over to the reasonable right, giving Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu plenty of political breathing space.

[. . .]

Ironically, in this respect, Obama has managed to attain what various right-wing MKs and settler lobby groups could only dream of. Through his obstinacy, the American president has inadvertently brought about a resumption of construction in the territories by unfairly pressing Israel to agree to a “freeze.”

That’s not all. Obama has also managed to “avoid” the consistently high approval ratings in Israel that American presidents of both parties have enjoyed:

Yet here too Obama has managed to alter reality. As a recent Smith Research poll conducted on behalf of The Jerusalem Post revealed (August 28), just 4 percent of Israelis now think Obama’s policies are pro-Israel, while 51% consider his administration to be pro-Palestinian.

In effect, Obama has changed the way Israelis view America. It was once considered unthinkable for a prime minister to say no to the United States, yet that is exactly what is happening now, and the bulk of Israelis support it.

That leaves Freund with a counterintuitive optimistic conclusion: “In a short period, he has hardened the Palestinian position, strengthened the hand of Israel’s settlement enterprise and led the Israeli public to reassess its blind faith in Washington.” Well, that’s one way of looking at it. And that’s the best one can hope for under trying circumstances.

But if one thinks that a warm and robust Israeli-U.S. relationship is of benefit to both countries, that the looming threat of a nuclear Iran requires close coordination and trust between Israel and the U.S., and that limited but meaningful progress can be made in the lives of Palestinians and the security of Israelis with a less antagonistic U.S. approach to Israel, then this is hardly an ideal state of affairs. And if you think that from the American perspective our moral standing and international credibility have been damaged by the shameful groveling before the “Muslim world” and the needlessly hostile attacks on our ally, then you certainly can’t be pleased.

That Obama’s policy is spectacularly failing is, then, the only consolation one can “enjoy” under the worst of circumstances.



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