Commentary Magazine


Obama to Israel: You’re on Your Own

Last week, Obama joined the NPT nations in finger-pointing at Israel, despite our longtime understanding that Israel would maintain a don’t ask, don’t tell policy on it nuclear capability and we would not demand that it join the NPT. At the time, many of us decried the Obama preference for consensus over solidarity with our ally. But Jewish groups — again — were mum. This week, a far more serious and destructive instance of the same behavior occurred at the UN.

In a must-read piece, Elliott Abrams takes the administration to task for caving in to the screeches of the UN Security Council and permitting a resolution on the flotilla rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with the Jewish state. Reminding us that a “lynch mob” always awaits Israel there unless the U.S. and a few others intervene, he explains:

This week the mob formed again, instantly, after the Gaza flotilla disaster, reinforced this time by the leadership of Turkey, whose language at the UN was more vicious than that used by the Arabs.  As usual there was really only one question once the mob began to gather.  It is the question that arose repeatedly in the Bush years—when the Hamas leaders Sheik Yassin and Abdel Aziz Rantisi were killed by Israel, when Israel acted in Gaza, when Israel put down the intifada in the West Bank, and during the 2006 war in Lebanon and the late 2008 fighting in Gaza: would Israel stand alone, or would the United States stand with her and prevent the lynching? Would the US, in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s memorable phrase, “join the jackals”?

This week the Obama administration answered the question: Yes we would, and Israel would stand alone.  It is simple to block the kind of attack issued as a “President’s Statement” on behalf of the Council, for such a statement requires unanimity.  The United States can just say “No,” and make it clear that orders have come from the White House and will not be changed.  Then negotiations begin on a serious statement—or, there can be no statement at all.  The killing of dozens of South Korean sailors by North Korea in an action that truly threatens the peace did not evoke the kind of action the Security Council took against Israel, proving that the UN does not always act, or act in the same way, when news flashes hit.  Whether Israel is slammed depends on whether the United States is willing to take a stand.

As Abrams points out, the Obama team continually wants to have it both ways — not completely abandon Israel (for then American Jewry might bestir itself and recoil against its liberal icon) but never stand athwart the international community and shout, “Stop!” So the Israel-haters have a resolution and call for a Goldstone-like investigation. (Is the former apartheid hanging judge up for thrusting one more dagger into the Jewish state?) In short, Obama had a choice, and he chose not to stand with Israel. (“The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises.”)

We shouldn’t be surprised, Abrams writes:

The White House did not wish to stand with Israel against this mob because it does not have a policy of solidarity with Israel.  Rather, its policy is one of distancing and pressure. … Does the White House accept, indeed relish, the need to defend Israel against all comers—Pakistan, Turkey, the Arabs, weak-kneed Euro-dips, UN bureaucrats?  Is this understood as a chance to show what America really stands for in the world? Or is Israel seen by the president as a burden, an albatross, a complication in his grand struggle to re-position the United States as a more “progressive” power?

Come to think of it, American Jewry — at least the non-leaders of mainstream groups — is playing the exact same game. It wants to have it both ways — stick up for Israel but not cross Obama. So it rises up and defends Israel in the flotilla incident, struggling to get the facts out to the public, which has been inundated with an avalanche of distorted media and inane analysis. But what it refuses to do is criticize the mendacity of the administration and shatter the facade that this administration is acting as a loyal ally. No criticism of the NPT. No criticism of the phony sanctions. No criticism of the UN travesty. Here’s the thing: neither Obama nor American Jewry can have it both ways. They are trying to please irreconcilable parties — in Obama’s case the international community of Israel-haters and Israel, and in the case of Jewish non-leaders, Obama and Israel. It does not work.

There is a single question that every individual, group, and nation must answer. To borrow from the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman: if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.

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