The ground is fast sinking beneath the feet of President Obama’s Jewish defenders. While the president is trying to raise money from Jewish donors by patting himself on the back as Israel’s greatest friend in the White House, the Secretary of Defense has now made it clear that he sees the Jewish state as responsible for the isolation it faces. Equally as egregious is the fact that Howard Gutman, Obama’s ambassador to Belgium, told an audience this week he thinks Israel’s policy toward the Palestinians is responsible for the creation of a new kind of anti-Semitism that he believes is understandable on some level.
Panetta’s speech on Friday at the Brooking Institution in Washington and Gutman’s comments to a conference held by the European Jewish Union were obviously not coordinated, but they combine to give us a clear view of the distorted mindset of administration officials. This is an administration that sees Israel as a source of trouble, not an ally. Combined with the sorry history of three years of Obama’s picking fights with Jerusalem, the positions of both Panetta and Gutman give the lie to the notion this is an administration friends of Israel can trust.
That the secretary of defense would choose to blast Israel in this manner just as Obama is starting to crank up his re-election campaign speaks to the cognitive dissonance many Jewish Democrats are experiencing. For Panetta to claim Israel is responsible for its own isolation just as Obama boasted of his friendship for the Jewish state shows either a lack of coordination between the Pentagon and the White House or a desire on the president’s part to signal the Arab world he is prepared to put the screws to the Israelis as soon as the election is concluded.
As for Panetta’s assertions, while sandwiched between some of the usual boilerplate rhetoric about supporting the alliance, they made it clear that Washington views the hardening of anti-Israel positions on the part of Turkey, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority as Israel’s fault. Even more, he made it plain that the administration’s belief is this rising tide of anti-Israel hate can only be dealt with by a new round of concessions on Israel’s part to the Palestinians.
Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt is now endangered by the victory of Islamists. Their former ally Turkey is now aligning itself with Hamas terrorists. The Palestinian Authority is about to conclude a unity pact with Hamas that will end its experiment with good government and expand the reach of the Gaza-based terrorists. These events are not the fault of Israel, but are the result of the embrace of Islamism and extremism by a Muslim world that seems to be sinking into the abyss of extremism.
But the administration looks at this and says it is the fault of the Israelis who have spent the last 18 years trying to make peace, to no avail. Rather than drawing conclusions from the Palestinians’ rejection of peace and the bloodthirsty hatred for Jews at the heart of the siege of the Jewish state, Panetta believes the time is ripe for Israel to weaken its defenses and hand over more territory that may become another safe haven for terrorists, as Gaza has proved to be.
The secretary’s remarks were a not-so-subtle hint that pressuring Israel is still Obama’s priority. That key officials of this administration could hold onto a belief in a peace process even the so-called moderates of the Palestinian Authority have rejected speaks volumes not so much about their naïveté as it does the grip of ideology on their thinking.
As for Gutman’s remarks, they speak not so much to policy as to the thinking behind it. Contrary to his poorly reasoned formulation, hatred for Israel and Zionism is just a modern variant of traditional Jew-hatred, and not a different belief system that can be rationalized. Anyone who would deny Israel the same right to existence and self-defense they would grant any other country is a bigot. Palestinian suffering is real, but the hatred for the Jews and Israel in the Arab and Islamic world has little to do with policy and everything to do with prejudice.
That an American diplomat would stoop so low as to rationalize that hatred is a disgrace. While the White House sought to distance itself from Gutman’s remarks, his views give those of us who have wondered about the source of the animus for Israel in this administration new insights about the advice Obama has been getting.
Taken together, these two speeches paint a portrait of a government that is at its heart hostile to the Jewish state. Only a blind partisan would think such an administration could be trusted to deal fairly with Israel once the constraints of Obama’s re-election efforts are removed.