Sunday, December 25, 2016

Good Riddance, Mr. President

Menorah lighting at the Kotel (which is on the West Bank)
I would have loved to say a clear and unequivocal thank you to President Obama for his service to this country as President for 8 years. He was an elegant world spokesman for liberal values. And a respected voice among nations. He has led this nation with a dignity that seems sorely lacking in the next President. He showed himself to be loving and devoted husband and father while in office. A great role model in that regard. He projected the kind of family values we should all have. Something that was missing in some of our past Presidents.

I have always defended his policies with respect to Israel  primarily because a lot of the attacks against him were unfair and biased. In some cases they were just plain untrue. And let’s face it. In a few cases the criticism was thinly disguised racism. I still feel that way.

To say that he was anti Israel is pretty much the same as saying half of the Israeli people are anti Israel.  Because Obama’s rhetoric is pretty much the narrative of the Israeli left. What about his supposed hatred of Israel Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu? Well, I for one don’t believe it’s personal. I believe it is strictly policy oriented. Besides - even if he does hate Netanyahu. So do a lot of Israelis – probably close to half of them. More than Obama does!

That he doesn’t hate Israel should be obvious even to the casual observer, unless they are just too blinded by hate to see it. Iron Dome being one example. That Obama approved American taxpayer funding of it is surely one thing to credit him for. Countless lives were saved during the last Gaza war that had Hamas shooting rockets indiscriminately into Israeli population centers. There is also the fact that under Obama - military/ intelligence cooperation between Israel and the US is at unprecedented levels. (I don’t think there would have been  a ‘Jonathan Pollard’ under an Obama administration.)

 And then there is the recently approved $38 billion aid package to Israel. The largest in history. A package that includes the sale of America’s most advanced jet fighter - the F-35. No other country was given access to these advanced weapons. If that’s anti Israel, I’ll take it. None of this is new. I just want to be fair to the outgoing President before I criticize him

The President has done the unthinkable in my mind. He has allowed Security Council of the UN to pass an anti Israel resolution condemning it for allowing settlement construction in the West Bank. He has done so knowing that in less than 3 weeks there will be a ‘new sheriff’ in town that would have clearly vetoed it.  

Obama gained absolutely nothing with this parting shot. When asked about it, members of the administration defended it by saying that a resolution condemning Israeli settlements is in line with the bi-partisan American policy going back for decades in both Democratic and Republican administrations.  Adding how supportive the US is in spite of allowing that vote to pass.  

What he didn’t say is that even though past administrations were opposed to settlements, they never allowed Israel to be condemned in one sided resolutions that did not place any blame on the other side. In fact that was the reason our representative to the UN, Samantha Powers, gave for abstaining rather than voting in favor of the resolution. She actually pointed out that resolutions like this have always been biased. Which is why they were vetoed despite the fact that the US might have agreed with the criticism those resolutions represented.

So why the change now? I heard one administration official ‘explain’ that since settlement construction has dramatically increased, the President felt the US had to make a statement.

Statement? What exactly did the President gain? He has antagonized America’s only democratic ally in the region and gained only Israel’s resolve to completely ignore it. Perhaps even encouraging more violence by Palestinian extremists. 

With a new pro settlement administration about to be installed, I see nothing good coming out of this. What might instead happen is a world body proven to be biased against one country might now be motivated to sanction it somehow.

As I have said countless times, I too have opposed settlement construction. At least as far as outlying settlements are concerned. As much as I would love to see all of Eretz Yisroel settled by Jews, it is not worth the blood spent in gaining them. Nor was it worth antagonizing Israel’s closest ally, the US by building what are basically trailer parks deep into the West Bank and calling them settlements. 

What does this resolution say about the Kotel? That is considered part of the West bank too. Should Jews be condemned for going to the Kotel? I agree with Ron Dermer, Israeli ambassador to the US, who reacted to this resolution on his Facebook page: 
Friday, the UN shamefully declared the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory. Last week, I sent this holiday gift and message:  “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither.” (Psalm 137) 
He then promptly rebuffed this resolution by declaring that ‘tomorrow to a menorah lighting at the Western Wall (the Kotel) in our united capital, Jerusalem’. I wish I could be there to witness and support it.

Lest anyone think this is a partisan issue, there is bi-partisan criticism of the President. Including that of the upcoming Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer. Senator Lindsay Graham has actually called for reconsidering taxpayer funding of the UN.

I am not one of those that calls for the demise of the UN. It does serve as a forum for international debate and discussion as a deterrent to future wars. But I agree with UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon's assessment that the UN is biased against Israel. (As if that wasn’t obvious). To say that this undermines its credibility is an understatement. I can therefore surely understand why Senator Graham might consider withdrawing US financial support after this vote.

Thankfully, the new administration will have an entirely different approach to Israel. One that hasn’t been tried yet by any past administration. A lot of pundits have said that a right turn this sharp with respect to Israel will do more harm than good, undermining both Israeli and US interests. It might begin a new Intifada where more Jewish blood will be spilled. 

On the other hand the opposite might happen. The violence that is being perpetrated against Israel now might cause the US to withdraw support of the Palestinians altogether. Including the hefty financial aid they get. Peace may come about through strength rather than compromise. Islam is not exactly the most popular religion in America right now. And the new administration has made no secret of how he feels about Islam’s part in the world’s problems

What about the current administrations point that settlements are to blame for the stalling peace process? As I have said countless times, the settlements may be an issue but they are not the real problem. I’m sure the outgoing administration knows this. Decades of hatred has been instilled in the minds of most Arabs - insisting that Israel’s existence is a contradiction to their faith.  They see Israel as an illegal state founded by European Jews – with a goal of colonizing their land.

Holocaust? What Holocaust?! Even if it happened. It's not their fault. Jews ought to go back where they came from and make their claims to European leaders and stop usurping Arab land! To this end they preach and teach hatred to their people. Some of whom take action with violence against Jews living there. There is absolutely no acknowledgement by them of the Jewish claim to any part of Israel. Legitimate claims that are biblical, historic, and moral.  

If the preaching of hatred doesn’t end - the violence won’t end. There cannot be a 2 state solution under these circumstances. And to his credit I think the President-elect realizes it.

So in light of the President's latest actions so close to the end of his administration, instead of saying ‘Thank you and Goodbye’, Mr. President, I say  Thank you. But ‘Good riddance!’