Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Winds of Change

My fears about the Obama administration have proven true. Israel and the United States have had the biggest rift between them in decades. I only hope that the downward spiral ends here and changes course back to where it was. Will it? I don't know.

President Obama has taken a decidedly pointed turn away from Israel turning sharply toward the Palestinians. Not officially of course. US policy remains unchanged - for now.

In what has to be the biggest mistake since the current American administration took office - Israel announced it was adding 1600 new housing units in Ramat Shlomo. This Jerusalem neighborhood is an entirely Jewish one that is outside of the ‘Old City’ - but technically outside the pre 1967 border. This would have gone unnoticed had it not been announced in the middle of a Vice Presidential visit. The president seized on this opportunity to make his move.

In the Middle East ‘body language’ can mean more than policy. And the President’s ‘body language’ has become almost hostile to Israel. This was demonstrated last week during a meeting between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Instead of the friendly atmosphere of past visits between an Israeli leader and an American President - Obama gave Netanyahu the cold shoulder. In fact it was more than just a cold shoulder. It was a ‘trip to the woodshed’. This was highlighted last week in a Washington Post article by Jackson Diehl who said as follows:

Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president’s meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to. Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States.

Is this what our relationship has sunken to? I’m afraid that at the moment it would appear so.

Not that everything is negative. There are the positives. Obama has stuck to his guns about US support for Israel being unshakable. Nice words and hopeful. But sometimes body language can speak louder than policy and indeed can change policy.

A positive and upbeat meeting that was warm and friendly - yet noting differences - would have been more encouraging. Treating Netanyahu like a dictator is not – US policy notwithstanding. It only encourages more world animosity towards Israel and the Jewish people. As Diehl points out, this ‘body language’ will not go unnoticed by the Arabs and their European lapdogs. That – is discouraging.

That said Obama is no anti-Semite. I never thought he was and I have not changed my mind. He will not abandon Israel to the dogs. He will support Israel if push ever comes to shove. But at the moment it is the President doing all of the pushing and shoving. He is using the current ‘crisis’ to make his move.

He wants a peace deal. He thinks that pressuring Israel is the way to get it done and believes the US has the leverage to do it. This is after all the mantra of all the Arabists in world: Just push Israel into a peace deal – using US financial and military aid as a hammer - and all will be well. Apparently the President buys into this argument. So he is going to do what no President has ever done –impose his will. He views Israel as the obstacle to peace.

What I don’t understand is how he can ignore Israel's sworn enemies - what I would call the ‘new axis of evil’: Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran (and every other Muslim terrorist entity in the world). Doesn’t he realize that any peace deal will surely be thwarted in violent ways against Israel… and maybe even the US? Suicide missions and rocket attacks galore against Israel will be coming out of the woodwork! Doesn’t he realize that Iran supplies Hamas and Hezbollah with the weapons and the moral support to do the job?

Doesn’t the President realize that Islamist religious beliefs require Muslims to wipe Israel off the map? Has he not heard the Islamist Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say that an endless number of times? …that Islamist clerics in Iran, Gaza, Lebanon - and all over the Arab/Muslim world preach Israel’s destruction as a Yehoreg Val Yaavor? Does he not see that the Arabs are a very religious people?

There is hardly a Muslim in the world who believes that Israel has a right to exist. The only difference between moderates and extremists is that moderates may accept a peace deal in spite of their beliefs while extremists will stop at nothing to destroy any possible compromise that goes against their beliefs. They are Moser Nefesh for that principle. Most suicide bombers do it for religious reasons.

Mr. Obama? Hello?

The President may actually have good intentions here. But his naiveté about Middle East realities is astounding!

To say I am disappointed is putting it mildly. I did not support his candidacy precisely because of the fear that something like this would happen. What makes it worse is that American public support for Israel can easily be eroded. The mainstream media spin has been tilted against Israel on this issue and that is what the public is being fed. No other administration has treated a sitting Prime Minister as a third world dictator before. And the media faults Israel for it.

Not good.

What does Israel need to do about this? They need to tread a very thin line here between outright thumbing their noses at the Obama administration and bowing to their every demand. I trust Netanyahu. He met with the President and he knows what is at stake. He also has intelligence reports that tell him how far he can go without compromising Israel’s security. This gives him an advantage over any of the rest of us who don’t. Netanyahu will not be bullied nor will he bite the hand that feeds him. It’s a delicate balance.

May God protect us all.