Yesterday Prof Jacobson rightly assessed Jeffrey Goldberg’s The Crisis in U.S.-Israel Relations Is Officially Here as describing a crisis “in Obama-Israel relations.”
Although the White House has offered a disavowal of the profane insult made by one of Goldberg’s sources, the full substance of his remarks needs to be rebutted.
The offending official explained his boorish insult of Netanyahu :
“The good thing about Netanyahu is that he’s scared to launch wars,” the official said, expanding the definition of what a chickenshit Israeli prime minister looks like. “The bad thing about him is that he won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”
This is utterly false.
The real problem for the administration is that the Israelis—along with all the other disappointed allies—are learning how little it pays to be on Barack Obama’s good side. Since coming to office in 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed, against his own inclination and over the objections of his political base, to (1) recognize a Palestinian state; (2) enforce an unprecedented 10-month settlement freeze; (3) release scores of Palestinian prisoners held on murder charges; (4) embark on an ill-starred effort to reach a final peace deal with the Palestinians; (5) refrain from taking overt military steps against Iran; and (6) agree to every possible cease-fire during the summer’s war with Hamas.
In exchange, Mr. Kerry publicly blamed Israel for the failure of the peace effort, the White House held up the delivery of munitions at the height of the Gaza war, and Mr. Obama is hellbent on striking whatever deal the Iranians can plausibly offer him.
Netanyahu took (dubious) peace making steps at the administration’s behest even though there was a political risk involved. It didn’t earn him any gratitude.
Worse as Thomas Friedman points out in his most recent (mostly anti-Israel) column:
Diplomatically, President Obama on March 17 personally, face-to-face, offered compromise ideas on key sticking points in the Kerry framework to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and asked him point blank if he would accept them. Obama is still waiting for an answer.
Abbas was the primary stumbling block to Kerry’s efforts and incurred none of the administration’s wrath.
Of course as Prof Jacobson writes, the Obama-Israel crisis “has been a long-time coming.”
In September last year the late Barry Rubin wrote, Turning Point: Obama and Israel, the Next Three Years. Rubin argued, “the administration has crossed a line and is now backing the ‘bad guys.'” Rubin’s main point was ” Israel cannot depend on the United States,” and listed the reasons he reached that conclusion.
This doesn’t mean that Obama and others will not provide military aid or say nice words at every event. But there is no commitment that one can assume would be fulfilled nor any Israeli initiative that will actually be implemented. The idea that Obama and his team are the greatest friends of Israel is a deadly insult. The United States has undermined Israel on many issues: Egypt (by supporting a hostile Muslim Brotherhood government); Tunisia (ditto); Sinai (by enabling an insurgency); Hamas (by the desire to keep the Brotherhood — an ally of Hamas — in power in Cairo); Turkey (by supporting the Islamist, anti-Israel government); Syria (by supporting radical Syrian Islamists); Europe (by not supporting the Israeli position on the peace process); America itself (by encouraging anti-Israel forces among the Jewish community and within Obama’s constituency); Palestinians (by the lack of criticism or pressure on Palestinian Authority).
He also assessed Netanyahu’s explanation for agreeing to risky prisoner releases in order to get Kerry’s peace process off the ground.
Read Netanyahu’s unprecedented memo on the talks and the prisoner release. It reads as if he saw a ghost; he is trying to signal something very grim and serious and there is no implication that he believes in any possibility of compensation for this concession. Faced with a wasted effort of a unilateral Palestinian prisoner release, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government went along with it because they realized the indifference of the United States to Israel’s interests was extremely high. They realized that Congress was hypnotized that the Jewish community, in its Obama worship, was largely neutralized; and that rather than fighting European hostility, the White House was conducting it.
Looking over their shoulder in the misty night, they realized that a monster was following them. If you read Netanyahu’s unprecedented memo to the Israeli people as to why the terrorist prisoners were released, you get that clear signal. They realized that the Obama administration was extremely dangerous and that it was necessary to buy time.
Netanyahu, rather than being the political coward portrayed by anonymous administration sources, has taken risks. But he also realizes that he has no ally in the White House.
While the Obama administration looks at Netanyahu and sees someone (against all evidence) who is too inflexible to make peace; Netanyahu sees the administration as too flexible in allowing Iran the capacity to enrich uranium.
It’s also worth noting that as Prof Jacobson wrote, this is an Obama-Israel crisis. If Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid or Michael Herzog were Israel’s Prime Minister now, there likely would still be a crisis. Remember Abbas refused a deal offered by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2008. It’s hard to believe that after 3 wars with Hamas any potential challenger to/replacement of Netanyahu would offer more than Olmert did, so there’s no reason to believe that peace with the Palestinian would be any closer if Netanyahu were not the Prime Minister.
One could also assume that any Netanyahu replacement would be privy to the same intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program and would be no less concerned about Iran’s ability to enrich uranium.
In other words, even in Netanyahu’s absence the two main issues currently dividing Israel and the United States would still be causing friction and the administration would still view Israel as being unreasonable. The intensity of the division, without Obama’s dislike of Likud, might not be as magnified, but the division would still be there.
No doubt Goldberg’s source figured that Netanyahu had sufficient critics in Israel and the United States to give his smear some traction. But the mendacity of the attack masks something that the president’s defenders won’t admit: that this is about Israel, not Bibi.DONATE
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