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Rubin Reports

To put it plainly, the press briefing intending to indicate how President Barack Obama thinks about Israel on the eve of his trip here was a combination of fantasy and insult.

It is likely that the Obama administration made such statements for show — to persuade the Arabic-speaking world that the United States is striving for peace, is not acting like a puppet (or should one say “ally”?) of Israel, and is using its influence to change Israeli policy even as it does nothing of the sort.

As proof that Obama isn’t going to do anything, he reportedly told Arab-American leaders before his trip that he wouldn’t make some peace initiative because the government in Israel is not ready to make concessions, and so there is no point in bringing pressure to bear at this time.

I see that as a mixed statement. He isn’t going to pressure Israel because he knows that to be a waste of time. That’s good.

Yet the premises on which this argument — as repeated in the public briefing of the media — is based can also be described as believing that what the Arab public really wants is progress toward peace with Israel, and that the United States sees the ball as being in Israel’s — not the Arabs’ — court. The other premise is a strange hint that Washington has suddenly realized what Israel has understood since the beginning — that the “Arab Spring” isn’t going well. Now Washington feels the need to explain to Israeli leaders what they have long known, and to give bad advice on what to do about it.

To show how mainstream Israelis who follow these issues closely see these themes, let’s quote how the Ynet reporter who covered the briefing — the respected and nonpartisan Yitzhak Benhorin — summarized what Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said. Here’s his lede:

U.S. President Barack Obama will not be bringing a peace plan to Israel, but he will try to convince Prime Minister Benjamin and the Israeli public that after the Arab Spring, Israel cannot depend on autocrats holding everything together in the region …

Here’s a president arriving at a moment when Israelis think the region is falling apart, with old autocrats being replaced by new ones and a more hostile environment, and the message is: “you shouldn’t be complacent in thinking that everything is great.”

Where does this come from? From the American conception that the “Arab Spring” is a great thing, that old autocrats are falling and will be replaced by more democratic and moderate regimes.

That is American thinking, not Israeli thinking.

If that theme is based on fantasy, the second theme is insulting. Here is the second paragraph of Benhorin’s analysis:

The U.S. believes that Israel must show it is serious about its peace efforts. It must convince the general Arab public, if nothing more than to maintain Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt.

These are Benhorin’s words, not Rhodes’ exact formulations, but I think Benhorin reads the message properly.

Let’s begin by discussing the idea that Israel must persuade the Arab public:

– The question should be posed as this: When will the Arab public, or Arab governments, show Israel they are serious about peace? In 2009, when Obama sought such assurances and demonstrations, he was turned down flat. We know it and he should know it.

– How comprehensive a list do you want of the occasions Israel has shown the Arab public that it wants peace seriously?

– Do you think the Arab public cares, or is going to be persuaded by any such behavior?

– Hundreds of Israelis died in the 1993-2000 period in the effort to show the Arab public Israel was serious about peace.

The idea that Israel needs to persuade its neighbors to accept its existence is a line we have heard almost daily since the 1980s, or even 1970s. Yet curiously the Arab street pays no attention to the scores of such Israeli gestures, and the West soon forgets each one.

Indeed, Obama has forgotten those that took place during his first term — for example, the nine-month-long settlement construction freeze.

Before that, the West forgot the Oslo agreement, the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the 2000 Camp David offer (including the offer to redivide Jerusalem!), and many more. (See footnote below.)

Guess what? If today Israel were to make a huge new concession, six months from now it would be forgotten in the West, which would also forget that there was no considerable Arab response.

Israelis know this, and so saying this kind of thing about Israel needing to prove its decent intentions can only fall with a cynical thud. Such statements remind Israelis why they are not rushing to make new concessions or take new risks.

Note too that Western and European promises to give Israel a big reward if Israel takes a big risk or makes a big concession to which the Arab side doesn’t respond have also been repeatedly broken.

What Obama is in effect saying: “Mr. Netanyahu, tear down that [security, counterterrorism] wall.”

What he should be saying: “Mr. Abbas, Mursi, etc., tear down that wall of hatred against Israel!”

Of course, he won’t do so because that would make the Arab leaders and publics angry — not because they want Israel to move faster on peace or to seek a better deal, but because they don’t want peace at all. And the Islamists coming into power have no intention of tearing down the wall. In fact, they are building it higher than ever.

And there’s nothing — absolutely nothing — Israel can do to change the course of events in that respect.

Moreover, in a context where the same point is not made loudly, clearly, and publicly to the Palestinian Authority, the idea that the burden is on Israel to prove its peace credentials is a veiled way of Obama saying — and signaling to his supporters — that Israel is responsible for the failure to achieve peace.

So on his visit Obama is not about to try to impose peace or even to press the issue. But why? The Obama administration isn’t being honest about this. The real reason is that the White House knows that such an effort will go nowhere. And it is also not because of Netanyahu. After all, how well did six predecessors do in solving this problem? Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and Tzipi Livni. Even if one can claim they all tried harder than Netanyahu, why did they all fail?

While the ideas on the “peace process” show the problem with U.S. thinking on that issue, the idea on the direction being taken by the region shows the wider miasma of fantasy that surrounds U.S. policy.

This idea that Israel cannot depend on autocracies to maintain the status quo parallels Obama’s view for U.S. policy: that to protect the region’s stability, the United States must show its desire for good relations and the fulfillment of Arab and Muslim dreams by helping force out pro-American authoritarian regimes and substituting for them (anti-American) Islamist authoritarian regimes.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is not 1980. Does Israel not understand that the region is already overwhelmingly ruled by autocracies hostile to itself? Here is the list: Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran, in particular. And one can add Tunisia and Turkey, where elections do mean something.

What does Obama intend to convey by this idea? It seems as if he is saying: you better act now while the relatively friendly dictator Bashar al-Assad is running Syria, before the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists take power.

But that is absurd. How about: you better act now before we pass the window of opportunity of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood regime being eager for comprehensive peace with Israel. Or: you better act fast before Hamas (which rules the Gaza Strip) and Hizballah (which rules Lebanon) change to a more hostile attitude.

What better time to make risky concessions than when the security situation is deteriorating, and the new rulers of your neighbors are baying for your blood?

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Obama is going to Israel for one reason only: so that he can point to his having visited Israel as President as "proof" that he is "pro-Israel."

This is pre-emptive cover for his issuing a promise to Israel that he will protect that nation from Iranian nuclear weapons once they announce they have them---on the condition that Israel grants in full whatever extravagant wish-list the "Palestinians" are even now preparing.

He will point to his visit as proof of his pro-Israel sentiments and of his acting as an "honest broker," even as he does his level best to dismember Israel and leave it as vulnerable as possible from within and without.

The low-information Jewish voters who reflexively vote Democrat will buy this, as they have bought his every other utterance on the Middle East---and the many nominally-Jewish low-information voters who work in the mainstream media will loudly and repeatedly trumpet this nonsense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wait... in this article Barry states that the "security situation is deteriorating", yet in his last post he declared that the strategic situation was better for Israel than it had been in decades. He is so bipolar on this, and his view actually seems to reflect a large spectrum of Israeli opinion. They are both certain that the sky is about to fall and at the same time that they are completely invincible. This dichotomy has been present since the founding of the state. Very bizarre and will probably lead to its undoing, and if anyone cares about my predictions then that undoing will start in Syria.

I already see too many articles in the Israeli media which reveal an eagerness to send the IDF into Syria, and I am guessing that this thinking reflects that of their sources inside the Israeli government. This would be a disaster of epic proportions. If the IDF tries to occupy any of Syria A) it would render the 1973 armistice lines (that are much to Israel's advantage) completely meaningless B) they would breach their own Golan defenses and once al-Qaeda and the IRGC learned how to penetrate IDF lines inside Syria (which they would) they would be able to stage terrorist attacks in the Israeli Golan and possibly even the Galilee C) create incredible casualties for the IDF with their Iraq style attacks D) smash morale among the Israeli public and military.

But there seem to be those, using this screwed up bipolar view of the world common in Israel, that seem to want to encourage this nonsense.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why does Israel need to make peace? They hold the upper hand. Who needs to make peace are a people who see entire Muslim neighborhoods in E. Jerusalem disappearing, say they hate that, but are too stubborn to organize themselves, say "I surrender" and move on with their lives.

They prefer some fantasy where everything will magically go back to 1947 or some Muslim prince will rescue them. To me that's too dumb for words. Cutting off your nose to spite your face reminds me of The Mikado where they say cutting off your own head is "an extremely difficult, not to say dangerous, thing to attempt"

Yes, it is.

Declare peace, give assurances to Israel and move on already. You'll have the West Bank all to yourselves and your movements will be constrained only to the extent you attempt further idiocies. In this regard I give you Gaza.

You lost - get over it. It happens. The past can't be replayed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Department of "Justice" in America believes that enforcing laws in America should be done only on behalf of certain races.

It picks "victims" based upon its own prejudices and then rigs the outcome.

Why do you think the LA Times kidnapped and is holding hostage that tape of the constant dinner companion Rashid Khalidi and Obama?

Israel and America are not "underdogs". Mother Russia and Father China have their favorites and this administration has pushed all the "reset" buttons.

Obama won't sully his name by bringing a peace process to the table because the Jews aren't willing to learn how to genuflect. And the laws of his "friendship" are based upon submitting to his predetermined outcomes for "victims" and "their oppressors".

The fact that we are continually surprised by baffling.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What do you expect from the man who would be caliph?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It is a seriously decent gesture of PM Benjamin Netanyahu to serve the expectations of the world community, like the rest of his predecessors did. Serving here means, demonstration of willingness to confront adversaries to the face for repeated clarity, desire for peace. Israel had given up much parts of her rights to the Land, to further concede is a real nose-dive. Interestingly a terrifying fulfillment of troubling prophecies, ...however, redemption is at the doors and the ONE WHO keeps Israel does not slumber ... HE is with the Land, and no amount of Oba's insidiousness with his eastern cohorts can escape HIS judgments.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Meanwhile, a new book by a rising star professor at the U. of Chicago, favors Edward Said, and seems to undermine the coalition between many Christians and Jews in defense of Israel and of Western values in general. See
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Europe is a slave to the baggage of its own past. This can be useful when it reflects a worthy value and deadly when used otherwise. Either way, thought becomes frozen and little changes. The same old things are seen in the same old places, even when they have ceased to exist.

America, once bright eyed and immune to this, has now gathered it own baggage about itself. Bigotry only has a hood and swastika, and certain skin and gender. Like the Old World, we now see things only where we used to see them and expect to see them.

That's why bald-faced bigotry has been mainstreamed in America, cuz we all "know" a 19 yr. old girl with cute braids is incapable of hate, and so we listen to their hate and judge it to be wisdom. Cuz "wisdom" has a look, and a last name, or a skin color.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yes more posturing and pretending. I don't see how and same person can put the burden solely on Israel after the failure of the Oslo process, and the way the Palestinians handled an actual return of land in Gaza. Watching this post colonial two step repeated ad nauseam the more strongly I support Israel. I hope Bibi tells the fool what he want to hear and knocks the Iranian nuclear program to oblivion, but that would be too much to wish for.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I suspect this trip is just a photo op for the president. Possibly a little payback to Netanyahu. Nobody educated expects anything to occur along the Israeli-palestinian track. The problem is with the low informed, who will hear these empty promises and implied denuciations of Israel's desire for peace, put 2+2 together and again come up with 5. The propaganda war continues apace and the Israelis are losing. As for the Arab spring coming out badly for Western interests, perhaps in the short run. I suspect the arab world will need an islamic reign of terror to eliminate their support of the MB. It appears to be happening in Iran. sadly it will take 1-2 generations. Hopefully, Obama will not destroy what's left of Israel's deterrent capabilities thus providing the Israelis with time for Islamist Imperialism to sink itself
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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