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The Lynching of Netanyahu, Oren, and Israel

The Obama administration's decision to treat an ally like a rogue state seems to have backfired.

by
Michel Gurfinkiel

Bio

March 23, 2010 - 12:33 am
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Friedman also said:

It should be emphasized that this is a government plan, not a private plan. This means that the government has 100% control over whether the plan moves forward.  The government could withdraw the plan at any time, if it wanted to do so. Under similar in circumstances in 1995 this is precisely what then-Prime Minister Rabin did.

One would have expected the Obama administration to be content with Netanyahu’s apologies, or at least to pay attention to the Americans for Peace Now report. Instead, it escalated its attack against Netanyahu and against Israel as a polity. This is what turns the story into something truly amazing.

Problems arise time and again among good friends or among allies. In spite of their special relationship, the U.S. and the UK have quite often quarreled. But friends and allies usually make sure to calm the issues down. In fact, this is what validates their bond. On the other hand, when a friend or an ally allows the disagreement to grow into a crisis or fuels the fire, that means that it is not a true friend or ally any longer. Remember Jacques Chirac, the president of France from 1995 to 2007, who, on a state visit to Israel in 1995, turned a minor misunderstanding with his Israeli security escort in the Old City into an argument between the two countries. Chirac elicited completely unnecessary apologies from then-Prime Minister Netanyahu. Such behavior merely signaled what was to come : Chirac’s alignment with Yasser Arafat and similar figures in the Middle East.

Clearly, there was an attempt, at some very high level in the Obama administration, to draw political benefit from the Ramat Shlomo announcement. And maybe to engineer such an announcement in the first place. Let’s face it: Shas people were perhaps answerable for the misleading Interior Ministry communiqué on March 9; but then, there are many ultra-left bureaucrats in many places in Israel, and some of them may have been willing to mount something that would pass as a Netanyahu provocation, either by their own volition and calculation, or at the request of American or European friends active in the pro-Palestinian movement. People can be manipulated in many ways. Some can be bought by money, or honors, or academic vainglory. Many are just encouraged to indulge in their idiosyncrasies. There qA something too quick and too trigger-happy in the way Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attacked Netanyahu to dismiss such speculation altogether.

Equally arresting, in this respect, was Israel Ambassador Michael Oren’s unceremonious summoning to the Department of State. Oren, a first-class and best-selling historian who has written extensively about the Six-Day War and the American age-old interest in the Middle East, is arguably the best advocate Israel can have today in the United States. To treat him much like the envoy of a rogue state cannot be innocent. Evidently, what the Obama administration had in mind was to strip him of some of his natural authority and charisma.

Either accidental or premeditated, the lynching of Netanyahu, Israel, and Oren probably had something to do with the AIPAC conference taking place from March 21 to March 23. Most American Jews — 77 percent of them — voted for Barack Obama in 2008. Many wonder today if this was the right move. Disappointment may lead to defection, a very bad prospect in a midterm election year. Hence the solution: to turn Netanyahu into a mere provocateur who insults the United States, and Obama into a true friend of Israel.

However, the whole operation seems to have backfired. The more people thought about it, the more it was President Barack Obama who insulted Israel — and the American people. Not the other way around. Obama is now willing to meet Netanyahu in the wake of the AIPAC conference. Quite a change of tune from a fortnight ago.

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Michel Gurfinkiel is the Founder and President of the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, a conservative think-thank in France, and a Shillman/Ginsburg Fellow at Middle East Forum.
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