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Ron Radosh

Has Obama Betrayed Israel? Two Journalists Weigh In on the Issue

June 21st, 2009 - 12:36 pm

In today’s New York Post , TNR Assistant Editor James Kirchick has written a truly brilliant article on how Barack Obama is betraying Israel. This is a harsh assessment, and Kirchick backs up his analysis with an array of facts. Obama’s policies, he points out, are distinctly different from those he promised during the campaign. Kirchick writes:

Just six months into the new administration…it is becoming increasingly clear that those who harbored suspicions about Obama’s approach to the Middle East had good reason to be worried. A confluence of factors- including his administration’s undue pressure on Israel, a conciliatory approach to authoritarian Muslim regimes, and the baseless linkage of the failed ‘peace process’ to the curtailment of the Iranian nuclear program- point to what could become ‘the greatest disagreement between the two countries in the history of their relationship,’ as Middle East expert Robert Satloff recently told Newsweek.

 The key to the new tilt against Israel is, Kirchick rightfully argues, the decision to make an end to Israeli settlement activity, even normal growth of existing settlements that would after a final peace remain in Israeli territory, the centerpiece of administration policy. He notes that in Obama’s Cairo speech, Israel was the sole country that Obama singled out for direct criticism. Ignored totally were various of what he calls the “degradations and injustices in the Middle East” from various Arab nations. Instead, Obama mentioned only America’s key democratic ally in the region, and only to rebuke it.

Kirchick continues to destroy the argument on behalf of “linkage” between a Palestinian-Israeli agreement and the satisfactory conclusion of other disputed questions in the Middle East. Even after Benjamin Netanyahu uttered the magic words on behalf of a two-state solution in his recent speech, “moderate” Arab leaders including a spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas attacked his speech for destroying the chance for any peace initiative. The truth is that the peace process itself is fraudulent and a waste of time, and that it will remain so as long as Hamas and other Arab terrorist groups remain committed to destruction of Israel and to the murder of Jews.

Secondly, “linkage” is irrelevant because the problems in the Middle East do not exist because of the lack of a Palestinian state. Unless the demonstrations in Iran are successful and the result is a transformation of the theocratic state, it is the current Iranian regime’s move to become a nuclear power that remains the region’s outstanding danger. It would be so even if a real Palestinian state existed and was recognized by Israel.

So Kirchick concludes that “Obama is turning America against Israel,” all on behalf of “false hopes of improved relations with Arab nations and a nuclear-equipped Iran.”

Kirchick also makes a side argument about the decline of support for Israel among American Jews; noting that at the same time most Israelis have told pollsters that they do not find Obama to be pro-Israel. As if to confirm Kirchik, the polar opposite argument about Obama and Israel comes from another influential Jewish journalist, Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief and chairman of The Slate Group.

Indeed, instead of complaining about Obama’s criticisms of Israel and the various policy steps opposed by Kirchick, Weisberg praises the President for being “a friend in need,” as his column is titled in Newsweek, and for being “tough on Bibi.” As he claims: “those presidents regarded as the least friendly to the Jewish state have done it the most good. Its strong allies have proved much less helpful.”

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