Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Washington recently and apparently had to endure poor treatment from the Obama administration. But it was President Obama himself who handed the prime minister the ultimate humiliation.
While meeting with Netanyahu, Obama apparently got up and told the Israeli prime minister that he was going to take a break to have dinner with his family. According to Israeli and American media, the president then said to Netanyahu: “Let me know if there is anything new.” Then he walked out.
This kind of official rudeness, directed at a head of state of this magnitude, is almost unprecedented.
This sort of insult would have been unimaginable even if it had it been directed at the ruler of some tiny landlocked African dictatorship. This, however, was the prime minister of Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East and our most important ally in that region’s politics.
So what’s going on here?
The latest riff in U.S.-Israel relationships was initiated by an announcement of the next stage in building plans for 1,600 housing units in east Jerusalem.
This announcement came as Vice President Joe Biden was visiting the Jewish state, and it was claimed that the housing announcement “embarrassed” him.
But hold on; this is hard to imagine, since Joe routinely embarrasses himself.
The expansion of Jewish housing in Jerusalem has been a sticking point in Jewish-Palestinian negotiations; particularly since the Palestinian Authority wants east Jerusalem to be the capital of a new Palestinian state. Israelis say they’ll never share Jerusalem as a capitol.
But let’s revisit history for just a minute: Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan in the 1967 Mideast war and immediately annexed the area. The city was, in effect, the spoils of a war Israel didn’t start … but won.
When Hillary Clinton spoke at this years American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference, she told the delegates: “New construction in east Jerusalem or the West Bank undermines mutual trust and endangers the proximity talks that are the first step toward the full negotiations that both sides want and need.”
But Netanyahu spoke at the same AIPAC gathering and to a standing ovation told the delegates that Jews had been building in Jerusalem for 3,000 years. He said: “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It’s our capital.”
He went on to say that the neighborhoods built by Israel in east Jerusalem are an “inextricable” part of the city and will remain part of Israel under any peace agreement. Today as many as 180,000 Israelis live in these neighborhoods.
The simmering hostility toward Israel may indicate a larger problem beyond some unfortunate misunderstanding over Jewish settlements.
Let me remind you that while a candidate for president, Barack Obama’s support for Israel was questioned. He’d hung out with some odd folks. Among those Obama associated with are people like Jew-baiting Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the former Weather Underground terrorist William Ayers, and the former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi.
In an attempt to calm fears among Jewish voters, Obama went to Florida in a highly publicized visit to a synagogue to address these well-known fears.
It should also be remembered that while a candidate, Obama promised to meet with America’s enemies without any preconditions. This made Israelis nervous — after all, those who hate America also hate the Jewish state.
So while the Obama administration is ambiguous in its approach to an Iran that’s close to acquiring nuclear weapons, there has been no ambiguity at all regarding Israel. Obama is risking a diplomatic stand-off with the Israeli government over the issue of … 1,600 additional new homes? It makes no sense.
With health care and other government expansion schemes, Obama has attempted to shift America toward a European-style social democracy. But he’s also imitated Europe’s approach to the Middle East.
Europeans have been blindly supportive of Palestinian demands, with hearts that bleed incessantly over any claims from Palestinians of human rights abuses. Rarely are supportive words spoken about Israel’s rights.
European leaders tend to see the state of Israel as the moral and political equivalent of its enemies. But this sort of bankrupt thinking is just that — bankrupt. After all, Israel’s enemies exist in a culture of death that encourages daily prayer for the destruction of Israel and its people. They praise mindless clones willing to strap on explosives to kill innocent victims.
The White House may argue that all they want is a more “evenhanded” approach to the Israeli-Palestinian stand-off, but in fact what they seem to be emulating is the same weakness afflicting Europe in the face of an aggressive Arab and Muslim agenda.
The inescapable fact is that Israel is the only outpost of liberty and democracy in the Middle East. It has earned the right to exist within secure boundaries and to defend itself.
Where will Obama ultimately stand on this issue?