Most Israelis will be relieved when Barack Obama leaves the White House. Although few are brimming with confidence about either of the candidates to replace him, Israelis will not miss much about Obama: the eight years of constant friction with a four-times-elected Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu; severe and obsessive public criticism for such actions as building homes for Jews in supposedly proscribed parts of Jerusalem, and the like.
There is also concern that the lame-duck Obama will take a pernicious parting shot at Israel from the United Nations.
As John Hannah notes in a Foreign Policy article on restoring America’s role in the world, the next U.S. president should:
… make sure the Israeli prime minister is among the first foreign leaders received at the White House and leave no doubt that the days of public backbiting and “distancing” from America’s most important and capable Middle Eastern ally are over.
But public frictions, and even harmful diplomatic moves, are not the worst of Obama’s “legacy” for Israel.
Far more serious is the deteriorating security environment he leaves in his wake.
Israel’s Channel 2 has reported that the Israel Defense Forces are “in a panic” as Russia increasingly fills the Middle East vacuum that Obama’s policy has left. Particularly worrisome is Russia’s deployment of its highly sophisticated S-300 and S-400 antiaircraft systems in Syria, and of its only aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, in the Mediterranean.
The Algemeiner website, summing up the Channel 2 report, says the Russian systems in the area are already:
… dramatically hampering the way the Israeli Air Force and Navy are able to operate.
Both these branches of the IDF, according to Channel 2, were used to flying and sailing wherever and whenever they saw fit, with no real threat to their movement. But since Russia began to intervene in the Syrian civil war … things have changed.
The Jerusalem Post notes:
[T]he mobile S-300 and S-400 batteries are capable of engaging multiple aircraft and ballistic missiles up to 380 km. away, putting significant parts of Israel in their crosshairs.
And although Russian president Putin is not seen as having any special animus toward Israel, a former Israeli Air Force commander told the Post:
[W]e must keep in mind that conflict with Russia could happen … [Israel] would have no other choice but to destroy the S-300s.
Meanwhile, Israeli military-affairs analyst Alex Fishman reports on the rapid proliferation of mass-destruction weapons in the region:
Deterrence reached its peak in 2013 when the American administration threatened to attack the Assad regime should it continue to attack its citizens with chemical means.
After making a highly publicized threat, of course, the administration backed off — and it’s been downhill since then. A UN report in August said chemical weapons use had spread in the fighting in Syria, and a UN report in October said the Syrian government was “still carrying out attacks with toxic gas.”
It is now also feared that ISIS will use chemical agents in the battle for Mosul, with evidence of deadly mustard gas already found in a village that ISIS controlled in the area.
For Israel, says Fishman, it means:
… facing a situation in which its potential enemies — radical Islamic states or organizations — have turned chemical weapons into legitimate warfare.
And it’s not only chemical weapons. Israeli defense officials, Fishman writes, “assess that as soon as the banking restrictions on Iran are lifted, it will start breaking the nuclear agreement.” It’s believed that the region’s three main Sunni powers — Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia — won’t want the Shiite power, Iran, to march toward nukes all by itself.
Noting that Saudi Arabia has already bought rights for a nuclear bomb from Pakistan, Fishman writes:
[T]he Middle East is returning to a nonconventional arms race, and Israeli is beginning to anxiously prepare for the new era.
Presumably a world where amoral or fanatic powers, terror organizations, and mass-destruction weapons are on the rise is not what the progressive, Nobel Peace Prize-winning Obama had in mind. It is not a good world for peace, stability, or civilization. As usual Israel is in the eye of the storm. Obama had no use for its warnings, but they’re worth heeding.