Ron Radosh

Obama's Position on Israel: Why Are We Surprised?

In the past few days, there have been many sharp, biting and on target comments about the fabricated crisis Obama has manufactured between Israel and its most important ally, the United States. If you go to this link, check out the Daily Alert for March 19th, and read the links to the articles by Marty Peretz, Bret Stephens, Charles Krauthammer, Jackson Diehl, Elliot Abrams, Dan Senor, Jonathan Schanzer, Lanny Davis, Mitchell Bard and Clifford May. All of these writers, each in their own distinct way, show how the Obama administration has chosen this moment to appease the Palestinians, who have done little of content to show any real desire for a peace agreement, and to pressure our major ally in the Middle East and to push them to the wall at a time of great peril in the region.

Among all these writers, there is major agreement on the following: 1: All of Israel knows that the contemplated building is not controversial. The settlement freeze announced earlier did not apply to building in this area of Jerusalem, a stone’s throw from the Knesset.  2: While the Israelis have time and time again shown a commitment to obtaining peace with the Palestinians, both Fatah and Hamas have not produced any movement of substance to match very real Israeli moves of compromise. To the contrary, any movement by Israel has been met instead by more intransigence.  3: By singling out Israel alone for tough talk, and ignoring any similar harshness towards any of  the Palestinian factions, the administration has made it harder for Mahmoud Abbas to accept any of  Israel’s offers, since it would make him look weaker than the American President. 4: The President is clearly revealing that he is moving along the path announced last year in Cairo, when his words indicated an overwhelming desire to tilt in the direction favored by the Arab nations.

As the liberal Democrat Lanny Davis asked,  referring to the recent announcement that the “settlement” construction had to be condemned, “How could the U.S. government use such language about a democracy that has been America’s most loyal ally in the world on virtually all issues, a nation that shares our core values — protecting civil rights, women’s rights, due process and free speech — not only for Israeli citizens, but for over 1 million Israeli Arabs as well?”

It is the question, and one answer comes from Marty Peretz, editor in chief of The New Republic, who both endorsed and campaigned for Obama during the campaign, and assured his readers Obama was a keen supporter of  Israel and its alliance with the United States.  Peretz makes the following startling statement. Rather than hope that the condemnation was a “temporary aberration,” as Davis thinks it might be, Peretz writes:

That the president and his team should now take up this old Arab formula for disguising reality demonstrates the poverty of their grasp of the problem at hand. In fact, Obama seems to think that he is the superego of the conflict and that his function is to hand out dicta on how to end it. But he has no dicta for the Palestinians and plenty for the Israelis. The Jewish state has many conditions under which it would be prepared to give more rather than less. Alas, the president can’t bring himself to publicly acknowledge this. The fact is that he does not particularly like Israel. Which is why it is so frightful to have his messenger running between Jerusalem and Ramallah making demands on the Jews.

A day earlier, Peretz wrote, in equally harsh terms, that Obama, not wanting to enrage the Palestinians, sent out Joe Biden and then Hillary Clinton to “beat up on Israel and they did.” He goes on to mention that someone compared Obama to Charles Lindbergh — a comparison he does not dissent from — and that he himself sees Obama as a man who demands something from the Israelis but virtually nothing from the Palestinians.

Citing a Tuesday dispatch that appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Peretz notes that the story reported that speaking to a dozen American Jewish leaders, the President “planned to create some ‘space, between Israel and his administration. ‘We have to change the way the Arabs see us,’ Obama told the assembled Jews. And, apparently according to General Petraeus, to change how the Pakistanis and the Afghanis see us too.”

President Obama, Peretz concludes, “belongs…to the Arabisant school of history.” He adds: “He is so vain or at least vain enough not to see that his coddling of the Palestinians encourages them in their maximalist tactics and strategies. As soon as Obama’s real rage against Israel (not just his impatience with it or different view of its history) became known the Palestinians felt they could escalate and exacerbate their actions.”

His point is quite reminiscent of what Clark Clifford told Harry S. Truman in May of 1948, when he gave him a memo opposing the State Department’s hostile position against recognition of a Jewish state. Clifford told Truman that he could not take a soft position against the Arabs, because it would only encourage them in their military campaign against the Haganah. As Clifford put it, the United States had to stop “the shilly-shallying appeasement of the Arabs.” Good advice then — and still relevant now.

So the issues are clear, and all the writers I mentioned at the start of this blog are clear about the real issues. My only question is this: Why should we be so surprised at the direction President Obama has taken?  After all, this is a man who listened to the anti-Semitic diatribes of Reverend Wright for years without saying one word. Moreover, when he attended the goodbye party for his friend, Prof. Rashid Khalidi, before he left Chicago for Columbia University, he told Khalidi that if he ever attained high office, he would use his power to redress US policy towards the Palestinian side. No wonder, as a press story reported, Palestinian leaders in the US firmly believed that “Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say.”

That was a few years ago. The story, and others like it, were completely ignored. Most liberal American Jews poo-poohed them,  and argued that they were propaganda emanating from right-wing Republican sources. Now, we have clear evidence that rather than being false impressions, President Barack Obama is honoring his commitment made to Khalidi and other Palestinians and American leftists.

Isn’t it time American Jews who understand why the United States is Israel’s most important ally, and want our country to honor its long-standing commitment to the only real democracy in the Middle East, take the President at his word, and not dream up positions for him that he obviously does not believe? I think Peretz is right. President Obama does not like Israel, and his sympathies are with its enemies. No wonder that on television yesterday, Zbig Brzezinski expressed his support for what Obama is now doing in the Middle East.  With the likes of Brzezinski saying the President is pursuing a policy he has long advocated, it is no wonder Israelis are worried.