| | | |
For the liberal secular Jews who voted for our Fraudinator-in-Chief it may be time to buy stock in companies that build brick ovens.
Obama's anti-Israel and pro Muslim bias are on display for all to see. From his numerous associations with overtly anti-semitic people in his past, bowing to the Saudi King,
calling for the end to Israeli settlements, giving the OK for Iran to develop a nuclear bomb, his declaration that the U.S. is a Muslim nation to his absurd speech in Cairo linking the creation of Israel to the Holocaust, Obama is a man getting back in touch with his Muslim roots.
Obama on Israel in Cairo:
The second major source of tension that we need to discuss is the situation between Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world.
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.
Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.
For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.
That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.
Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.
Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.
At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.
Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.
Finally, the Arab States must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning, but not the end of their responsibilities. The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems. Instead, it must be a cause for action to help the Palestinian people develop the institutions that will sustain their state; to recognize Israel's legitimacy; and to choose progress over a self-defeating focus on the past.
America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.
This kind of posturing and moral equivalency is what got Europe into trouble in 1938 when Neville Chamberlain went to Munich and offered an olive branch to Hitler.
By Mark Steyn
On Holocaust Memorial Day 2008, a group of just under 100 people-Londoners and a few visitors -took a guided tour of the old Jewish East End. They visited, among other sites of interest, the birthplace of my old chum Lionel Bart, the author of Oliver! Three generations of schoolchildren have grown up singing Bart's lyric:
One of the family!
Those few dozen London Jews considered themselves at 'ome. But they weren't. Not any more. The tour was abruptly terminated when the group was pelted with stones, thrown by "youths"-or to be slightly less evasive, in the current euphemism of Fleet Street, "Asian" youths. "If you go any further, you'll die," they shouted, in between the flying rubble.
A New Yorker who had just moved to Britain to start a job at the Metropolitan University had her head cut open and had to be taken to the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel, causing her to miss the Holocaust Day "interfaith memorial service" at the East London Central Synagogue. Her friend, Eric Litwack from Canada, was also struck but did not require stitches. But if you hadn't recently landed at Heathrow, it wasn't that big a deal, not these days: Nobody was killed or permanently disfigured. And given the number of Jewish community events that now require security, perhaps Her Majesty's Constabulary was right and these Londoners walking the streets of their own city would have been better advised to do so behind a police escort.
A European Holocaust Memorial Day on which Jews are stoned sounds like a parody of the old joke that the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. According to a 2005 poll by the University of Bielefeld, 62 percent of Germans "are sick of all the harping on about German crimes against the Jews"-which is a cheerfully straightforward way of putting it. Nevertheless, when it comes to "harping on," these days it's the Jews who are mostly on the receiving end. While we're reprising old gags, here's one a reader reminded me of a couple of years ago, during Israel's famously "disproportionate" incursion into Lebanon: One day the U.N. Secretary General proposes that, in the interest of global peace and harmony, the world's soccer players should come together and form one United Nations global soccer team.
"Great idea," says his deputy. "Er, but who would we play?"
"Israel, of course."
Ha-ha. It always had a grain of truth, now it's the whole loaf.
"Israel is unfashionable," a Continental foreign minister said to me a decade back. "But maybe Israel will change, and then fashions will change." Fashions do change. But however Israel changes, this fashion won't. The shift of most (non-American) Western opinion against the Jewish state that began in the 1970s was, as my Continental politician had it, simply a reflection of casting: Israel was no longer the underdog but the overdog, and why would that appeal to a post-war polytechnic Euro Left unburdened by Holocaust guilt?
Fair enough. Fashions change. But the new Judenhass is not a fashion, simply a stark reality that will metastasize in the years ahead and leave Israel isolated in the international "community" in ways that will make the first decade of this century seem like the good old days.
A few months after the curtailed Holocaust Day tour, I found myself in that particular corner of Tower Hamlets for the first time in years. Specifically, on Cable Street-the scene of a famous battle in 1936, when Sir Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists, in a crude exercise of political muscle, determined to march through the heart of Jewish East London. They were turned back by a mob of local Jews, Irish Catholic dockers, and Communist agitators, all standing under the Spanish Civil War slogan: "No Pasaran." They shall not pass.
From "No Pasaran" to "If you go any further, you'll die" is a story not primarily of anti-Semitism but of unprecedented demographic transformation. Beyond the fashionable "anti-Zionism" of the Euro Left is a starker reality: The demographic energy not just in Lionel Bart's East End but in almost every Western European country is "Asian." Which is to say, Muslim. A recent government statistical survey reported that the United Kingdom's Muslim population is increasing ten times faster than the general population. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, and many other Continental cities from Scandinavia to the Côte d'Azur will reach majority Muslim status in the next few years.
Brussels has a Socialist mayor, which isn't that surprising, but he presides over a caucus a majority of whose members are Muslim, which might yet surprise those who think we're dealing with some slow, gradual, way-off-in-the-future process here. But so goes Christendom at the dawn of the third millennium: the ruling party of the capital city of the European Union is mostly Muslim.
There are generally two responses to this trend: The first is that it's like a cast change in Cats or, perhaps more precisely, David Merrick's all-black production of Hello, Dolly! Carol Channing and her pasty prancing waiters are replaced by Pearl Bailey and her ebony chorus, but otherwise the show is unchanged. Same set, same words, same arrangements: France will still be France, Germany Germany, Belgium Belgium.
The second response is that the Islamicization of Europe entails certain consequences, and it might be worth exploring what these might be. There are already many points of cultural friction-from British banks' abolition of children's "piggy banks" to the enjoining of public doughnut consumption by Brussels police during Ramadan. And yet on one issue there is remarkable comity between the aging ethnic Europeans and their young surging Muslim populations: A famous poll a couple of years back found that 59 percent of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.
Fifty-nine percent? What the hell's wrong with the rest of you? Hey, relax: In Germany, it was 65 percent; Austria, 69 percent; the Netherlands, 74 percent. For purposes of comparison, in a recent poll of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates-i.e., the "moderate" Arab world-79 percent of respondents regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. As far as I know, in the last year or two, they haven't re-tested that question in Europe, possibly in case Israel now scores as a higher threat level in the Netherlands than in Yemen.
To be sure, there are occasional arcane points of dispute: one recalls, in the wake of the July 7 bombings, the then London Mayor Ken Livingstone's somewhat tortured attempts to explain why blowing up buses in Tel Aviv is entirely legitimate whereas blowing up buses in Bloomsbury is not. Yet these are minimal bumps on a smooth glide path: The more Europe's Muslim population grows, the more restive and disassimilated it becomes, the more enthusiastically the establishment embraces "anti-Zionism," as if the sinister Jewess is the last virgin left to toss in the volcano-which, given the 13-year old "chavs" and "slappers" face down in pools of their own vomit in most British shopping centers of a Friday afternoon, may indeed be the case. For today's Jews, unlike on Cable Street in 1936, there are no Catholic dockworkers or Communist agitators to stand shoulder to shoulder. In post-Christian Europe, there aren't a lot of the former (practicing Catholics or practicing dockers), and as for the intellectual Left, it's more enthusiastic in its support of Hamas than many Gazans.
To which there are many Israelis who would brusquely reply: So what? Pity the poor Jew who has ever relied on European "friends." Yet there is a difference of scale between the well-established faculty-lounge disdain for "Israeli apartheid" and a mass psychosis so universal it's part of the air you breathe. For a glimpse of the future, consider the (for the moment) bizarre circumstances of the recent Davis Cup First Round matches in Sweden. They had been scheduled long ago to be played in the Baltiska Hallen stadium in Malmo. Who knew which team the Swedes would draw? Could have been Chile, could have been Serbia. Alas, it was Israel.
Malmo is Sweden's most Muslim city, and citing security concerns, the local council ordered the three days of tennis to be played behind closed doors. Imagine being Amir Hadad and Andy Ram, the Israeli doubles players, or Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt, the Swedes. This was supposed to be their big day. But the vast stadium is empty, except for a few sports reporters and team officials. And just outside the perimeter up to 10,000 demonstrators are chanting, "Stop the match!" and maybe, a little deeper into the throng, they're shouting, "We want to kill all Jews worldwide" (as demonstrators in Copenhagen, just across the water, declared just a few weeks earlier). Did Aspelin and Lindstedt wonder why they couldn't have drawn some less controversial team, like Zimbabwe or Sudan? By all accounts, it was a fine match, thrilling and graceful, with good sportsmanship on both sides. Surely, such splendid tennis could have won over the mob, and newspapers would have reported that by the end of the match the Israeli players had the crowd with them all the way. But they shook 'em off at Helsingborg.
Do you remember the "road map" summit held in Jordan just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq? It seemed a big deal at the time: The leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. president, all the A-list dictators of the Arab League. Inside the swank resort, it was all very collegial, smiles and handshakes. Outside, flags fluttered-Jordan's, America's, Saudi Arabia's, Egypt's, Palestine's. But not Israel's. King Abdullah of Jordan had concluded it would be too provocative to advertise the Zionist Entity's presence on Jordanian soil even at a summit supposedly boasting they were all on the same page. Malmo's tennis match observed the same conventions: I'm sure the Swedish tennis wallahs were very gracious hosts behind the walls of the stockade, and the unmarked car to the airport was top of the line. How smoothly the furtive maneuvers of the Middle East transfer to the wider world.
When Western governments are as reluctant as King Abdullah to fly the Star of David, those among the citizenry who choose to do so have a hard time. In Britain in January, while "pro-Palestinian" demonstrators were permitted to dress up as hook-nosed Jews drinking the blood of Arab babies, the police ordered counter-protesters to put away their Israeli flags. In Alberta, in the heart of Calgary's Jewish neighborhood, the flag of Hizballah (supposedly a proscribed terrorist organization) was proudly waved by demonstrators, but one solitary Israeli flag was deemed a threat to the Queen's peace and officers told the brave fellow holding it to put it away or be arrested for "inciting public disorder." In Germany, a student in Duisburg put the Star of David in the window of an upstairs apartment on the day of a march by the Islamist group Milli Görüs, only to have the cops smash his door down and remove the flag. He's now trying to get the police to pay for a new door. Ah, those Jews. It's always about money, isn't it?
Peter, the student in Duisberg, says he likes to display the Israeli flag because anti-Semitism in Europe is worse than at any other time since the Second World War. Which is true. But, if you look at it from the authorities' point of view, it's not about Jew-hatred; it's a simple numbers game. If a statistically insignificant Jewish population gets upset, big deal. If the far larger Muslim population-and, in some French cities, the youth population (i.e., the demographic that riots) is already pushing 50 percent-you have a serious public-order threat on your hands. We're beyond the anti-Semitic and into the ad hoc utilitarian: The King Abdullah approach will seem like the sensible way to avoid trouble. To modify the UN joke: Whom won't we play? Israel, of course. Not in public.
One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, a group wearing "BOYCOTT ISRAEL" T-shirts entered a French branch of Carrefour, the world's largest supermarket chain, and announced themselves. They then systematically advanced down every aisle examining every product, seizing all the items made in Israel and piling them into carts to take away and destroy. Judging from the video they made, the protesters were mostly Muslim immigrants and a few French leftists. But more relevant was the passivity of everyone else in the store, both staff and shoppers, all of whom stood idly by as private property was ransacked and smashed, and many of whom when invited to comment expressed support for the destruction. "South Africa started to shake once all countries started to boycott their products," one elderly lady customer said. "So what you're doing, I find it good."
Others may find Germany in the '30s the more instructive comparison. "It isn't silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities," the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. "Don't count heads; count decibels. All entities-the United States, the Western world, the Arab street-have prevailing moods, and it's prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time." Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city's poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels-in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.
And the prevailing mood in much of the world makes Israel an easy sacrifice. Long before Muslims are a statistical majority, there will be three permanent members of the Security Council-Britain, France, Russia-for whom the accommodation of Islam is a domestic political imperative.
On the heels of his call for the incorporation of Sharia within British law, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an interview to the Muslim News praising Islam for making "a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life." Well, that's one way of putting it. The urge to look on the bright side of its own remorseless cultural retreat will intensify: Once Europeans have accepted a not entirely voluntary biculturalism, they will see no reason why Israel should not do the same, and they will embrace a one-state, one-man, one-vote solution for the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.
The Muslim world has spent decades peddling the notion that the reason a vast oil-rich region stretching thousands of miles is politically deformed and mired in grim psychoses is all because of a tiny strip of turf barely wider than my New Hampshire township. It will make an ever more convenient scapegoat for the problems of a far vaster territory from the mountains of Morne to the Urals. There was a fair bit of this in the days after 9/11. As Richard Ingrams wrote on the following weekend in the London Observer: "Who will dare to damn Israel?"
Well, take a number and get in line. The dust had barely settled on the London Tube bombings before a reader named Derrick Green sent me a congratulatory e-mail: "I bet you Jewish supremacists think it is Christmas come early, don't you? Incredibly, you are now going to get your own way even more than you did before, and the British people are going to be dragged into more wars for Israel."
So it will go. British, European, and even American troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bomb will go off in Madrid or Hamburg or Manchester, and there will be nothing left to blame except Israeli "disproportion." For the remnants of European Jewry, the already discernible migration of French Jews to Quebec, Florida, and elsewhere will accelerate. There are about 150,000 Jews in London today-it's the thirteenth biggest Jewish city in the world. But there are approximately one million Muslims. The highest number of Jews is found in the 50-54 age group; the highest number of Muslims are found in the four-years-and-under category. By 2025, there will be Jews in Israel, and Jews in America, but not in many other places. Even as the legitimacy of a Jewish state is rejected, the Jewish diaspora-the Jewish presence in the wider world-will shrivel.
And then, to modify Richard Ingrams, who will dare not to damn Israel? There'll still be a Holocaust Memorial Day, mainly for the pleasures it affords to chastise the new Nazis. As Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, wrote in 2005: "When on 27 January I take my mother's arm-tattoo number A-25466-I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah." Jenin?
You can see why they'll keep Holocaust Day on the calendar: In an age when politicians are indifferent or downright hostile to Israel's "right to exist," it's useful to be able to say, "But some of my best photo-ops are Jewish."
The joke about Mandatory Palestine was that it was the twice-promised land. But isn't that Europe, too? And perhaps Russia and maybe Canada, a little ways down the line? Two cultures jostling within the same piece of real estate. Not long ago, I found myself watching the video of another "pro-Palestinian" protest in central London with the Metropolitan Police retreating up St. James's Street to Piccadilly in the face of a mob hurling traffic cones and jeering, "Run, run, you cowards!" and "Allahu akbar!" You would think the deluded multi-culti progressives would understand: In the end, this isn't about Gaza, this isn't about the Middle East; it's about them. It may be some consolation to an ever-lonelier Israel that, in one of history's bleaker jests, in the coming Europe the Europeans will be the new Jews.
By Charles Krauthammer
June 5, 2009
President Obama repeatedly insists that American foreign policy be conducted with modesty and humility. Above all, there will be no more "dictating" to other countries. We should "forge partnerships as opposed to simply dictating solutions," he told the G-20 summit. In Middle East negotiations, he told al-Arabiya, America will henceforth "start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating."
An admirable sentiment. It applies to everyone -- Iran, Russia, Cuba, Syria, even Venezuela. Except Israel. Israel is ordered to freeze all settlement activity. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton imperiously explained the diktat: "a stop to settlements -- not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions."
What's the issue? No "natural growth" means strangling to death the thriving towns close to the 1949 armistice line, many of them suburbs of Jerusalem, that every negotiation over the past decade has envisioned Israel retaining. It means no increase in population. Which means no babies. Or if you have babies, no housing for them -- not even within the existing town boundaries. Which means for every child born, someone has to move out. No community can survive like that. The obvious objective is to undermine and destroy these towns -- even before negotiations.
To what end? Over the past decade, the U.S. government has understood that any final peace treaty would involve Israel retaining some of the close-in settlements -- and compensating the Palestinians accordingly with land from within Israel itself.
That was envisioned in the Clinton plan in the Camp David negotiations in 2000, and again at Taba in 2001. After all, why expel people from their homes and turn their towns to rubble when, instead, Arabs and Jews can stay in their homes if the 1949 armistice line is shifted slightly into the Palestinian side to capture the major close-in Jewish settlements, and then shifted into Israeli territory to capture Israeli land to give to the Palestinians?
This idea is not only logical, not only accepted by both Democratic and Republican administrations for the past decade, but was agreed to in writing in the letters of understanding exchanged between Israel and the United States in 2004 -- and subsequently overwhelmingly endorsed by a concurrent resolution of Congress.
Yet the Obama State Department has repeatedly refused to endorse these agreements or even say it will honor them. This from a president who piously insists that all parties to the conflict honor previous obligations. And who now expects Israel to accept new American assurances in return for concrete and irreversible Israeli concessions, when he himself has just cynically discarded past American assurances.
The entire "natural growth" issue is a concoction. Is the peace process moribund because a teacher in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem is making an addition to her house to accommodate new grandchildren? It is perverse to make this the center point of the peace process at a time when Gaza is run by Hamas terrorists dedicated to permanent war with Israel and when Mahmoud Abbas, having turned down every one of Ehud Olmert's peace offers, brazenly declares that he is in a waiting mode -- waiting for Hamas to become moderate and for Israel to cave -- before he'll do anything to advance peace.
In his much-heralded "Muslim world" address in Cairo yesterday, Obama declared that the Palestinian people's "situation" is "intolerable." Indeed it is, the result of 60 years of Palestinian leadership that gave its people corruption, tyranny, religious intolerance and forced militarization; leadership that for three generations rejected every offer of independence and dignity, choosing destitution and despair rather than accept any settlement not accompanied by the extinction of Israel.
That's why Haj Amin al-Husseini chose war rather than a two-state solution in 1947. Why Yasser Arafat turned down a Palestinian state in 2000. And why Abbas rejected Olmert's even more generous December 2008 offer.
In the 16 years since the Oslo accords turned the West Bank and Gaza over to the Palestinians, their leaders built no roads, no courthouses, no hospitals, none of the fundamental state institutions that would relieve their people's suffering. Instead they poured everything into an infrastructure of war and terror, all the while depositing billions (from gullible Western donors) into their Swiss bank accounts.
Obama says he came to Cairo to tell the truth. But he uttered not a word of that. Instead, among all the bromides and lofty sentiments, he issued but one concrete declaration of new American policy: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," thus reinforcing the myth that Palestinian misery and statelessness are the fault of Israel and the settlements.
Blaming Israel and picking a fight over "natural growth" may curry favor with the Muslim "street." But it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas: sit and wait for America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy not just dishonorable but self-defeating.
By George Friedman
June 8, 2009
Amid the rhetoric of U.S. President Barack Obama's speech June 4 in Cairo, there was one substantial indication of change, not in the U.S. relationship to the Islamic world but in the U.S. relationship to Israel. This shift actually emerged prior to the speech, and the speech merely touched on it. But it is not a minor change and it must not be underestimated. It has every opportunity of growing into a major breach between Israel and the United States.
The immediate issue concerns Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The United States has long expressed opposition to increasing settlements but has not moved much beyond rhetoric. Certainly the continued expansion and development of new settlements on the West Bank did not cause prior administrations to shift their policies toward Israel. And while the Israelis have occasionally modified their policies, they have continued to build settlements. The basic understanding between the two sides has been that the United States would oppose settlements formally but that this would not evolve into a fundamental disagreement.
The United States has clearly decided to change the game. Obama has said that, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop." Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to stop building new settlements, but not to halt what he called the "natural growth" of existing settlements.
Obama has positioned the settlement issue in such a way that it would be difficult for him to back down. He has repeated it several times, including in his speech to the Islamic world. It is an issue on which he is simply following the formal positions of prior administrations. It is an issue on which prior Israeli governments made commitments. What Obama has done is restated formal U.S. policy, on which there are prior Israeli agreements, and demanded Israeli compliance. Given his initiative in the Islamic world, Obama, having elevated the issue to this level, is going to have problems backing off.
Obama is also aware that Netanyahu is not in a political position to comply with the demand, even if he were inclined to. Netanyahu is leading a patchwork coalition in which support from the right is critical. For the Israeli right, settling in what it calls Samaria and Judea is a fundamental principle on which it cannot bend. Unlike Ariel Sharon, a man of the right who was politically powerful, Netanyahu is a man of the right who is politically weak. Netanyahu gave all he could give on this issue when he said there would be no new settlements created. Netanyahu doesn't have the political ability to give Obama what he is demanding. Netanyahu is locked into place, unless he wants to try to restructure his Cabinet or persuade people like Avigdor Lieberman, his right-wing foreign minister, to change their fundamental view of the world.
Therefore, Obama has decided to create a crisis with Israel. He has chosen a subject on which Republican and Democratic administrations have had the same formal position. He has also picked a subject that does not affect Israeli national security in any immediate sense (he has not made demands for changes of policy toward Gaza, for example). Obama struck at an issue where he had precedent on his side, and where Israel's immediate safety is not at stake. He also picked an issue on which he would have substantial support in the United States, and he has done this to have a symbolic showdown with Israel. The more Netanyahu resists, the more Obama gets what he wants.
Obama's read of the Arab-Israeli situation is that it is not insoluble. He believes in the two-state solution, for better or worse. In order to institute the two-state solution, Obama must establish the principle that the West Bank is Palestinian territory by right and not Israeli territory on which the Israelis might make concessions. The settlements issue is fundamental to establishing this principle. Israel has previously agreed both to the two-state solution and to not expanding settlements. If Obama can force Netanyahu to concede on the settlements issue, then he will break the back of the Israeli right and open the door to a rightist-negotiated settlement of the two-state solution.
In the course of all of this, Obama is opening doors in the Islamic world a little wider by demonstrating that the United States is prepared to force Israel to make concessions. By subtext, he wants to drive home the idea that Israel does not control U.S. policy but that, in fact, Israel and the United States are two separate countries with different and sometimes conflicting views. Obama wouldn't mind an open battle on the settlements one bit.
For Netanyahu, this is the worst terrain on which to fight. If he could have gotten Obama to attack by demanding that Israel not respond to missiles launched from Gaza or Lebanon, Netanyahu would have had the upper hand in the United States. Israel has support in the United States and in Congress, and any action that would appear to leave Israel's security at risk would trigger an instant strengthening of that support.
But there is not much support in the United States for settlements on the West Bank. This is not a subject around which Israel's supporters are going to rally very intensely, in large part because there is substantial support for a two-state solution and very little understanding or sympathy for the historic claim of Jews to Judea and Samaria. Obama has picked a topic on which he has political room for maneuver and on which Netanyahu is politically locked in.
Given that, the question is where Obama is going with this. From Obama's point of view, he wins no matter what Netanyahu decides to do. If Netanyahu gives in, then he has established the principle that the United States can demand concessions from a Likud-controlled government in Israel and get them. There will be more demands. If Netanyahu doesn't give in, Obama can create a split with Israel over the one issue he can get public support for in the United States (a halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank), and use that split as a lever with Islamic states.
Thus, the question is what Netanyahu is going to do. His best move is to say that this is just a disagreement between friends and assume that the rest of the U.S.-Israeli relationship is intact, from aid to technology transfer to intelligence sharing. That's where Obama is going to have to make his decision. He has elevated the issue to the forefront of U.S.-Israeli relations. The Israelis have refused to comply. If Obama proceeds with the relationship as if nothing has happened, then he is back where he began.
Obama did not start this confrontation to wind up there. He calculated carefully when he raised this issue and knew perfectly well that Netanyahu couldn't make concessions on it, so he had to have known that he was going to come to this point. Obviously, he could have made this confrontation as a part of his initiative to the Islamic world. But it is unlikely that he saw that initiative as ending with the speech, and he understands that, for the Islamic world, his relation to Israel is important. Even Islamic countries not warmly inclined toward Palestinians, like Jordan or Egypt, don't want the United States to back off on this issue.
Netanyahu has argued in the past that Israel's relationship to the United States was not as important to Israel as it once was. U.S. aid as a percentage of Israel's gross domestic product has plunged. Israel is not facing powerful states, and it is not facing a situation like 1973, when Israeli survival depended on aid being rushed in from the United States. The technology transfer now runs both ways, and the United States relies on Israeli intelligence quite a bit. In other words, over the past generation, Israel has moved from a dependent relationship with the United States to one of mutual dependence.
This is very much Netanyahu's point of view, and from this point of view follows the idea that he might simply say no to the United States on the settlements issue and live easily with the consequences. The weakness in this argument is that, while Israel does not now face strategic issues it can't handle, it could in the future. Indeed, while Netanyahu is urging action on Iran, he knows that action is impossible without U.S. involvement.
This leads to a political problem. As much as the right would like to blow off the United States, the center and the left would be appalled. For Israel, the United States has been the centerpiece of the national psyche since 1967. A breach with the United States would create a massive crisis on the left and could well bring the government down if Ehud Barak and his Labor Party, for example, bolted from the ruling coalition. Netanyahu's problem is the problem Israel has continually had. It is a politically fragmented country, and there is never an Israeli government that does not consist of fragments. A government that contains Lieberman and Barak is not one likely to be able to make bold moves.
It is therefore difficult to see how Netanyahu can both deal with Obama and hold his government together. It is even harder to see how Obama can reduce the pressure. Indeed, we would expect to see him increase the pressure by suspending minor exchanges and programs. Obama is playing to the Israeli center and left, who would oppose any breach with the United States.
Obama has the strong hand and the options. Netanyahu has the weak hand and fewer options. It is hard to see how he will solve the problem. And that's what Obama wants. He wants Netanyahu struggling with the problem. In the end, he wants Netanyahu to fold on the settlements issue and keep on folding until he presides over a political settlement with the Palestinians. Obama wants Netanyahu and the right to be responsible for the agreement, as Menachem Begin was responsible for the treaty with Egypt and withdrawal from the Sinai.
We find it difficult to imagine how a two-state solution would work, but that concept is at the heart of U.S. policy and Obama wants the victory. He has put into motion processes to create that solution, first of all, by backing Netanyahu into a corner. Left out of Obama's equation is the Palestinian interest, willingness and ability to reach a treaty with Israel, but from Obama's point of view, if the Palestinians reject or undermine an agreement, he will still have leverage in the Islamic world. Right now, given Iraq and Afghanistan, that is where he wants leverage, and backing Netanyahu into a corner is more important than where it all leads in the end.
Abraham H. Miller
July 11, 2009
The difference between radical Muslims and liberal American Jews is that the former seek to become martyrs, while the latter aspire to become victims. In an ironic twist of fate, radical Muslims and liberal American Jews were made for each other.
This ideological symbiosis is sufficient to give pause to the presence of intelligent design. But like all things that seem to emanate from a higher power, there is a paradoxical twist. It is not themselves that liberal American Jews want to sacrifice on the altar of victimhood; it is their Israeli brethren.
Barack Hussein Obama received nearly eighty percent of the Jewish vote and still garners strong approval among America's Jews. In contrast, only six percent of Jewish Israelis support Obama.
Even before the election, Israeli Jews, unlike their sycophantic American brethren, saw through Obama. Israelis were the least supportive population anywhere in the Western world of the inexperienced politician turned presidential candidate.
To support Obama, liberal Jews had to engage in a set of incredible mental gymnastics. They had to ignore his twenty-year relationship with the anti-Semitic minister Reverend Jeremiah Wright. They had to ignore his strong personal relationship with the virulent anti-Zionist Rashid Khalidi. They had to ignore his statement to the Iowa caucuses that no one has suffered more than the Palestinian people. They had to ignore his support of his Kenyan cousin and genocidal strongman Raila Odinga, an advocate of Sharia. They had to ignore Obama's own Muslim heritage. They had to ignore that anti-Israel policy experts such as Samantha Power (who now has her own special seat on the National Security Council), Susan Rice, and General James Jones had the real inside tract on advising Obama on the Middle East.
Since the election, Obama's policies toward Israel have been treacherous, and the reaction of the liberal Jewish community can only be described as inconceivable. When Obama demanded a freeze on the settlements, including organic growth and building in East Jerusalem, the reformed rabbis could barely wait to support him. Even the Jewish Daily Forward editorialized on behalf of freezing settlements, as if the settlements were the obstacle to peace and prior exchanges of land for peace had actually resulted in the reign of peace rather than the rain of rockets.
Obama's unwillingness to do what first world nation states traditionally do - honor the commitments and obligations of a prior administration - should have generated outrage from the Jewish community. After all, Obama summarily and capriciously dismissed the commitments the Bush administration made with regard to the settlements - commitments that were made, according to Elliot Abrams, to secure Israel's painful withdrawal from Gaza and Northern Samaria.
If for no other reason than the inconceivable precedent that will impair all of our future international relations, liberal Jews, ever concerned about the fine points of law, should have been up in arms.
But their support for Obama was unflinching, their outrage, absent.
Obama's Cairo speech linked Israel with the Holocaust, ignoring both 3,500 years of Jewish history and European history of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The speech then went on an embarrassing rant of moral equivalence by comparing the self-imposed suffering of the Palestinians to the Holocaust.
Even so, liberal Jews did not wince.
The Obama administration's embrace of the myth of the Israeli Defense Forces being responsible for civilian casualties in Gaza - a justification for the administration's refusal to sell advanced helicopters to democratic Israel though they have been totally willing to sell them to the military dictatorship of Egypt - did not produce outrage. The administration's refusal to sell advanced fighter aircraft to Israel has caused no concern among liberal Jews.
The establishment of George Mitchell in an unprecedented resident envoy post in Israel, staffed by a band of anti-Zionists, has produced not even so much as a whimper. After all, one thousand useful-idiot rabbis signed a petition authored by the infamous Brit Tzedek calling for such an envoy, although it is doubtful that even the idiot rabbis expected George Mitchell and his anti-Zionist henchmen would be staffing the operation.
Still, the Brit Tzedek signatories have not asked for their names to be withdrawn from the petition nor have they articulated any public regret.
The foreign policy theme of the Obama administration has been that George W. Bush and his neocon advisers have caused the world's international political crises. Bush, who possesses a strong personal vision of foreign policy and an IQ higher than the ever vaunted John Kerry, is caricatured as a simpleton manipulated by a Jewish cabal. Let us hasten to remember that George W. Bush would not have waited to condemn the Iranian regime as it shot demonstrators in the street nor would he have stood on the side of Hugo Chavez in the Honduran coup. George W. Bush has a vision of America. Barack Obama only possesses a vision of himself. No one manipulated George Bush, and it is an anti-Semitic ploy to characterize Bush as a simpleton manipulated by Jews.
But liberal Jewish hatred of George W. Bush is so pronounced that, even at the expense of the libel of Jewish exploitation of Bush's alleged incompetence, such images are totally compatible with liberal Jewish thinking. They are also its mainstay.
Obama's anti-Israel stand will not find opposition in the Jewish community; it will find endorsement. Liberal American Jews embrace victimhood. The idea of a tough Israel willing to defend itself is counter to the psychological needs of the liberal American Jewish community, needs that might best be described as battered-wife syndrome. If Palestinians in Gaza launch missiles at Sderot, it is because Israel has done something wrong. "Oh, Palestinians only launch missiles and suicide bombers because they have no other way to protest. If only Israel gave them more land. If only Israel took up the road blocks. If only Israel apologized to them for causing them to blow up pizza parlors, discos, and shopping malls. If only Israel understood their culture."
Most Jews can no more abandon their liberalism than can non-Jews. Take the liberals I have encountered in Berkeley who looked at the tragedy of 9/11 and said, "It's our foreign policy." They said it with all the delusional smugness that they were saying something profound and not something illustrative of a psychological deficiency or mental disease. They too needed to justify victimhood, and again with someone else actually being the victim.
Obama represents the wedge between Israelis and liberal American Jews. For the latter, Obama still garners high numbers in the polls; among the former, it is hard to find an Israeli Jew who does not understand the threat Obama presents to his very survival.
Liberal Jews are generally a secular people, but they are not a godless people, and in Barack Obama, they have certainly found their messiah.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.