Obama’s support of Israel in doubt

March 19, 2010


— Why did President Barack Obama choose to turn a gaffe into a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations?

And a gaffe it was: the announcement by a bureaucrat in the Interior Ministry of a housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem. The timing could not have been worse: Vice President Joe Biden was visiting, Jerusalem is a touchy subject, and you don’t bring up touchy subjects that might embarrass an honored guest.

But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

Nor was the offense intentional. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not know about this move — step four in a seven-step approval process for construction that, at best, will not even start for two to three years.

Nonetheless the prime minister is responsible. He apologized to Biden for the embarrassment. When Biden left Israel on March 11, the apology appeared accepted and the issue resolved.

The next day, however, the administration went nuclear. After discussing with the president specific language she would use, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Netanyahu to deliver a hostile and highly aggressive 45-minute message that the Biden incident had created an unprecedented crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations.

Clinton’s spokesman then publicly announced that Israel was now required to show in word and in deed its seriousness about peace.

Israel? Israelis have been looking for peace — literally dying for peace — since 1947, when they accepted the U.N. partition of Palestine into a Jewish and Arab state. (The Arabs refused and declared war. They lost.)

Israel made peace offers in 1967, 1978 and in the 1993 Oslo peace accords that Yasser Arafat tore up seven years later to launch a terror war that killed a thousand Israelis. Why, Clinton’s own husband testifies to the remarkably courageous and visionary peace offer made in his presence by Ehud Barak (now Netanyahu’s defense minister) at the 2000 Camp David talks. Arafat rejected it. In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered equally generous terms to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Refused again.

In these long and bloody 63 years, the Palestinians have not once accepted an Israeli offer of permanent peace, or ever countered with anything short of terms that would destroy Israel. They insist instead on a “peace process” — now in its 17th post-Oslo year and still offering no credible Palestinian pledge of ultimate coexistence with a Jewish state — the point of which is to extract pre-emptive Israeli concessions, such as a ban on Jewish construction in parts of Jerusalem conquered by Jordan in 1948, before negotiations for a real peace have even begun.

Under Obama, Netanyahu agreed to commit his center-right coalition to acceptance of a Palestinian state; took down dozens of anti-terror roadblocks and checkpoints to ease life for the Palestinians; assisted West Bank economic development to the point where its GDP is growing at an astounding 7 percent a year; and agreed to the West Bank construction moratorium, a concession that Secretary Clinton herself called “unprecedented.”

What reciprocal gesture, let alone concession, has Abbas made during the Obama presidency? Not one.

Indeed, long before the Biden incident, Abbas refused even to resume direct negotiations with Israel. That’s why the Obama administration has to resort to “proximity talks” — a procedure that sets us back 35 years to before Anwar Sadat’s groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem.

And Clinton demands that Israel show its seriousness about peace?

Now that’s an insult.

So why this astonishing one-sidedness? Because Obama likes appeasing enemies while beating up on allies — therefore Israel shouldn’t take it personally (according to Robert Kagan)? Because Obama wants to bring down the current Israeli coalition government (according to Jeffrey Goldberg)?

Or is it because Obama fancies himself the historic redeemer whose irresistible charisma will heal the breach between Christianity and Islam or, if you will, between the post-imperial West and the Muslim world — and has little patience for this pesky Jewish state that brazenly insists on its right to exist, and even more brazenly on permitting Jews to live in its own ancient, historical and now present capital?

Who knows? Perhaps we should ask those Obama acolytes who assured the 63 percent of Americans who support Israel — at least 97 percent of those supporters, mind you, are non-Jews — about candidate Obama’s abiding commitment to Israel.

— Charles Krauthammer is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. letters@charleskrauthammer.com


igby 8 years, 2 months ago

It's not how much you give up but how many time you give something up. They basically created the problem so that Clinton could have something to spawn upon so America, would look like the good guy when the deal to drop the expansion gets kicked in the peace talks.

This was planned in Biden's visit. It's tap dancing into nothingness when there's nothing to bargain for in a peace settlement but cock and balls.

This same dance was done in the 2008, election when the Republicans choose McCain against Obama and Hillary dropped off as well. Remember the trip Hillary and McCain took to Alaska, the year before to see the melting ice caps. That's when they planned the election theater.

igby 8 years, 2 months ago

To keep the dems voting Dem, Hillary, will position herself for a 2012, run to keep the seat when Obama's second term options are exhausted and spent. Just wait a watch how this all unfolds.

Remember Nixon, and Cambodia!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years, 2 months ago

Oh those evil Palestinians-- can't they just all commit mass suicide so they aren't a bother to the Israelis anymore?

Paul R Getto 8 years, 2 months ago

Israel is our little myth, and an expensive one on many fronts. The bible is not a history book, and those who have studied the records (such as they are) can paint a convincing picture of why we are foolish to support this version of terror in the Middle East against the competing model. For an somewhat dense, but interesting treatment of this topic, see The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology And The Myth Of Israel by Thomas L. Thompson. Get your own copy cheap on the internet. As for the Palestinians, imagine cramming the population of Kansas into the corner of Douglas County, locking them down in inadequate housing, denying dignity, health care, education and jobs for 2-3 generations and see what kind of attitude 3 million people in this space would develop over time. I make no excuses for their extremists either, but the situation is not going away until we have a talk with ourselves and the Jewish lobby in DC who holds congress hostage to the myth.

LoveThsLife 8 years, 2 months ago

In this article the author fails to mention some of the points in those "agreements" Israel offered up....

What our administration is doing is right on....Israel needs accountability for their actions. The Palestinians need accountability as well. This has gone on long enough....

50YearResident 8 years, 2 months ago

Whoooo! Comments are getting rough! Like this one: "The state of Israel should have never been created. Worse yet is that we so blindly support their actions supporting their "god" and the fairy tale they call a religion."

meggers 8 years, 2 months ago

Continuing to financially prop up a nation, without asking them to be accountable for their inhumane actions, is hardly the kind of "support" we should be providing anyone.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 2 months ago

" Worse yet is that we so blindly support their actions supporting their "god" and the fairy tale they call a religion." === Truth hurts, doesn't it? Imaginary friends in the sky may help one behave, but they are a poor substitute for the cold and rational thought required for international relations and big ticket finance. Everyone has their myths and as long as they keep them to themselves, or within groups of their choosing and don't try to force them into the (modern) political realm, we can all get along. We founded this country, in part, to escape all of this; so far, it appears, the US is still a work in progress.

LoveThsLife 8 years, 2 months ago

This country was founded so that we had a choice.....not necessarily to "escape" anything.

This isn't about religion either..this is a problem dealing with land rights.

I am not against the creation of Israel...I am against how they are handling themselves.

Kontum1972 8 years, 2 months ago

i dont appprove of israel running over little children with their tanks..that kind of stinks

Stuart Evans 8 years, 2 months ago

I feel for the average Palestinian who is just trying to make a living and survive. However, I also feel for the Israelis who are doing the same. The real pricks in this balloon are places like Syria and Iran who are funding the oppositions within the Palestinian territories. And why aren't any of the Arab states providing any sort of outlet for these Palestinians? Egypt has sealed their borders, essentially locking down the territories. Everyone wants to use the Palestinians for their plight, but nobody seems to be willing to actually help them.

The truth of the matter is that Muslims have a sworn duty to hate Jews. Regardless of what kind of person they are, or what they stand for. It is this intolerance towards difference that will continue to keep the Palestinians under lock down with no help from the Arab world, and no chance of peace with Israel.

Ron Holzwarth 8 years, 2 months ago

"The truth of the matter is that Muslims have a sworn duty to hate Jews." - AreUNorml Your forgot the Christians! And it is not a "sworn duty", it is a religious precept.

From the Koran: The Dinner Table [5.51] O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.

It's so strange - I just got back from a Shabbot service, and about half of it was spent praying for peace, for the whole world. As usual, that's standard practice. To bad it hasn't worked yet.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.