Until now, I’ve refrained from being sharply critical of President Obama. I’ve wanted to give him time to develop his policies, to learn from his experience that the real obstacle to peace in the Mideast is not Israel. I’ve assumed that his native intelligence would allow him — once he became involved in the process — to get past the unexamined left-wing worldview that came from his educational background and his associations, and to put aside the bad advice that he’s received. I’ve hoped that he would turn out to be a Truman or JFK, someone capable of thinking for himself as soon as he realized that the buck does in fact stop at his desk.
I’ve criticized some of his actions, true. I was upset by his early choice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Samantha Power, Rob Malley, and some others as advisers. I objected to his nomination of Chas Freeman as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. I found his Cairo speech offensive. I was unhappy with his embrace of the phony ‘pro-Israel’ group J Street. I strongly objected to his original call for a settlement freeze. I was dismayed by his treatment of PM Netanyahu when he visited the US recently.
But I kept hoping that he would someday ‘get it’. Not any more:
Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Israeli plans to build 900 new homes in Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood, constructed beyond the city’s 1967 borders, could have “dangerous” consequences, President Barack Obama said today.
Obama said “additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel’s security,” according to a transcript of an interview he gave Fox News. “I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbors, I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.”
Obama’s remark was echoed by the European Union, Ban Ki-Moon, and others.
Some background: Gilo is within the municipal boundaries of Jerusalem, on the southwest side of the city, next to the Arab town of Beit Jala and not far from Bethlehem. Some Jews lived there pre-1948. In 1967, the area was captured from the Jordanians along with the rest of East Jerusalem, and in 1980 it was formally annexed to Israel as part of Jerusalem. Today, about 40,000 Jews live in Gilo.
Gilo is highly strategic, providing a buffer between Jerusalem and Arab towns. In 2000-2002, Fatah Tanzim (Fatah — our ‘peace partner’) snipers occupied homes and churches in the Christian Arab town of Beit Jala, firing at Gilo daily. IDF response was limited in order to avoid harming the non-hostile population. Here’s a photo of a playground in Gilo — note the concrete barrier to protect the children from sniper fire:
The use of the word ‘settlement’ in connection with Gilo is a litmus test of attitude toward Israel’s rights in East Jerusalem. Although the Netanyahu government has indicated that it is prepared to consider evacuating settlements in Judea and Samaria as well as ceding some Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as part of a peace settlement, it considers neighborhoods such as Gilo an integral part of Israel, no less so than West Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. This is not a ‘right-wing’ point of view. Even Tzipi Livni, leader of the opposition in Israel, has said that “there is an Israeli consensus” on this.
Obama’s remark thus takes the Arab position that the status of East Jerusalem is no different than that of Judea and Samaria. It implies that a Jewish neighborhood of East Jerusalem could well become part of ‘Palestine’ in some imagined agreement. His use of the phrase ‘settlement building’ is a deliberate attempt to blur the distinction between building a new settlement where none existed, and building some homes in a neighborhood of Israel’s capital.
A deliberate attempt, that is, to mislead. A lie.
Right now the Palestinians are focusing on Jerusalem, attacking Israel’s claim to sovereignty. This takes the form of incitement of Arabs to violently riot over nonexistent Israeli attempts to ‘storm’ the Temple Mount, at the same time that they demand — and the Obama administration supports this unprecedented demand — that Israel may not build anything in the eastern part of its capital. The Obama administration denies Israel sovereign rights in East Jerusalem.
Obama’s statement is not only deliberately misleading, it is deliberately threatening: “It embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous” Obama says, repeating and reinforcing the threats of the Palestinians, who always promise terrorism if they do not get their way.
Although Obama said this building activity “makes it harder to make peace”, he must know that this is not so; practically speaking no peace agreement could call for the evacuation of Gilo — even French FM Kouchner admits this! Therefore it only ‘makes it harder’ because it opposes maximalist Palestinian aspirations. Is his position always going to be that surrender in the face of threats is the best policy?
It’s time now to ‘call the child by his name’ (to translate a Hebrew expression) and admit: Our President is no friend of Israel. Barack Obama is perhaps the most anti-Israel President since Bush I or Eisenhower, and he may turn out to be the worst ever in this regard.
Just like J Street, the only thing pro-Israel about him is his insistence that he is. His primary policy goal in the Mideast is to create a Palestinian state in order to ingratiate himself with the Muslim nations — something, incidentally, that he has so far entirely failed to do — and Israel’s security is very low priority.
Obama has had his chance and he’s shown us that rather than learning from his experience, he’s flying in the face of it. Hopefully, he’ll only be doing it until 2012.