When Binyamin Netanyahu visited the White House last Tuesday, he was not treated like the Prime Minister of just any banana republic. He was treated like Manuel Noriega. No interviews, no photo-ops, no dinner, and a whole pile of demands. He and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were lucky not to have been locked in a room and forced to listen to heavy metal at top volume.
As a citizen of Israel and of the US, I was insulted and embarrassed in turn. As a Jew and a Zionist who believes that the survival of the Jewish people depends on the state of Israel I was horrified. Even Barry Rubin, who has been saying for the last couple of weeks that the crisis in US-Israeli relations has been blown out of proportion, admitted today that
…now it has become reasonable to ask whether the Obama White House is running amuck on Israel, whether it is pushing friction so far out of proportion that it is starting to seem a vendetta based on hostility and ideology.
Ehud Ya’ari, one of Israel’s most respected commentators, said,
… I think that the sense among the Israeli delegation coming back from D.C. right now is that they fell into a trap. The general sense in Israel right now is that the Prime Minister was [unintelligible] humiliated by President Obama. There is quite a degree of amazement at the way he was treated. I think it’s fair to say that neither the Prime Minister nor his Defense Minister Ehud Barak were aware [beforehand] of the kind of reception that they were greeted with at the White House …
I think it is the worst moment in U.S.-Israeli relations … going back to Eisenhower-Ben Gurion in ’56.
I won’t go into why the probable demands — see Rubin’s article linked above — made by Obama are so unfair: a complete and permanent end to construction in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria, and more prisoner releases and other concessions to a Palestinian Authority (PA) which has never responded to such gifts and which seizes on every US demand as another excuse to harden its position and refuse to engage in negotiations. But I do want to talk about the US strategy.
The Obama Administration’s argument that they are trying to get talks restarted won’t wash, for at least two reasons. First is the fact that pressure is only being applied to Israel, not the PA. The result is that the Palestinians are motivated to not negotiate, since that’s the best way to get concessions forced out of Israel while giving nothing in return. Second is that Netanyahu can’t give in on some of these issues (e.g., Jerusalem) even if he wanted to, because his government would not survive (and if it doesn’t, it will be replaced by one farther to the right).
I cannot imagine that Obama’s people don’t understand this. Therefore they must be trying to do something different. A clue to what it is can be gotten from the way the various demands were presented, in an atmosphere of humiliation and contempt.
Obama is not sending a message to Israel, and apparently he doesn’t care what message he’s sending to the Palestinians. No, just as his infamous Cairo speech was broadcast to Muslim ears, his humiliation of Israel — his offensive treatment of two veterans of the sayeret matkal no less — was intended as music to those same ears.
I see this as another ‘gesture’ to the Arabs and Iranians. By spitting on Israel, our President shows them that after all, he’s on their side, and would they please help him out a little with Iraq and al-Qaeda.
It’s unlikely that this policy will work. Similar initiatives — like recent overtures to Syria, or to Saudi Arabia after Cairo — have failed, as Arab states simply continue to follow their interests while they pocket the gift presented to them. Iran, of course, continues to develop its nuclear bomb as its president threatens Israel anew every day.
Additionally, I am convinced that some, maybe more than a few, in the administration have an antipathy to Israel and get a certain amount of satisfaction from meting out this treatment apart from any rational policy gains.
Obama’s message is not lost on Hamas, Fatah’s al-Aqsa brigades, and other terrorist factions, which have stepped up their attacks. It is not lost on the Palestinians and left-wing Israeli and international ‘activists’ who carry on demonstrations in Jerusalem and at the security fence. It is not lost on the Islamic Movement and other extremists among Arab citizens of Israel who want to ‘de-Judaize’ the state.
Indeed, Obama’s message may have already killed several IDF soldiers who were ambushed by Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad in Gaza Friday night.