Obama officially divorces Israel

The administration-friendly New York Times today published a story entitled “Obama Speech Signals a U.S. Shift on Middle Eastdictated by attributed to “unnamed White House officials” which I think we can take as an ‘official’ statement of the administration’s policy. It’s worth dissecting the key portions.

When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.

Mentioning the need to “balance support for Israel against other American interests” tells us two things:

  1. our interests not only diverge from those of Israel, but in some sense are at odds with them; and,
  2. we intend to change the degree to which we support Israel.

By “other American interests,” what is meant is the desire to improve relations with the Arab nations and perhaps Iran; the administration appears to believe that this can be accomplished by reducing our support for Israel.

Saying that the “vital national security interest of the United States” is involved also tells us two things:

  1. that the administration is (at least publicly) maintaining that there is a ‘linkage‘ between the Palestinian issue and other conflicts in the region, in effect a causal connection; and,
  2. that the US will go to almost any length to achieve its aims (‘vital’ means vital).

The Times’ article continues,

This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.

If the problem is that they “cannot come to terms”, then it won’t help to ‘propose’ parameters. Neither side will accept them unless they are forced to. This is a threat to do that.

Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Here is the linkage again. And if the reason the conflict is not solved is that Israel is not giving up enough — and we’ve seen that despite all the evidence, the administration insists that this is the case — then Israel is responsible when our soldiers are killed and wounded. The next step is to hint that anyone who disagrees cares more about Israel than the US — oh wait, they’ve already done that.

Our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan — which are going to get much worse, soon — are therefore Israel’s fault rather than a product of the  political incompetence of the last two administrations. How convenient.

One of Mr. Obama’s first acts of foreign policy, even before he became President, was to let Israel know that the IDF had better be out of Gaza before his inauguration. And it was.

Then he made a massive effort to turn toward the Muslim world, in particular in his Cairo speech when he compared the Palestinian longing for a homeland with the Holocaust.

In his first six months, President Obama traveled to more foreign countries than any previous president, including Saudi Arabia (where he famously bowed deeply to King Abdullah), Egypt, Turkey and Iraq. Recently he has been in Qatar and Afghanistan. Since he became president, he has been on every continent except South America and Antarctica. Despite the alleged close relationship between Israel and the US and the importance attached to the Israeli-Arab conflict, he has not visited there as president.

He did, however, send Vice President Biden, whose visit provided an opportunity to  engineer a break with Israel over a trivial issue, and use it as an excuse to press demands for further concessions to the Palestinians.

When PM Netanyahu visited the US a week later, he was deliberately and publicly humiliated.

Until now, the administration has said that there was no change in policy toward Israel, that there was simply a ‘disagreement among friends’, etc. Of course the President’s behavior sent an entirely different message.

This morning, the administration made it official.

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5 Responses to “Obama officially divorces Israel”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    The outline you give of Obama’s very not- friendly attitude and action in regard to Israel is accurate and fair. But I am not sure they themselves know what to do, and how to do it. To bludgeon Israel into surrender of further territory is not I think an option they really have. Israel after all has popular and Congressional support. Obama may as he reportedly said to Sarkozy be willing to take some kind of hit at the polling booth for his actions on Israel, but it is doubtful he would risk losing the major share of his Jewish support. I think they are at a loss, just as they are at a loss in regard to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and most significantly Iran. Making Israel the scapegoat for all U.S. foreign policy problems may be what the ‘realists’ want, but it seems a very risky tack for Obama to take.
    Perhaps we can get Obama to read this blog plus Barry Rubin and become a bit enlightened.

  2. Grandma says:

    Freedman, most Americans are pro-Israel but, the president has not seen fit to “represent” our feelings. If, as you say, they simply do not know what to do, they could take a lesson from the past administration. No matter the mistakes Bush may have made in regards to Israel, there was never any doubt that our friendship was in tact. Bush would NEVER have treated Netanyahu the way Obama has treated him. I am not so confident in Obama’s “Jewish supporters”. I think the only “Jewish support” he has are those of the radical, anti-Zionist types. Some people say that Obama is just smarter than the average Joe and is playing a new game with Israel and the Arab states (making nicey, nice with the enemy and using, as you say, Israel as the “scapegoat”.) Well, in my opinion, you can pull the wool over some of the people’s eyes some of the time, but not all of the people, all the time.
    When we have our elections in November, you will see the result of the anger of the American people. Part of the reason, you will see a large number of Republicans and/or Independents elected to office, is because of the anti-Israel stance taken by the present POTUS. It is only one of many reasons this will happen and we can only hope we will not be too late.

  3. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Obama’s people believe that the J Street types outnumber the pro-Israel Jews, and that the strongly pro-Israel Jews are leaning Republican, so he is not losing much by opposing Israel.

    Ami Isseroff has a great article here about the US-Israel relationship. He points out that both sides like to overstate the power of the Jewish lobby.

    I believe the administration does not really believe the linkage theory, except insofar as hurting Israel gets them pats on the back from the Arabs.

    Of course, the Arabs will not give them anything in return, as Barry Rubin keeps saying, but they don’t seem to get that.

    The real problem is that Obama is surrounded by Israel haters: Malley, Brzezinski, Power, Scowcroft, Jones, Kurtzer… not to mention friends like Khalidi.

  4. Robman says:


    Why do you think he surrounds himself with such types? Hardly coincidence.

    Anyway, no surprise here. He just came to this point a little faster than I thought he would (I thought it might take him another year or so. Maybe that was the original plan, but now he has to know he is a one-termer). This was intended all along. Remember, Hitler didn’t carry out the Holocaust all at once, either; he did it in stages.

    I’m with you, Grandma. Obama cares little about what the “unwashed masses” of this country think. He never did. His contempt for this country is only matched by his self-delusion and his incomprehension.

    I am still amazed that this was not more readily apparent to more voters before the fact.

    This is all going to blow up in his face. We are entering a very, very dangerous period.

  5. levari says:

    i am overcome by shame that i convinced my father and others to vote for him. i really, honestly did not believe he cared one way or another for israel, and that his actions would reflect this.