There are only three possibilities that explain President Obama’s mishandling of the US relationship with Israel, his persistent disrespect for PM Netanyahu and Obama’s apparent naiveté about Mideast diplomacy.
One suggests that Obama is a closet right-winger, a strong supporter of Greater Israel and an avid Zionist who recognizes that negotiations with the Arabs can only harm Israel and so he is doing his level best to ensure that such negotiations never take place. Indeed, Obama’s statement on Thursday prompted the PA to announce (Saeb Erakat) that negotiations will Israel will only ensue if Israel agrees in advance to withdraw to the 1967 lines. That, of course, is a non-starter for Israel and means that negotiations will take not place at all. As such, Obama has cleverly maneuvered the parties into a situation where negotiations are impossible, the status quo remains, and Israel retains its possession over Judea and Samaria forever. Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Shamir could not have planned it better, and it is an ingenious way to secure the Jewish vote in 2012.
Assuming arguendo that Obama has not secretly joined Gush Emunim, a second possibility presents: that Obama is so incompetent, so inept, and so out of his league on matters of international diplomacy, that he makes grand pronouncements that not only have no chance of being executed in the real world but actually exacerbate the diplomatic climate. It is the foreign affairs equivalent of spending the United States into bankruptcy in order to save its economy. He simply does not realize that words matter, and nuances matter even more. If so, the “smack down in the Oval Office” was well-deserved, with PM Netanyahu displaying a welcome backbone, and lecturing the inexperienced President that illusions are dangerous, that statements have consequences, and that nations have interests, values and principles that transcend a pleasant photo op.
The third possibility embraced by many supporters of Israel is that Obama is incorrigibly anti-Israel, a legacy of his both his anti-colonial roots and his decades as a disciple of Reverend Wright and others. All the rhetoric cannot undo the discomfiting body language and tenseness in the presence of Israel’s Prime Minister, and the utter disregard of the nature of a friendship and alliance between nations. That Obama’s Democratic-Jewish acolytes have rushed to defend his statements as insignificant and mostly misunderstood demonstrate not only where their loyalties lie (to their party over their people) but also reinforce the incompetence on display. When both the Israelis and the Arabs understand a presidential statement as articulating a departure from past policy, a presidential denial of such evinces an admission of ineptitude on the international stage that is stunning.
One must feel for liberal Jews. Their cognitive dissonance demands that “Democrat equals good,” so Obama must be good (because he is a Democrat) even if he is bad in any number of ways. Thus, they contort themselves into pretzels to rationalize his animosity rather than confront reality.
Of course, some will say that the President was just echoing past policy, perhaps unintentionally adding a nuance or openness not stated before. That he would do this in a speech ostensibly about the Arab world, whose turmoil in wholly unrelated to the conflict in Israel, means that he was either tossing a bone to the Arab world – reassuring them that he will weaken Israel and nudge it out of existence – or again demonstrating his bungling manner in affairs of state.
Which is it ? The cacophony of attacks and defenses would tend to highlight “possibility two.”
We hope the President enjoys his trip to Europe.