Barack and Bibi
Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Thursday. March 21.
1) Barack and Bibi
The Algemeiner has transcripts of President Obama's and PM Netanayahu's remarks at their joint press conference yesterday.
Writing in Tablet, Lee Smith covers the three issues that President
Obama and PM Netanyau would be discussing: the Palestinians, Syria and
Iran. (via memeorandum) However, Smith concludes:
As he has for the last four years, the American commander in
chief will surely promise the Israeli prime minister that when it comes
to Iran, “Trust me, I’ve got your back.” But everything Bibi has heard
over the last five hours will likely tell him that, as time is running
out to stop Iran, the United States is nowhere to be found, at least not
in the Middle East.
Based on the President's speech, Ken Gardner tweeted:
Krauthammer: Obama has essentially signaled that Israel
has a green light to deal with Iran as it wishes. And that's actually
good. I agree.
Barry Rubin understood that too, but wonders:
— Ken Gardner (@kesgardner) March 20, 2013
Then Obama made an extraordinary statement:
In fact, Professor Rubin questioned a number of the President's other
statements and wondered if the President understood the implications of
what he was saying.
“I think that what Bibi alluded to, which is absolutely correct, is each
country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome
decision to engage in any kind of military action. And Israel is
differently situated than the United States, and I would not expect that
the prime minister would make a decision about his country’s security
and defer that to any other country, any more than the United States
would defer our decisions about what was important for our national
What Obama just said publicly is that if Netanyahu decided that Israel’s
defense required an attack on Iran, the president would not expect the
prime minister to be deterred by U.S. opposition. Did Obama mean that?
It is hard to believe that he did, yet what no Israeli leader is going
to miss that seeming “green light.”
This is slightly different that what Thomas Friedman wrote last year in Israel's Best Friend:
“Preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon isn’t just in
the interest of Israel, it is profoundly in the security interests of
the United States,” the president told The Atlantic. “If Iran gets a
nuclear weapon, this would run completely contrary to my policies of
nonproliferation. The risks of an Iranian nuclear weapon falling into
the hands of terrorist organizations are profound. ... It would also
provide Iran the additional capability to sponsor and protect its
proxies in carrying out terrorist attacks, because they are less fearful
of retaliation. ... If Iran gets a nuclear weapon, I won’t name the
countries, but there are probably four or five countries in the Middle
East who say, ‘We are going to start a program, and we will have nuclear
weapons.’ And at that point, the prospect for miscalculation in a
region that has that many tensions and fissures is profound. You
essentially then duplicate the challenges of India and Pakistan fivefold
or tenfold.” In sum, the president added, “The dangers of an Iran
getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle
East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world.”
Friedman's essay is concerning, not just because it has President Obama
saying what he figures that Israel's supporters wanted to hear without
necessarily understanding the implications of his words (as it seems
that he was doing yesterday) but because he cast the threat in terms of
non-proliferation, not in terms specifically of the Iranian threat.
Every Israeli and friend of Israel should be thankful to the president
for framing the Iran issue this way. It is important strategically for
Israel, because it makes clear that dealing with the Iranian nuclear
threat was not Israel’s problem alone. And it is important politically,
because this decision about whether to attack Iran is coinciding with
the U.S. election. The last thing Israel or American friends of Israel —
Jewish and Christian — want is to give their enemies a chance to claim
that Israel is using its political clout to embroil America in a war
that is not in its interest.
Israel Matzav notes a contradiction in two of President Obama's statements.
But if Israelis are enthusiastic about President Obama's visit, Palestinians are decidedly less so.
This might be why PA bans photos, video from Hebron.
The New York Times reports, Some Palestinians Wary of Obama Visit:
There are no American flags lining the streets here, no
banners bearing the official “Unbreakable Alliance” logo of President
Obama’s visit, as there are seven miles away in Jerusalem. Instead,
dozens of posters warn the president not to bring his smartphone when he
arrives in the West Bank because there is no 3G service, one of an
untold number of complaints Palestinians have about their life under
There are other signs of Palestinian dissatisfaction with President Obama.
On most posters, Mr. Obama’s face has been painted over or torn off.
“It’s a waste of time,” Osama Husein, 38, who owns a new coffee shop
downtown, said of Mr. Obama’s planned journey here Thursday afternoon,
in the middle of his three-day stay in Jerusalem. “Four or five hours
here for no reason. It’s just for show, just to take some pictures with
some young kids. I don’t see any benefit.”
Charming. Palestinians welcome Obama to Israel by running over his portrait with cars, then painting swastikas on it: youtube.com/watch?v=g2F_uX…
— Yair Rosenberg (@Yair_Rosenberg) March 19, 2013
Palestinians contemptuously salute President Obama with
ballistic terrorism. Two rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel
— RICHARD KEMP (@ColRichardKemp) March 21, 2013
EoZ: Terror leaders insist Obama's Nobel Peace Prize be rescinded: Palestinian Arab terror groups whined Wedne... tinyurl.com/bvgou6h
Also check out the postscript of Barry Rubin's article (if you haven't already read the whole thing!)
— ElderOfZiyon (@elderofziyon) March 21, 2013
2) Spinning the visit
Honest Reporting warns about Five Media Spins to Watch for During Obama Visit. Just about all of them are on display in this Q & A with Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times at The Lede blog.
Of the seven tweets that are embedded in the article five are pro-Palestinian, one is trivial and one is actually curious.
The curious question was about going to the Temple Mount. Here Rudoren botches the answer terribly. Part of her answer is:
The second Palestinian intifada, or uprising, was set off in
2000 by a visit to the site by Ariel Sharon, then the leader of the
opposition Likud Party. Lately, more and more Jews have been ascending
the Mount, and there have frequently been clashes there.
First of all this is false. Nor does Rudoren mention anywhere in her response that Hamas threatened
the President against going to the Temple Mount. It's bad enough that
Rudoren hasn't corrected past history, but here she's whitewashing Hamas
In an answer about whether PM Netanyahu would negotiate with the
Palestinians, Rudoren begins her response with:
Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly stated in the weeks since
Israel’s Jan. 22 elections that he is ready to return to negotiations,
and he included a promise to do so in one of the agreements that formed
his new governing coalition. However, he insists on “no preconditions” –
and he considers as a precondition the Palestinians’ demand that the
negotiations start on the basis that the future two states would be
divided along the pre-1967 borders, with land swaps to balance Israeli
So with President Obama it depends on what the meaning of "precondition" is? Regardless, according to Rudoren's reporting, it's the Palestinians who are redefining "precondition."
President Obama could seek to break this stalemate, perhaps by redefining the very notion of a precondition.
A Palestinian legislator, Ziad Abu-Amr, said Mr. Abbas would
make clear to Mr. Obama that he would return to the negotiating table
under either of two conditions. One is a mutual six-month freeze in
which Israel halted building in West Bank settlements and Palestinians
refrained from using their new observer-state status in the United
Nations to pursue claims in the International Criminal Court or other
agencies. The other is a broad agreement on borders, dividing the land
between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea along the pre-1967
lines, with some land swaps to accommodate the largest Israeli
So wait a second. If Israel stops settlement construction (and you can
be pretty sure that the Palestinians would consider building in many
parts of Jerusalem to be settlements) then the Palestinians won't pursue
legal action against Israel in international forums. In other words
Israel must stop doing something that was never forbidden and in
exchange the Palestinian won't continue violating one of the premises of
the peace process.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said he considers the 1967 borders an unacceptable precondition for negotiations.
As Omri Ceren wrote a few years ago (and others have written repeatedly):
This passage won’t do much to dispel the suspicion that Palestinians
pocket Israeli concessions like the Gaza withdrawal and then set up
their old obligations – violence, past agreements, recognition – as the
bare minimum they’ll give in exchange for new Israeli concessions.
People can complain about "settlements" or Netanyahu's intransigence,
but this claim - Rudoren doesn't even seem to recognize its significance
- is the true obstacle to peace. Israeli concessions are taken as a
given; but Palestinian compliance must be rewarded, because, apparently
it is optional.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli attack on Iran, Palestinians, Soccer Dad