'Anyone but Bibi'?second time this week, former peace processor Aaron David Miller has gone on record urging President Obama not to try to influence the upcoming Israeli elections. This was written by Miller himself.
In Washington, whether it’s an R or D administration, in fact, we want Israeli leaders like Rabin, Peres, and Barak who see the world more or less the way we do when it comes to the two-state peace process. We have a much harder time with those Israeli leaders—Begin, Shamir, Netanyahu—whose views on what to do about the Palestinians don’t naturally accord with ours. (Sharon was a special case. He and George W. Bush got along reasonably well because neither really cared about the peace process and both were governing in an age of terror.)
But sometimes those initial judgments about who’s naughty or nice end up confounding.
Because U.S. administrations tend to divide the Israeli political spectrum into two parts—the good Israelis who share our views and the not so good ones who don’t—they’re not entirely sure what to do with the fact that Israeli prime ministers of all political stripes have continued Israeli settlement building on the West Bank and construction in parts of east Jerusalem that we’d like to see become the capital of a Palestinian state.
It’s an inconvenient but important reality to acknowledge that of the three U.S.-orchestrated breakthroughs in the Middle East peace process, two of them—the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and the Madrid peace conference—came from hardline Likud prime ministers. The third—the three disengagement agreements following the 1973 war —came courtesy of a very tough Labor prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin.
But secretly rooting for the good Israelis and wishing them success is one thing. What about actually doing things that help the good ones succeed or alternatively weakening the Israelis we don’t want to see in power?
I can recall at least three occasions when Republican and Democratic administrations willfully picked Israeli favorites and tried to shape election outcomes.
Now, as the clock ticks down on Israeli elections scheduled for March 2015, will the Obama administration play internal Israeli politics to try to tip the election against Netanyahu?
Obama’s relationship with Bibi is perhaps the most dysfunctional of any president-prime minister pair in the history of the U.S.-Israeli relationship. Doubtless John Kerry, too, would like to see another Israeli leader with whom he could dance a real peace process.
Yet constraints against U.S. meddling abound. First, there’s the Republican-controlled Congress, which will be watching hawk-like for any such funny business. Second, there’s the absence of a clear and credible alternative to Bibi with whom the administration is close; and then there’s the matter of the lack of a big issue for such lobbying. The peace process is in a coma; and ISIS, Hamas, Assad, Hezbollah, and the Iranian mullahs make Israel look like the good guys. Finally, there’s Obama himself. He’s not Clinton. Does he really care? Do most Israelis trust him? Could he get away with a campaign that makes clear Bibi isn’t the right guy and candidate, but X is? I am betting on “no” to all three questions. Don’t even think about it, Mr. President.The last constraint is the most important one. Many Israelis saw Bush I as neutral at best and hostile at worst. But that didn't compare with what Israelis think of Obama. While we may differ on why, most Israelis agree that Obama is viscerally hostile to Israel. There is little that can be done to convince us otherwise (and with good reason).
If Obama tries to interfere (and with his arrogance I would say that there's a fair chance of that happening). it would likely backfire. That's what Miller is trying to prevent.
Keep writing Aaron. But don't expect Obama to listen.
Read the whole thing.
Labels: Aaron David Miller, Barack Hussein Obama, Bill Clinton, Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, George H. W. Bush, Israeli elections, John Kerry, Knesset elections 2015, Shimon Peres, Yitzchak Rabin, Yitzchak Shamir