Why Obama is making such a big deal out of Netanyahu's speech
The reason President Obama has manufactured a crisis in US-Israel relations over Prime Minister Netanyahu's address to a joint session of Congress has nothing to do with breaches of protocol or interference in Israel's election campaign. According to Elliott Abrams, the national security adviser in the Bush administration, Obama is hoping to permanently damage American support for Israel
I well remember how we in the Bush White House
handled the poor personal relations between the president and French
president Jacques Chirac. In 2004-2005 especially, the two men did not
get along (arguing mostly about Iraq and just plain disliking each other
as well) but we wanted to prevent their poor personal chemistry from
damaging bilateral relations. So National Security Advisor Condi Rice in
2004, and then her successor Steve Hadley in 2005, set up a
work-around. The French National Security Advisor Maurice
Gourdault-Montagne traveled to Washington almost every month and came to
the White House. There the French ambassador to the U.S., Jean-David
Levitte, joined him for meetings with key NSC, DOD, and State Department
officials. In 2005, Secretary of State Rice would come over from State
to join Hadley and several of us on the NSC staff, and in the course of a
half-day we would review every issue facing the United States and
France. It was a serious time commitment for the American and French
officials, but that is because we were determined to quarantine bad
personal chemistry and prevent it from infecting the entire
relationship—a goal set by President Bush himself.
Quite obviously, President Obama has no such goal.
Israeli officials have complained to me for several years about the lack
of contacts and communications with the White House. Susan Rice has
determined that her job is to make bilateral relations worse, and has
established no relationship with her Israeli counterpart Yossi Cohen. So
the problem is not just bad chemistry at the top; it is an
administration that has decided to create a tense and negative
relationship from the top down.
One reason, as noted, is the hope that tension with
America can lead to Netanyahu’s defeat in the March 17 election. The
second reason is Iran policy. The administration is desperately seeking a
deal with Iran on terms that until recently were unacceptable to a
broad swath of Democrats as well as Republicans. One after another,
American demands or “red lines” have been abandoned. Clearly the
administration worries that Israeli (not just Netanyahu, but Israeli)
criticisms of the possible Iran nuclear deal might begin to reverberate.
So it has adopted the tactic of personalizing the Israeli critique.
Arguments that are shared across the Israeli political spectrum—that the
likely Iran deal says nothing about Iranian ballistic missile
development, says nothing about Iranian warhead development, does not
require that Iran meet IAEA demands that it account for past warhead
work, allows Iran thousands of centrifuges, will allow Iran to escape
all monitoring and limitations after perhaps ten years—are attributed
solely to Netanyahu and his election campaign. So Democrats are told
they must oppose such arguments, and stiff Netanyahu, lest they
contribute to his reelection. Clever, in a way, but of course completely
misleading. And irresponsible when it comes to the deadly issue of
Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
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The third Obama administration reason for building
up this crisis is also deadly serious: it is to use the current tension
to harm Israel’s support in the United States permanently. All opinion
polls in the last several years show a partisan edge in support: overall
support for Israel is steady and high, but its composition is changing.
More and more Republicans support Israel, and the gap between
Democratic and Republican support levels is growing. President Obama
acts as if he sees this as a terrific development, one that should be
enlarged as much as possible before he leaves office. That way he would
leave behind not just an Iran deal, but weakened support for Israel on
Iran and everything else. Support for Israel would become less of a
bipartisan matter and more a divisive issue between the two parties. It
is not hard to envision Obama in retirement joining Jimmy Carter as a
frequent critic of Israel, pushing the Democratic party to move away
from its decades of very strong support for the Jewish state.
. Unfortunately, this makes too much sense.
Labels: Barack Hussein Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu, Iranian nuclear threat, Israeli attack on Iran, joint session of Congress, Knesset elections 2015, P 5+1, US-Israel relationship