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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

When 'trust me' isn't enough

Politico reports that President Obama's pressure on Israel is starting to backfire in the Congress (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). And it's not just the Republicans who are being critical.
“My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). “I think it would serve America’s interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.”

“When Congress gets back into session the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me,” she said.
While Obama still appears to have the upper hand, even his closest supporters in Congress are beginning to have misgivings.
A key defender of Obama’s Mideast policy, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), is seeking to narrow the administration’s definition of “settlement” to take pressure off Obama. And the unusual criticism by congressional Democrats of the popular president is a sign that it may take more than a transformative presidential election to change the domestic politics of Israel.


Other Democrats, in interviews with POLITICO, raised similar concerns. While few will defend illegal Jewish outposts on land they hope will be part of a Palestinian state, they question putting public pressure on Israel while — so far — paying less public attention to Palestinian terrorism and other Arab states’ hostility to Israel.

“There’s a line between articulating U.S. policy and seeming to be pressuring a democracy on what are their domestic policies, and the president is tiptoeing right up to that line,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who said he’d heard complaints from constituents during the congressional recess. “I would have liked to hear the president talk more about the Palestinian obligation to cut down on terrorism.”

“I don’t think anybody wants to dictate to an ally what they have to do in their own national security interests,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who said he thinks there’s “room for compromise.”

“I have to hear specifically from the administration exactly how they define their terms and is there room for defining the terms,” he said, referring to the terms “settlement” and “natural growth.”
Obama isn't backing down.
"Part of being a good friend is being honest," Obama said. "And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that's part of a new dialogue that I'd like to see encouraged in the region."
The problem with the 'dialogue' is that it's taking place between Israel and the US and not between the parties. And the idea of the Obama administration telling Israelis not to have any more children apparently got Congress riled up enough that 329 members signed an AIPAC letter last week that called on the administration to work 'closely and privately' with Israel rather than the current campaign of public pressure.

Jennifer Rubin comments:
The question remains whether the Obama policy is sustainable in the face of realities in the Middle East (Peace process — what peace process?) and a political revolt at home. This may, like the ill-fated Guantanamo closing stunt, prove to be another foolish gambit that dissolves when confronted by domestic opinion and international realities.
I'm not sure I'd call this a political revolt yet. It's not like Guantanamo where there was an up-and-down vote and the administration was soundly defeated. In the meantime, Representatives like Wexler and Ackerman are trying to find a way to help Obama avoid that kind kind of defeat by climbing down from the tree on which he is sitting. That might mean narrowing the definition of 'settlements' to include only the 'outposts' that Netanyahu has said he will dismantle anyway, or possibly using the 'security fence' as a dividing line between those 'settlements' where the administration will ignore 'natural growth' and where it will not. It might include allowing the Bush letter in the back door by saying that whatever the parties ultimately agree to is fine with the administration. And it might include some acknowledgment of reality with regards to Iran.

In any event, what Obama says in Riyadh on Wednesday and especially in Cairo on Thursday will be telling.


At 6:58 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The US might have to climb down given the fact it hasn't been able to exploit divisions in the Israeli government. That would be in line with a learning curve for Obama: he cannot change the world to his liking anymore than the rest of us can. All we can hope is a process of getting adjusted to reality happens on his Arabian One Thousand And One Nights tour later this week.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Paul W said...

Gee, decreeing limits on Jewish births...I seems to recall reading about that somewhere...oh, yeah, here it is:

From Exodus 1:

8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who knew not Joseph.

9 And he said unto his people: 'Behold, the people of the children of Israel are too many and too mighty for us;

10 come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.'

Good work, Pharaohbama, cooperating with the enemies of G-d's chosen, people who (not so coincidentally) also want to destroy us - just after Israel because we'll be a bit tougher of a nut to crack, being so numerous and so far away.

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Broomer said...

How DARE that Prez Obama tells another sovereign nation comprised of children and grandchildren/great-grandchildren to stop making babies!?!

This is what I see. The settlements are not the issue, making more Jewish babies IS the issue!

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Every geula needs its Pharaoh beforehand.

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we can't just allow Israel to continue to expand knowing it is causing unrest in the Middle East just because they are our ally. That said, there may be more important factors to think about?



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