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Friday, September 25, 2009

Obama's 'normal' relationship with Israel

Barry Rubin believes that the Obama administration has settled down into a normal relationship with Israel, despite its initial hostility, and that much of the credit for that goes to Binyamin Netanyahu.
During the campaign he came to learn that Israel’s supporters were active, energetic, and would fight back even when almost no one else would confront him. In addition, the fact that he could gain Jewish support gave him an added incentive to pull back. Put simply, being anti-Israel was a political liability. Obama knew it and shifted accordingly.

Since the political costs of an anti-Israel stance are continuous, he needed to follow this change after he became president as well. Moreover, he needed Congress, which after a brief period of silence, intimidated by Obama’s victory and apparent popularity, has returned to its usual pro-Israel stance.

In addition, though, he began to discover that his views didn’t work in the real world. His attempt to bully Israel failed, for which credit is due to the Israeli government. A key factor here was the toughness and superb maneuvering of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ably supported by President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The Israeli government could not possibly have handled Obama better. At the same time, the obvious fragility of the current government coalition proved another persuasive factor that made Obama pull back. I shudder to think what would have happened if Tzipi Livni had been prime minister.

In addition, as always, intransigence on the Arab and Palestinian side was so extreme that even the Obama Administration couldn’t ignore it. The Palestinian Authority’s leader Mahmoud Abbas was absolutely uncooperative with Obama, throwing away an incredible strategic opportunity. Arab states Obama thought would fall into line behind him—especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia—refused to help. It is said that his meeting with the Saudi king, who went into an anti-Israel diatribe, was a particular shock. Syria and Iran also showed they were not so open to friendly engagement.

All these factors have helped force a rethinking process on Obama and his Administration. Moreover, this is a president who, despite outer show, lacks toughness and backs down when he meets resistance. Ironically, in this regard Israel benefits from the same point that helps its radical foes in the region.

To this day, the U.S. government under Obama has not taken a single material step against Israel and no such development seems to be on the horizon either.
Read the whole thing.

While I agree that the Netanyahu government has done an excellent job of handling Obama, I believe it has done so with very little help from Congress (where the Republicans are in a powerless disarray and the Democrats are still mostly afraid to cross Obama).

I was bothered by Obama's UN General Assembly speech. Barry argues that it's always been American policy that the 'settlements' are illegal, but that's not true. Obama is the first President since Jimmy Carter to actually call the 'settlements' illegal. Other Presidents - even Bush 41 - called them 'unhelpful' and an 'obstacle to peace,' but never illegal. That's an important distinction because polls have showed that Americans are more willing to go to war to stop things that are illegal than for any other reason (I reported that poll here somewhere, but I'm too lazy to go find it right now).

Obama's associations with anti-Semites and with the radical left continue to bother me and worry me.

And his insistence on making the 'Palestinians' his top foreign policy priority really bothers me.

But yes, if Tzipi Livni were Prime Minister, God forbid, things would be a lot worse.


At 7:26 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

I think the worst is behind Israel and while the Jewish State will never have a warm relationship with Obama, the US has concluded its not going to get everything it wants from Israel. Added to that, peace talks are going nowhere and certainly not because the One in the White House stamps his feet and says they "must." The status quo is going to hold for a long time to come.

At 9:33 AM, Blogger Chrysler 300M said...

Bibi is tops and has years of experience, neb´ver again mut the Kadima losers get in power.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

What is important now, is to protect Israel from international attacks, and to strengthen Israel from within and make sure that we don't go back to the dark days of Olmert and Livni.


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