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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Has America lost its power over Israel?

Well, I didn't get on the BBC show, but I thought I would do a post telling you what I told them when they called me this afternoon, and what I would have said had I gotten onto the show.

It was never correct to say that America (sorry Canadians for referring to 'America' and not to the US) had 'power' over Israel in the sense that one normally conceives of power. America never had the ability to 'deliver' Israel although the Arab world always thought that they did. And given that Israel is a democracy, albeit an imperfect one, it's unlikely that America ever will have power over Israel.

What America did have was the ability to influence Israel. It was able to persuade Israel to act in ways that were in both America's and Israel's self-interest. Sometimes, American influence was sufficient to persuade Israel to act in ways that were clearly in America's self-interest, but less clearly in Israel's self-interest (see, for example, Israel's not responding to Iraqi scud missiles during the First Gulf War).

However, America under Obama has lost its ability to influence Israel. America has lost its ability to influence Israel because Jewish Israelis, who make up 80% of the population and an even higher percentage of the electorate (many Arabs don't vote), see Barack Obama as hostile to Israel. In a poll released in August, only 4%(!) of Jewish Israelis saw Obama as pro-Israel. 4% with a 4.5% margin of error. If you saw that kind of percentage in an election, you would think it came from a totalitarian country! But that's how most Israelis see Obama. His numbers nosedived here after the Cairo speech, and no one even bothers to check them anymore. By comparison, George Bush had an approval rating of 88% among Jewish Israelis when he left office. Guess which one had more influence over Israel.

The fact that Obama sent Biden here rather than coming himself simply adds to the mistrust. Obama has not come here since he became President, although he has visited Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region. Why? Is he afraid of the spectacle of a country where people would take to the streets to demonstrate against him? If so, maybe he ought to think about why they are demonstrating.

Biden's trip here, as I have noted several times, is designed to pressure Netanyahu to hold his fire against Iran. I can't believe Tuesday's announcement was a coincidence. Israelis are very dissatisfied with Obama's policies on Iran, as is our government. I believe, as one lady in the audience said, that the announcement about building in Ramat Shlomo was a message to Iran as much as it was a message to Obama. The message said, "Watch out. No one owns us. If Obama doesn't take care of Iran, we will."

By the way, the Middle East studies professor from the University of Miami was excellent.


At 9:31 PM, Blogger nomatter said...

I agree completely with your summary.

Obama and company are so openly antagonistic against Israel that his almost non-existent poll numbers in Israel can backfire against Israel. I fear because he is so woefully right down to the definition of narcissistic he will punish Israel in a way we have never witnessed quite before. Keep in mind psychologically speaking, a true narcissist will do anything to anyone to get their way.

While it might appear the Obama bunch met their match, don't forget there is yet another shoe to fall. Real narcissists never back down. (no matter what fools they make of themselves OR to what lengths they will go )I don't think for one moment that administration is going away any more then Israel is out of the woods.

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Akiva said...

I also didn't get on the program, and further they also rejected any positive Israel oriented comments on their associated blog post (that runs parallel with the program and supposedly provides feedback).

The BBC bias is very blatant.


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