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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

President Obama's cone of silence

We need a lighthearted moment before we go on to this next post. How many of you are old enough to remember the Cone of Silence? Well, here it is from the very first episode of Get Smart.

Let's go to the videotape.

The Cone of Silence was a pretty funny place. Unfortunately, the Obama White House is not. And after Tuesday night's meetings between the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu, they have gone to cone of silence mode. Here's Laura Rozen from Politico (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
The Obama administration shifted this week from red hot anger at Benjamin Netanyahu to an icier suspicion toward the Israeli Prime Minister, who made clear in a marathon of meetings with U.S. officials that he would give ground only grudgingly on their goal of stopping the continued construction of new Israeli housing units on disputed territory.

Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office Tuesday evening for an unexpectedly-long 89-minutes until about 7:00, then stayed to consult with his own staff in the Roosevelt Room, according to a source briefed on the meeting. The two then met again for 35 minutes at 8:20 at Netanyahu's request, the source said. But the meetings were shrouded in unusual secrecy, in part because U.S. officials, who just ten days earlier called the surprise announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem an “insult” and an “affront,” made sure to reward Netanyahu with a series of small snubs: There were no photographs released from the meeting, and no briefing for the press.

And as of late Tuesday evening, neither side had released the usual “readout” of the meetings’ content – a likely indicator of the distance between the sides.

But any impression that Netanyahu’s trip would mark a renewal of the troubled relationship between U.S. and Israeli leaders had faded by the time the men met. Netanyahu had spent the previous 24 hours of a U.S. visit lobbying allies in Congress to push back against public American criticism and to turn the focus to Iran, congressional sources said, and delivered a defiant speech to the pro-Israel group AIPAC, insisting on Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem.
The good news is that Netanyahu is a master of working the Congress. During his first term, Netanyahu was known to be quite close to Newt Gingrich (where is Newt these days anyway?). Among others, Netanyahu met on Tuesday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Cal.), House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), and Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and John Kerry (D-Mass.). You can read about those meetings here. Unfortunately, a meeting between Netanyahu and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was canceled - I don't know why.

Jennifer Rubin adds:
Can one imagine any other “ally” receiving such dismissive treatment? The Obami are, I suppose, technically abiding by the advice to move their disputes with Bibi behind closed doors. But the snippy reception that telegraphs their anger with Bibi over his continuing to allow Jews to live anywhere in Israel’s eternal capital is just more of the same Obama gambit in another guise. The message to Israel, to the Muslim World, and to the Palestinians is the same: the U.S. is in a snit over Israel’s housing policy, and a significant gap between the two countries has not been healed. The contrast between the warm greeting from members of Congress and the stony silence from the White House only highlighted the point.

The result is real and troubling: when the U.S. backs away from Israel, we send a signal to our allies that Israel deserves the cold shoulder.


Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (”Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.
There's a real personal problem between Netanyahu and Obama (I saw one piece today that claimed it's because Netanyahu is a Republican). And there's a policy problem too. Netanyahu cannot stop building in Jerusalem even if he wanted to - because of his coalition and because of his own party. I don't believe he wants to stop building in Jerusalem anyway.

But the good news in strained relations with the White House is that no one will be able to complain when Obama gets a call as those jets (or will it be submarines?) are bombing Bushehr and Natanz and Qom. And no one will be able to complain when Bibi - hopefully quietly - allows the 'settlement freeze' to expire at the end of September (four months down, six to go).

What could go wrong?


At 6:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get the whole TV series. My kids die laughing from this stuff.

Nobody played the fool better than Don Adams.

At 6:49 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The US has reneged on its undertakings with Israel. It has no moral right to complain if Israel decides not to renew them when they expire. Life has consequences.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger biorabbi said...

I don't know. It seems obvious to me that this is different than ignorance, anti-semitism, or, if there is a distinction, anti-zionism on the part of Obama or all of the above. It seems to me this latest Jerusalem L'affaire with Obama is Obama's attempt to pound Israel down into the do-nothing coalition on Iran. By keeping Bibi and the Israeli government in the dog house, it might deflect the Israelis from taking on Iran's nukes.

The strategy appears to be:

1. Attack Bibi and the Israeli government on any issue....
2. Orchestrate the condemnation through the press, leaks, Hillary, Biden, Jews in his administration.
3. Keep Bibi dancing to Obama the puppet master: "What is Obama wanting, thinking? Is this a crisis in relations? oh boy, how much effort, influence can we use to rectify the situation."
4. Through steps 1-3, Israel is increasingly showed to be a weaker horse in the middle east: in Europe and the arab world(and Iran): further emboldening the Palestinians with violence and threats of violence against Jews, and I can certainly envision the US' next step here will be abandoning Israel in the UN in the near future.

What does all this noise accomplish? Obama is deftly changing the focus off Iran. By dancing to Obama's tune, Netanyahu is an unwitting accomplice to Obama's aim of shifting the focus off Iran.

Bibi must realize he is being played by a fool. He should refocus on Iran, realizing Obama will never support Israel... except in the case of unilateral suicide. Israel has plenty of support in the US and among republicans and many key democrats, but not in the white house.

If he had more chutpah, Bibi should mock Obama on this point: raising the open question of who's side is Obama on? Perhaps he should mock the proximity talks, saying he'd rather negotiate with Abbas than Obama because Abbas is more even-handed than Obama, or maybe request the proximity talks should be moderated by Saudi Arabia or Iran than Obama's minions.

Message to Bibi: focus on Iran, not the empty-suited dumbo in the oval office.


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