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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Smart diplomacy?

John Podhoretz tries to find a rationale for the Obama administration's attack on Israel.
And here's where we get to the bewildering part. The Obama administration had made its point. Op-eds bloomed all over, well before Hillary's phone call, denouncing Israel for its maltreatment of Biden. Israel was on the defensive. But let's say the secretary of state really needed to emphasize the point, so she called Bibi to yell. The substance and tone of that call did not have to be made public; most of her communications, even with recalcitrant allies, aren't. Why would the Obama administration choose now of all times to make a moment of tension into a diplomatic crisis?

Well, you can say it's because of its general ideological presumptions about Israel, which I explored last year in this piece. Or because the diplomatic crisis with Israel can be used to America's advantage — because in an administration whose governing doctrine is that you can't let a good crisis go to waste, you would think it had some game plan for what would follow the release of the news of Hillary's phone call.

I don't think it did. By intensifying the crisis, the administration has essentially put paid to its own "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians, which weren't going to work in any case, but don't tell them that — after all, those talks were George Mitchell's idea. And I don't think they appreciated just how direct and unvarnished the response from Jewish leaders was going to be.

So this was a diplomatic mistake. But what about the politics of it? The word we keep hearing from Washington is that in the upcoming congressional elections there is an "enthusiasm gap" developing between resurgent Republicans and somewhat dispirited Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterms. That "enthusiasm gap" is not just anecdotal; it's also about organization, which means it's about money. It's no secret that a wildly disproportionate part of the Democratic donor base is Jewish. While Jews are almost certain to continue to vote lopsidedly for Democrats, that doesn't mean Jewish donors are going to open their checkbooks as widely as they have in the past three election cycles. A diminution in Jewish enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats is a problem for them. This is not a good moment to be picking fights on an issue of major emotional concern to a key Democratic constituency, even if you know that many of its members are not disposed to support the building program.
I'm wondering whether this can be confirmed. Anyone out there monitoring the FEC web page (I've never had the time to do it)? Do you see anything that indicates that Jews are contributing less to Democrats than they have in the past? Is there a correlation between the Democrats who are suffering from a drop in donations and their support for Obama's positions on Israel? (It's almost a shame that the best laboratory for that hypothesis - Bob Wexler - has resigned from Congress).
The key is the word used by Hillary on Friday and echoed on Sunday by David Axelrod. The word is "insulting." What Israel did, they say, was insulting. They're not wrong; Biden was indeed subjected to an insult. But they know Netanyahu wasn't responsible for it; they know coalition governments are unruly beasts. I suspect they're not the ones who feel the insult but rather it was the president himself who decided the insult required his slapping Israel in the face with a white glove and threatening pistols at dawn.

This was an emotional response, in other words, in which the president felt free to indulge. And he was free to indulge it. But in doing so, he either didn't think about what the reaction would be, or was misguided by his advisers about the nature of the reaction, or didn't care about the reaction. And he will be the one to shoulder the political and diplomatic consequences from this specific event.
In other words, the Obami had a temper tantrum. Well, that makes as much sense as any other explanation for their behavior. In fact, it might allow for the fact that at some time in the future, Obama (who has been nearly totally silent about this since last Tuesday) may calm down and start to behave rationally. But I wouldn't bet on it. Obama believes that the 'Palestinians' are suffering from Israeli 'colonialism.' Nothing is going to change that.

What could go wrong?


At 4:04 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Obama has the classic islamic temperament: if he cant't get his own way, he has, as you say, a tantrum.

They all do. All muslims are retarded as is their religion/cult: they do not have the ability to ask rationally because what they believe in and want, is totally IRRATIONAL! So they scream, shout, kill, mutilate in order to pursuade people.

Would normal people bring their children up this way?

I have noticed how, as soon as Obarmy became President, but could not get his own way, that rictus smile disappeared, the mask slipped and his face is full of hate and fury.

At 11:21 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The point is the American rage at Israel for building homes for Jews is all out of proportion to the offense. Is the Jews' crime now living in Jerusalem? If Obumbler thinks Israel will cave into his demarche to stop building in Jerusalem, he will be waiting until the arrival of Godot.

Nothing will shake the Jewish people's attachment to their land and Obumbler's pressure on Israel has set back rather than enhanced the promise that peace talks will resume in the future.

But that's the fruit of the Administration strategy that attacking and isolating an ally will make Israeli Jews place more trust in America. Obumbler's attacks have led to the exact opposite result.


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