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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Who elected Ehud Barak?

Am I the only Israeli out there who is bothered by the fact that the Obama administration has decided that it is going to do business with Israel through Ehud Barak - whose views are much closer to its own - rather than through Israel's elected government? Barak, after all, is the leader (for now at least) of a party that won 12 seats in the last election, and would win much fewer seats if elections were to be held again today. Netanyahu, who was treated far less regally in his last visit to Washington than Barak was last week, was accused of taking Barak's Labor party into his government as 'cover' for the Right wing policies Israel's electorate demanded, and now he is using Barak as his go-between with the United States? That's certainly what it looks like based on this past week.
This week's events have also cemented Barak as the key Israeli interlocutor with the Obama administration, which is of course what the White House would prefer, considering that he is closer to the U.S. side than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on crucial issues.

For example, this week he was quoted as backing the U.S. position against a controversial development project in Israel. "The King's Garden project, which has waited for 3,000 years, can wait another three to nine months if government policy considerations necessitate it," Barak was quoted as saying.

He was also in Washington discuss to Iran, Syria, U.S. military assistance to Israel, the peace process, and many other issues.

Compare that to the recent visit of Israel's hard-line foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who came to New York the week before Barak but didn't visit Washington at all. Lieberman met with U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, but didn't request and wasn't invited to any meetings with any U.S. officials in Washington. Insiders say Lieberman and Clinton have a "Don't ask, don't tell" policy: He doesn't push her to establish a close relationship and she doesn't say what she thinks of his views.
But what has Barak accomplished for all his brown-nosing in Washington? A lot for Ehud Barak (see above), but nothing for Israel.
Josh Rogin reports: “The Obama administration is still not saying what it will do if and when the U.N. calls for another international investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident.” You see, Obama is supportive of the Israeli investigation; he just won’t say whether he’ll defend Israel’s right to conduct its own investigation and rebuff UN attempts to set up an international kangaroo court. Rogin tells us:
The uncertainty is whether the Obama administration is willing to actively oppose a new investigation. This uncertainty is compounded by the mixed messages coming from senior officials like Jones, as well as the Obama team’s apparent unwillingness to brush Secretary-General Ban off the plate.
This lack of resolve and maddening squishiness should no longer shock us. While other American presidents would leave no “uncertainty” and would make clear that the U.S. would not countenance such an action from the UN, this president is different (to use Michal Oren’s description). His attitude toward the U.S.-Israel relationship is unlike his predecessor’s. For Obama, the highest foreign-policy priorities are getting along with the “international community,” accommodating our foes (i.e., “engagement”), and reorienting the U.S. toward the “Muslim World.” If those aims come in conflict with Israel’s security needs (which they inevitably do) and its efforts to hold back the assaults on the Jewish state’s legitimacy, Israel may well have to fend for itself.
Part of Israel's problem is that the Netanyahu government cannot make up its his mind where it he stands. This is perhaps best reflected in the talking points that Netanyahu's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, throws out to the media. In March, Oren described the crisis with the US over Ramat Shlomo in historic proportions. In April, he told CNN that Israel's relations with the UN were 'great.' Three weeks ago, Oren told Fox News that Israel's relationship with the US over the flotilla incident was 'very close and very cooperative and very open.' And in Sunday's Haaretz, Oren complains that the US and Israel are 'drifting apart.'
Israel's ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, painted a dark picture of U.S.-Israeli relations during a briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem last week. Israeli diplomats say Oren described the current situation as a "tectonic rift" in which Israel and the United States are like continents drifting apart.


Oren visited Israel over the past week, briefing Israelis at the ministry's North America and research divisions. Five Israeli diplomats, some of whom took part in the briefing or were informed about the details, said Oren described relations between the two countries in bleak terms.

Oren, however, has denied making such statements.

According to the Israeli diplomats, Oren said relations between the two countries are not in a crisis because a crisis is something that passes. Oren opted to use terms from geology: "Relations are in the state of a tectonic rift in which continents are drifting apart."
Don't believe that denial. The next paragraph describes exactly what's going on:
Oren noted that contrary to Obama's predecessors - George W. Bush and Bill Clinton - the current president is not motivated by historical-ideological sentiments toward Israel but by cold interests and considerations. He added that his access as Israel's ambassador to senior administration officials and close advisers of the president is good. But Obama has very tight control over his immediate environment, and it is hard to influence him.

"This is a one-man show," Oren is quoted as saying.
Indeed. With previous administrations, support for Israel was unconditional. While the US may have opposed some of the things we did, the overall support for our security was never in question. That's not true in this administration.

Netanyahu is having difficulties adjusting to the new reality. He can't decide whether he wants to be the 'peacemaker' or whether he wants to do what the country elected him to do. And so he waffles. He strongly opposes lifting the Gaza 'blockade' and then he lifts it. He strongly opposes a 'settlement freeze' for months and then he imposes one anyway. He vows that he will never agree to a 'settlement freeze' in Jerusalem, and then he imposes one de facto. Farming out Israel's foreign policy and its relations with the United States to the Leftist Ehud Barak (the serial bungler) is all part of the same mode of operations.

What could go wrong?


At 2:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stupid, stupid, stupid Jews.

At 8:14 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Netanyahu's farming out foreign policy to Barak has effectively sidelined Lieberman. And its a good point - Israeli voters did NOT elect Barak to run their foreign policy. One has the impression that its actually Barak who is running the country, which isn't that far from the actual truth. Its not hard to figure out that Netanyahu seems incapable of making his own decisions and sticking to them.

What could go wrong indeed


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