Thursday, March 21, 2013

Even If Obama Is Sincere In What He Tells Israelis, Does Obama Know What He's Doing?

Obama is now--on matters directly regarding Israel--a typical American president. The idea that Obama made policy out of raw hatred against Israel should be put to rest.
Barry Rubin

Barry Rubin analyzes Obama Visit to Israel: A Love Fest with Lots of Policy Complications as reflected in the Obama's joint press conference with Netanyahu. Perhaps the the greatest sign of this new found friendship between Obama and Netanyahu is the extent of apparent agreement on Iran. In response to Obama's obvious public call for confirmation of his support for Israel:
“In short -- and I don't think is just my opinion; I think, Bibi, you would share this -- America's support for Israel's security is unprecedented, and the alliance between our nations has never been stronger.”
Netanyahu responds as expected -- but hints at the extent US support will go in regards to Israel's need to defend itself against Iran:
“I appreciate the fact that the president has reaffirmed, more than any other president, Israel's right and duty to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. We just heard those important words now. And I think that sums up our -- I would say, our common view.”
And that is when Obama appears to have come out with a statement of US support for an Israeli strike against Iran:

“I think that what Bibi alluded to, which is absolutely correct, is each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action. And Israel is differently situated than the United States, and I would not expect that the prime minister would make a decision about his country's security and defer that to any other country, any more than the United States would defer our decisions about what was important for our national security.”
How serious is this statement by Obama?

Rubin writes:
What Obama just said publicly is that if Netanyahu decided that Israel’s defense required an attack on Iran, the president would not expect the prime minister to be deterred by U.S. opposition. Did Obama mean that? It is hard to believe that he did, yet what no Israeli leader is going to miss that seeming “green light.”
This goes hand in hand with what appears to be Obama's new policy in the Middle East. Despite predictions by some pundits that Obama was coming to Israel to apply new pressure on Israel to make unilateral concessions to bring Abbas to the negotiating table, that does not appear to have materialized. Instead, Obama appears to have admitted that the US cannot simply ram through a peace agreement by applying pressure on Israel:
“But ultimately, this is a really hard problem. It's been lingering for over six decades. And the parties involved have, you know, some profound interests that you can't spin, you can't smooth over. And it is a hard slog to work through all of these issues

And -- and -- and my goal here is just to make sure that the United States is a positive force in trying to create those opportunities as frequently as possible…”
Rubin notes:
In other words, although he will never say so openly, he was wrong in thinking the problem could be solved easily and he now knows better. To listen to Obama you get the impression that he expects no progress in his second term either. In fact he reduced expectations pretty low.

So this is Middle East policy in Obama’s second-term: downplaying Israel-Palestinian issues, pushing for a new regime in Syria while disregarding the real dangers of producing a monster there, and trying to convince Israel from not attacking Iran by insisting that all options are on the table although his bluff will be called at some point.
Read the whole thing.

So how does all of this hold up as Obama continues with his speech to Israeli university students and a joint press conference with Palestinian Authority leader Abbas?

Rubin writes that As Obama Continues Visit, His Themes Are Confirmed:
But there were three things strange about the point of the speech, showing that Obama was completely out of touch with contemporary sentiments and thus showing that in many ways he doesn’t get it.
Those points are:
  • Obama’s big theme is that peace is good. But Obama seems unaware of who his audience is among the students he addresses. These are the ones serving in the military and risking their lives, to protect against Palestinian terrorism and other threats.

  • Obama did not address what happens after a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority: what about the threat that Hamas will try to take over the PA or that more radical forces may succeed Abbas that will not recognize a peace deal?

    • What is the value of a a deal with the PA that leaves Hamas free to continue its attacks on Israel and work to undermine an agreement?

    • What is guarantee that there won’t be still be terrorist attacks from a newly created Palestinian state, or that the Palestinian Authority would take action to deal with it should it occur?

    • What is the guarantee that the new state won't invite in the armies of other countries or obtain advanced weapons from them?

    • What about the Abbas demand that millions of Palestinians be allowed to come and live in Israel?

    • Why should Israel believe in any guarantees and assurances from the United States and Europe when such promises have been repeatedly broken -- including ones made by Obama himself?

    Obama does not address these problems, as if once a peace treat is signed, thatis the end of the problem.

  • Obama gives no indication that he is aware of the new situation in the region with the radical Islamists co-opting the Arab Spring. While he claims to want democracy in the region, Obama backs the radical Islamists.
Read the whole thing

The test of the success of Obama's trip to Israel will be the lasting impression long after Obama has left and the implications begin to really sink in.

Even if Israelis accept and believe in the sincerity of Obama, the remaining question is whether Obama has any clue as to what he is doing.

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