Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama Is Now President: Should Israel Be Worried And Her Critics Rejoice?

If you do a search on Google for 'Israel + "tough love"'--you find 127,000 hits; if you do a search for 'Obama + Israel + "tough love"'--that brings it down to a mere 59,900 hits.

A January 16 article in Salon entitled Gaza invasion: Powered by the U.S., makes no mention of "tough love"--nor does it make mention of Mearsheimer and Walt, but the implications of the now familiar claim of the error of US support for Israel are there.

Now we hear that Senator George Mitchell will be appointed to be Obama's Middle East Envoy. While the selection of an Arab American may be Obama's way of showing his intention of being more even-handed, there are those who--already having high hopes that Obama will be more even-handed (whatever that means)--will find great satisfaction in the implications of Mitchell's selection. Remember that George Mitchell was sent to Israel by President Clinton to Israel to compile what became the Mitchell Report, which among other things urged Israel to limit its use of deadly force and while absolving Sharon of being the immediate cause of the Second Intifada, did say his visit to the Kotel was provocative.

Clearly, the media is trying to tell us something. There is an increasingly vocal element that looks to Obama to step quickly and energetically into the Middle East and see to it that peace is imposed in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And these people are not shy about saying which side is most in need of external pressure.

So, what are the implications for the US-Israel relationship--is there reason to fear that Obama will put new pressure on Israel?

These days, defending the bond between the US and Israel by pointing to Israel as a democracy is not enough--especially when exaggerations of Operation Cast Lead in Gaza abound on the one hand and Iraq is beginning to come into its own as another Democracy in the region on the other.
The image of Israel as an ally is being pounded away at with the message that Israel damages the US image in the world--and 'enlightened' self-interest takes over.

Even pointing to Israel as an illustration of how to deal with terrorism does not work--to judge by the global protests.

A friend who raised this question, gives an answer on why he believes the US-Israel friendship is secure.

He said that the Israeli-US relationship is bigger than this war. The fact that we're engaged in Gaza during a presidential transition is cheap political opportunism by Walt & Mearsheimer's true-believers. Within that framework, one can imagine the consequences of Obama abandoning Israel in the pragmatic terms of political realism:
1) It will embolden radical Islam everywhere.

2) Arab moderates will realize that US assurances aren't worth squat.

3) The Israeli centrists needed to support a final peace with the Palestinians will be crippled domestically.

4) America's enemies will conclude that they can expand their spheres of influence by driving a wedge between the US and its allies, even if the parallels aren't the same. 
Consider Chavez, who would be happy at the change to bring Colombia into his orbit, or Kim Jong Il who likely still has some designs on South Korea.
Now we wait to see what plan of action Obama will commit himself to.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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