Friday, May 08, 2009

When It Comes To Israel, Obma's Gaffes Are More Like Snubs

Given that Obama came to the White House without real experience, some gaffes and perceived snubs regarding US allies are to be expected. In Is Obama snubbing another foreign leader?, Foreign Policy reported in March:
...Brazil is already grumbling about the treatment of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who will sit down with Obama this weekend and is the first Latin American leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

Silva aides said the trip was pushed forward from Tuesday because of the St. Patrick's Day holiday - making Latin America once again look like an afterthought. Then, the White House announcement misspelled his name as "Luis Ignacio" and put "Lula" - a nickname that decades ago became a legal part of the Brazilian leader's name - in quotes.
That is small potatoes--and a result of oversight.

Other snubs are more than a matter of perception. In Jerusalem worried over breakdown of U.S.-Israel cooperation under Obama, Ha'aretz reports:
Senior officials in Jerusalem expressed concern recently over the sharp decline in the coordination between Israel and the United States on security and state affairs since President Barack Obama's entered the White House and especially since the formation of Israel's new government.

Senior White House officials told their Israeli counterparts that Obama will demand Netanyahu completely suspend construction in the settlements, the officials said.

"Obama's people brief their Israeli counterparts in advance much less about security and Middle East policy activities than the Bush administration used to," the officials said.

In addition, when they do brief Israeli officials, they don't consult with them or coordinate their statements in advance.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller statement--calling on Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty--came as a surprise to Israeli officials, who first heard of it from the media.

There are other examples of Israel being left in the dark as well:
...The American policy shift toward Syria and opening direct talks with Damascus followed minimal coordination with Israel. For example, Israel was not briefed about senior American diplomats' trip to Damascus, which the U.S. had initiated.

Another incident concerned U.S. envoy for Iranian affairs Dennis Ross' trip to the Gulf states a few days ago for talks on Iran. Israel was briefed on the trip in general details, but no consultations or message-coordination took place before the trip. In addition, Ross did not pass through Israel on his way to the Gulf or back to brief Israel on the talks' outcome.

The American policy toward Iran has remained generally ambiguous as far as Israel is concerned and the administration has not outlined to Israel its plan for a dialogue with Iran in an orderly way. Many of the details Israel learned about this plan were obtained via European channels.
Considering Israel's understandable concern with Iran, and the possibility that Israel may feel the need to act to prevent Iran's acquisition of nuclear arms, one might have though keeping Israel in the loop on some level might be a considerate--if not wise--thing to do. Then again, Obama's overtures to Iran have the rest of the region anxious as well.

So while Obama may be signaling that the US is eager to open a dialog with the Arab world, he has different agendas and his pursuit of talks with Iran are done at the expense of the good will he is trying to create in the Arab world pursuant to creating a second Palestinian state.

More at Memeorandum

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