Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Netanyahu Turns The Other Cheek

Reading the Obama Interview -Alexander H. Joffe

Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with President Obama on the eve of his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is highly significant, verging on a turning point in US-Israeli relations.

Several points emerge from the interview. First is the implied threat that if current peace negotiations with the Palestinians fail, the US will be unable – read unwilling – to defend Israel. Moreover, it is up to the Palestinians to judge: "If Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited."

Declaring "our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited" is not accidental; indeed, Obama repeats it twice. Obama's statement that "What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally" is not simply a prediction but a prescription. Similar statements by Secretary of State John Kerry in recent months have given European governments and industry the license to begin quietly exploring ways to boycott Israeli industries and corporations, arguably as part of an American strategy to pressure Israel during negotiations. A statement by the US president [is] paradigmatic. This alone is a momentous policy shift.

[T]hese and other fiascos will prompt Obama to redouble pressure on Israel, particularly by unleashing Europeans, not for the sake of a rare policy success – which Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas has repeatedly assured will not be forthcoming. It will be to punish a vassal state and a domestic minority that refuse to comply fully and cheerfully.
[The Times of Israel]

Netanyahu's inaction to Obama Provocation sends powerful message
-Jonathan Tobin

The last time President Obama ambushed Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Israeli gave as good as he got. This time he turned the other cheek.
The reason for this turnabout by the normally combative prime minister tells us everything we need to know about the relative strength of the positions of these two leaders.

While the assumption on the part of most pundits was that Obama has Netanyahu in a corner, the latter's reaction to the assault the president launched at him in an interview with Bloomberg's Jeffrey Goldberg this past weekend shows us this isn't true. Though Netanyahu had to be infuriated by the president's single-minded determination to blame Israel for the lack of peace as well as his obtuse praise for Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, he felt no need to publicly respond to it.

Far from feeling threatened by Obama's tirade, Netanyahu's decision to ignore the president's attack shows that he understands the dynamics of both the peace process and U.S. foreign policy actually give him the upper hand over the weak and increasingly out-of-touch lame duck in the White House.

Netanyahu's seeming dismissal of this broadside shows that Obama is not in as strong a position vis-à-vis Netanyahu as he thinks. Netanyahu chose to ignore the president's slights. There were no public or even off-the-record remarks from his party expressing anger. And in his speech to AIPAC , Netanyahu barely mentioned the president.

It's likely that Israel's future participation in Kerry's talks will be cited by some in this group as evidence that Obama's spanking of the prime minister worked. But this is nonsense. Given that Israel had already signaled that it will accept Kerry's framework for more talks, that explanation won't hold water.
A better reason for Netanyahu's decision to turn the other cheek is that, unlike the president, the prime minister has been paying attention to the currents currently roiling Palestinian politics and knows that Abbas' inability to rally his people behind a peace agreement renders any potential U.S.-Israeli arguments moot.

Far from needing to defend himself on the American stage as he felt it important to do in 2011, Netanyahu now understands that forbearance is the best way to respond to Obama's provocations. Try as [Obama] might, to put the onus for the lack of peace on the Jewish state, Netanyahu knows it will always be the Palestinians who say "no" to peace, not the Israelis.

Similarly, as much as he must have been itching to directly take on Obama's appeasement of Tehran, Netanyahu realizes that it is Iran's lust for a nuclear weapon that will do more to undermine the administration's negotiating tactics than anything he can say.
[Jewish World Review]


The End of the 'Wrong Side of History' -Jonathan Spyer

Israelis remember that they buried 1,100 of their own citizens in the period 2000-2005 because of a mis-reading of history and the consequent placing of trust in an enemy committed to their demise. They will be unlikely to rush to repeat the experiment. The waving of the bogeyman of increasing isolation will not induce them to do so.
[PJ Media]

The Fantasy Middle East - Jeff Jacoby

In the fantasy Middle East there is a robust Palestinian peace camp eager for a two-state solution. In the real Middle East, the real Mahmoud Abbas spurned Israel's offer of a Palestinian state in 2008, then refused for years to take part in talks with Israel, confident that Washington would pressure Israel into making more concessions. Yet instead of negotiating in good faith at last, Abbas wants still more up-front concessions, a demand he repeated on Monday.

What drives the conflict is not a hunger for Palestinian statehood, but a deep-rooted rejection of Jewish statehood. Palestinian leaders heatedly insist that they will never agree to any such thing. 
(Boston Globe)

No, Israel Is Not Doomed - David Harsanyi

President Obama['s]
posture is confusing when we consider that nearly all reports indicate it is Mahmoud Abbas' stubbornness that's slowed down the process toward a deal. 
(The Federalist)


LHwrites said...

Over the last 15 years or so, the Western World has slowly turned more against Israel and more towards believing that the Palestinians are oppressed. There are several reasons for this, some of which include the misguided belief that somehow Israel is stronger and more modern so should be able to fix this, the de-legitimizing of Israel's number one ally, America, through our invasion of sovereign Iraq with a web of deceit and our empowering Iran through destabilizing the region. We are not seen as friendly to anyone in the region but Israel, and though Obama has tried to fix that to some extent, his necessary drone war against terrorism undercuts his credibility in this area. We are seen as fearful of Islam, and thanks to our previous invasion, and the rhetoric of our ignorant Congress, we are seen as enemies of the Arab world. The U.S. has not turned its back on Israel, nor has the Obama administration, but there is a situation that needs to be acknowledged. The U.S. cannot make other free nations unite behind their beliefs anymore, because we have sorely tested the credulity of the free world in the recent past. It is why Russia laughs at us when we complain about Crimea. Not because Obama is weak but because we have invaded nations much farther from our borders for much less pretense. Our actions in Iraq have hurt Israel and empowered Iran. Those who complain that Obama isn't a good enough friend to Israel, should have been complaining while we destabilized the MidEast and fabricated false justifications for our military actions. Those who did not mind what we did in the MidEast have a lot of nerve complaining that Obama couldn't walk in and fix everything they screwed up.

Bruce said...

I would be one of those who complain that President Obama is hostile to Israel. I stand with Senator Menendez [D-NJ] who, at AIPAC a few days ago, admitted publicly that he was cowed into taking a position he saw as wrongheaded. As long as Obama is leading the Dem party, Israel will have to outmaneuver him.