September 21, 2011

Look who's keeping Obama from helping Israel

If a tree falls in a forest and the Prime Minister of Israel doesn't complain, is it still anti-Israel?

It's hard not to be struck by the spectacle of American and Israeli politicians undermining Obama -- even as he's trying to avert UN recognition of the Palestinian state -- on the grounds that he's undermining Israel. The main evidence of the President's animus towards Israel seems to be statements from the Prime Minister and his circle, and from mostly partisan Republicans seeking electoral advantage. On substance, the President has mostly been doing Israel's bidding (I blogged some examples last year).

Even as President Obama is lobbying European governments and the Palestinian leadership against a unilateral declaration of an independent state, there are Republicans -- Jews and gentiles -- amplifying their critique of the President's Middle East policies, especially with respect to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

To my knowledge, neither President Obama nor his associates have ever publicly complained about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's commitment to the peace process, though he has called on him to take steps that would help resume direct talks enhance Israel's credibility among the same European governments Obama is now lobbying on Israel's behalf.

Those from either country who repeatedly decry Obama's "hostility" toward Netanyahu are the most to blame for any international perception that America does not stand squarely behind Israel. For example, what if Netanyahu had swallowed his ego last spring and welcomed Obama's strong call for direct negotiations based on the pre-1967 lines, with agreed land swaps, instead of blasting the President's speech?

Love him or hate him, the President of the United States is... the President of the United States. Can one ask for a better lobbyist before the nations of the world, under any circumstances? Does it help to have hardliners calling on him to do what he's already doing, and distracting the media?

If Netanyahu ever gets his "wish" in a substantive way, he may regret having pushed those buttons so often. But at least, he'll probably still be Prime Minister.

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