There is much to be said about Bloomberg Columnist Jeffrey Goldberg’s recent report on President Obama’s current attitude towards Israel, where he claimed that the President believes that ‘Israel doesn’t know what its best interests are.’
“With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation,” wrote Goldberg.
The timing of the release of this information, has led some to believe that the leak amounted to a deliberate attempt by the President to influence the outcome of Israel’s election this week. If this was his intention, he failed dismally.
While Goldberg’s portrayal of the President paints a picture of a reflector in chief, who is surmising over his experiences, the truth is that the release of this information amounted to nothing less than a thinly veiled threat.
President Obama is no observer. When it comes to Israel’s place in the world, his comments aren’t mere pontification or thesis. Obama is the President of the United States and his assessments often influence reality.
Obama’s message to the Israeli public was simple: Either elect someone that will fall in line with my dictates or you will be alone in the world.
Of course, the President is aware that Israel knows what its interests are. His problem is that Israel knows too well what they are, and they are not what the President wants from Israel.
Obama’s expressed indifference in Goldberg’s article, means that after being ‘shot’ earlier in his term, he no longer wishes to be the messenger. He won’t be the bad guy, but he will let the United Nations hang, draw and quarter the Jewish state without lifting a finger.
Sure, he didn’t vote for the recent Palestinian Authority upgrade, but he didn’t make much of an effort to stop the diplomatic lynching of Israel perpetrated by Europe and others. The PA’s efforts were successful now, as opposed to in the past, for this very reason. The United States failed to create an incentive for countries to make the right moral choice by opposing the unilateral action.
Media pundits have hailed the Israeli election as a shift to the center Left, a weakening of Netanyahu’s position, but here is the truth: On security issues, Israel moved rightward, and Obama proved toxic for any politician that dared associate with him. Israel emphatically rejected the American President’s ultimatum.
The big election winner was political newbie Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, who’s focus has been primarily on internal Israeli affairs. Lapid has been lumped in with the Israel’s Left by many commentators. On security issues however, he is as close to a centrist as you can get. A contrast between his positions and Netanyahu’s can be drawn only on semantics and style.
While his general approach to the issues is likely to be less confrontational than Netanyahu’s, Lapid wants Israel to maintain control of large settlement blocs even some outside of Jerusalem, including Ariel where he launched his campaign. He is in favor of building within existing settlements to support natural growth, as is Netanyahu. Lapid wants Jerusalem to remain the undivided capital of the Jewish people, and he would not likely agree to the current PA preconditions for entering into talks with Israel. He also has a solid right wing voting base. Polling analysis shows that about 35% of his electorate were formerly backers of Avigdor Lieberman, who the international press is fond of describing as ultra-hawkish. On the Iranian nuclear threat, he seems to be closely aligned with Netanyahu as well. Obama on the other hand has essentially adopted the Arab position on settlements and his administration convulses every time expansion plans for the greater Jerusalem blocs of Maale Adumim or Givat Ze’ev are announced.
Those parties, specifically Labor and Hatnuah, that aligned themselves with Obama’s threat of international isolation, were punished severely by voters. Both tallied disappointing results.
In the Knesset, Obama’s positions on security, the Palestinians, the Peace Process and Iran are now represented by a relatively small bloc, and an even smaller one of Israeli Jews.
Israel’s response to the President’s threat was loud and clear. Firstly, it’s not all about you, and secondly, on matters that relate to our security, only we will decide what our best interests are.