The White House is contending that Barack Obama’s first visit to Israel as president underlines his administration’s commitment to Israel’s security.
Rarely, however, has the style and symbolism of a political maneuver been more distant from the underlying substance. Obama has consistently demonstrated, both in his rhetoric and policies, that of all US presidents since 1948, he is the most hostile to Israel. Now safely reelected, he travels to Israel on his terms, with no potential domestic political downsides for saying things he knows Israelis (and most Americans) don’t want to hear.
Obama will have two basic messages, one relating to the Palestinians and the other to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In both Israel and the United States, the media and the political classes will likely focus on the Palestinian question, but in truth, the Iran message will be the more chilling and potentially dangerous.
In his 2009 UN General Assembly speech, Obama demonstrated what he thinks of Israel’s need for secure borders: he couldn’t care less. In that speech, Obama supported a Palestinian state with contiguous territory that “ends the occupation that began in 1967.” In subsequent speeches, he referred to the “1967 borders with agreed upon swaps” as his preferred outcome for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.Such a conclusion would inevitably leave Israel perpetually at risk of attack from “Palestine” and its radical allies.
And on the larger question – ‘what kind of Palestinian state will exist within whatever borders are eventually delineated?’, Obama’s overall Middle Eastern policy shows he is essentially indifferent .How else can one explain his repeated references to al-Qaida being “on the road to defeat,” including just five days before Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three of his colleagues were killed in Benghazi? How else can one explain Obama’s comfort with a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, despite President Mohamed Morsi’s repeated anti-Semitic remarks, and his repeated intimations (or worse) that the Camp David accords should be abrogated? Since, in Obama’s view, the global war on terror is essentially over, why should Israel worry?
But while the media and politicians obsess about lines being drawn on the West Bank, the tougher, potentially mortal message will be Obama’s insistence that Israel not use preemptive military force against Iran’s extensive and growing nuclear infrastructure. In reality, the existential threat to Israel posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program puts the Palestinian issue into the proper perspective. And despite extensive administration bluster about “keeping all options on the table,” the chances of Obama actually using force against Iran’s nuclear program are as close to absolute zero as one can get except in outer space. He wants to reduce Israel’s odds of using force to the same level, and that is his trip’s highest priority. So here’s the real message to Israelis from Americans: Whatever our religious backgrounds, we do not agree with Obama’s views on Israel or the Middle East. So, be polite and respectful to the leader of the free world, but don’t confuse what Obama says with what the American people actually believe.
This article was originally published by the Jerusalem Post.