Accept No Substitutes
Days after the “groundbreaking” and “uncompromisingly pro-Israel” speech in the United Nations, the new White House tactic for dealing with the Israeli problem is rapidly becoming clear. A year and a bit before the elections, Obama himself will no longer lend the presidential teleprompter to pronouncements that could boomerang back in Republican attack ads. From now on, putting the squeeze on the Israeli government will be delegated to the cabinet level. The message stays the same, but the president will be insulated from its political consequences – that is, of course, if the supporters of the Jewish state are too gullible to notice the hand behind the puppet.
Back in 2009, the outraged rebuke of the dastardly Israeli attempt to increase a long-established Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem by less than 10 percent would definitely find its way into yet another presidential sermon to Jews. Now, it is up to Hillary Clinton to declare that residential construction in the area that, according to the infamous “Clinton parameters”, should remain Jewish forever, is undermining the trust between the parties. In essence, after the Palestinians had proven that they are perfectly determined to upend the whole cart of the Oslo process, Israel is still required “to avoid any kind of action that can be viewed as provocative” – by the Palestinians!
(At the risk of stating the obvious, it is still worthwhile to point out that any “trust” that Israelis harbored towards the Palestinians was shattered a decade ago, when, amongst other atrocities and war crimes, Fatah’s gunmen habitually shelled and shot up the houses of Gilo. Today, many of those war criminals are safely ensconced within the Palestinian “security forces”, paid for and trained by the American taxpayer.)
Isolated incident, you say? More like a full-court press. On his way to Israel, the Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made certain that each and every news outlet in the world (especially in Israel) knows that the Israeli government is to blame for the increasing isolation of the Jewish state in the region. According to the New York Times, a day after the Israeli government accepted the statement of the Quartet with the (blatantly unreal) timetable for the negotiations, Panetta made public “his” demand for Jerusalem not only to restart talks with the Palestinians, but also to “restore relations with Egypt and Turkey.” One can almost assume that the Israeli gunmen crossed the border to kill innocent Egyptian civilians, or it was the frenzied Jewish mob that stormed the Egyptian embassy under the indifferent gaze of the police.
It would of course be too much to expect from the Obama administration to admit that its own policies and behavior made Israel less secure. It took almost half a year since the overthrow of Mubarak for Washington to start mentioning the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel as something that America truly cares for. By then, the Egyptian mob, fed on a steady diet of traditional anti-Semitism and “Israeli massacres” and conditioned to believe that Camp-David accords were a huge concession to the Zionist enemy, had come to believe that, when the newly-liberated Egyptian people will exact their righteous retribution on the Jews, America will not get involved. We should not begrudge Obama’s fans their attempt to present the president’s involvement in the rescue of the Israeli diplomats as something heroic instead of routine and expected; we must, however, ask them how such a rescue (and the terrorism at Sinai, and the regular threats against Israel by all and sundry presidential candidates, and the constant promises to “amend” the treaty with Israel) had had to occur in the first place.
If Egypt is an example of mismanagement, Turkey increasingly looks like another case of presidential outsourcing of the same task, bringing the Israeli government to heel. During the General Assembly, Obama had met the Turkish pyromaniac-in-chief and could have used the opportunity and the venue to “encourage” Erdogan to obey the findings and recommendations of the Palmer commission whose creation America supported and in which Turkey was an equal participant. Using the cover of the Palestinian dust-up, Obama did nothing of the sort. In what has become a pattern in the meetings between the leader of the free world and his favorite Islamist demagogue, Israel or the Palmer report weren’t mentioned by Obama before or after the meeting. In fact, Obama had conspired with Erdogan to throw the UN report that vindicated the Israeli naval blockade against the regime of jihadist war criminals down the memory hole.
Small wonder that the Turkish prime minister came out of the meeting fully convinced that in his Cold War on Israel, he has America in his corner? Erdogan then attacked Obama at the UN – twice, he threatened Israel, Cyprus, Greece, his chief of intelligence flies to Tehran to assure Iranians that the new American radar will not be used in defense of the Jews – and yet America is happy to welcome him into an “antiterrorism” forum and to provide him with attack helicopters and Predator UAV’s to kill Kurds. In return, regime-friendly Turkish newspaper “Zaman” is threatening American Jews with retribution if they dare to oppose the Obama-Erdogan alliance and to inconvenience Turkey in any way on such subjects as Israel, Kurds, illegal occupation and colonization of Cyprus and, of course, the Armenian genocide.
And now, courtesy of Secretary Panetta, we know that Erdogan is not wrong. It is Israel that must “work to restore relations” with Turkey, not, say, Turkey that must accept the fact that Israeli naval blockade of the Hamas emirate is perfectly legal. One does not need a vivid imagination to interpret Panetta’s statement as a warning – while American military support for Israel cannot be undone, Obama will intervene diplomatically on Israel’s behalf only when he either has no other choice or there’s an immediate political gain to derive. But hey, it’s not Obama talking, right?
But the most egregious example of this “insulation” tactic came during the little chat Vice-President Biden gave to Florida rabbis before the Jewish New Year, when he explained to them that Jonathan Pollard, who’d broke every record of comparable incarceration, will be released “on his [Biden’s] dead body”. We don’t know how this august audience of the Jewish spiritual leaders has reacted to that display of callous brutality from the second highest executive official in the American government (one rabbi quoted by the NYT claimed that Biden “said everything I wanted to say”, but one wishes to hope that not everyone in the meeting had the same craving to see Pollard die behind bars). Funny enough, the local newspaper reporting on the meeting chose to edit the whole Pollard thingy out of the printed reality, and so it was from the Times that we learned that the Vice President considers Florida rabbis as a) people who confuse insult with honesty and b) extremely susceptible to a most transparent shell game ever.
So this is how it is going to be until November 2012 at least – unless the new crisis strikes, President Obama will steer clear from addressing his Israeli problem directly. His supporters will rely on the Israeli Prime Minister to provide quotations that can be used to buttress Obama’s new image as Israel’s defender (while bashing the same Prime Minister behind the scenes as an untrustworthy obstacle for peace and a main culprit in Israel’s regional problems). His substitutes will meanwhile pursue the same policies, make the same statements and point the same fingers. His foreign partners – from Erdogan to Angela Merkel – will be encouraged to push Israel further into a corner. Palestinians, led in Gaza by genocidal war criminals and in Ramallah by a Holocaust-denier, will grow ever more convinced in their impunity. After the speech in the UN, former mayor of New York Ed Koch proclaimed himself a reinvigorated supporter of Obama, because of Israel and evolution. In the end, the evolution might just have to suffice.