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November 6, 2012 10:29 am

Dear Pro-Israel Voters, Obama Is No Peacemaker

avatar by Arik Elman


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama at a previous occasion. Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak.

When Americans head to the polls to elect their President, those of them who care about Israel strongly enough to let the future of the Jewish state influence their political choices will divide in two groups. Liberals will try to convince themselves that Barack Obama was a good friend of Israel where it counts – he spearheaded an unprecedented campaign of international sanctions against Iran, shielded Israel from criticism at the UN and gave lots of American money to Israeli missile defense programs. Conservatives will see his animosity towards the elected Israeli government, his refusal to recognize any part of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and his failure to comprehend the use of force against Iran (the news that, apparently, Obama’s confidante Valerie Jarrett is negotiating with Tehran’s merry gang of fanatics behind Israel’s back will  not improve matters).

Critics from the Right, both in Israel and the United States, had done a pretty good job deconstructing the Democratic “Obama is pro-Israel” argument. They’ve pointed out that Obama and his team are to blame for laying down those anti-Israeli mines at the UN and other international institutions, which they are now claiming credit for defusing. The issue of the settlement freeze, the September 2011 deadline for a final agreement between Israel and Palestinians, the “1967 borders” – all those came from the White House, not from the Arab League or European Union. The behavior of the administration in the aftermath of the “Mavi Marmara” incident was even more deplorable – far from being supportive of Israel, the President’s men demanded concessions from Jerusalem, failed to enforce the recommendations of the impartial UN-sponsored Palmer Report and placed Obama squarely at Turkish Islamist Recep Erdogan’s side in his propaganda jihad against Israel. Were it not for endless public expressions of presidential support from the US, Erdogan would not go so far as to stage ridiculous “trials in absentia” for Israeli political and military leaders.

The amount of military aid given to Israel by the Obama administration is impressive, yet it reflects not so much a true commitment to Israeli national interests as Israeli elected leaders understand them, but a classic Liberal approach of throwing money at a problem. The situation in the Israeli South is a clear example of this practice. True, the “Iron Dome” – short-range missile defense system which Obama touts as a symbol of his determination to ensure Israeli security – is a remarkable technological achievement. But, as the weary citizens of Israeli towns and villages in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip can attest, it is not a “magic bullet” and its deterrent capabilities were, shall we say, greatly exaggerated (unlike its costs). It is ironic that President Obama felt it necessary to mention his visit to Sderot during the foreign policy debate, yet the most celebrated product of his security cooperation with Israel can’t protect Sderot and the kibbutzim on the Gaza border. Even in the areas where the use of “Iron Dome” brings success, the military, mindful of the fact that the system is not perfect, still force the civilians to seek shelter during the rocket attacks. As a result, the peaceful life of a million Israelis continues to be disrupted by sirens and running for cover, with all psychological trauma that implies.

But if the Israeli government wishes to achieve a more proactive solution to the problem and destroy the terrorists in Gaza, does President Obama have Jerusalem’s back? Not really – after all, it was Obama himself, together with Secretary of State Clinton, who made Egypt safe for the Muslim Brotherhood, of which the Palestinian Hamas is but one offshoot. Having successfully and mindlessly pushed first Hosni Mubarak and then the generals out of power, this administration is now worried that any Israeli action against terrorists in Gaza along the lines of “Operation Cast Lead” of 2009 will ignite the crisis powder keg with a new Islamist Egypt. Obviously, since the Brotherhood has no intention of ever giving up on its ideology of Jihad against the Jews, this keg will explode anyway as soon as Morsi and his cohorts run the Egyptian economy into the ground and start seeking an external enemy to divert public attention.

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As for the Iranian issue, even American Jewish liberals must concede that the sanctions came about not because of incredible diplomatic prowess from Obama and Clinton, but because of the alternative, eloquently articulated time and again by the Israeli Prime Minister. The prospect of an Israeli preventive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities was so frightening that the Europeans, the Chinese and even the Russians have chosen to oblige the Jews and the Americans. It is, of course, self-evident that, in order to expect any concessions from Iran at the negotiating table, Obama needs to keep a credible military threat close to the ayatollahs’ noses. Instead, the President has proceeded to do just the opposite. Not only does his propaganda accuse Mitt Romney of being a trigger-happy warmonger, implying that no new war in the Middle East should be expected in the event of Obama’s reelection – his surrogates in the press even claimed credit for the postponement of an Israeli attack. No wonder that a total majority of Israeli Jews told pollsters that Obama can’t be trusted with stopping Iran from getting nukes.

But even if Obama goes back to the UN to ask either for new round of sanctions or authorization to use force, his international consensus has long since evaporated. The famous “Russian reset”, advertised by Obamaites as a wise alternative to the posturing of President Bush, began unraveling even before Libya, but the cavalier American approach to the limited UN mandate for humanitarian intervention and the subsequent failure to take into any consideration substantial Russian financial and strategic interests in the former Jamahiriya, aroused the traditional Moscow paranoia. Now, as the Syrian tragedy shows, President Putin is prepared to weather a superstorm of international criticism over a slaughter many times more gruesome than anything done by Gaddafi, and not to give in to any American initiatives at the UN. If Obama ever considers using force against Iran, he can forget about any “international authorization” – he’ll have to go it alone, just like President Bush in Iraq.

But the most glaring failure of Obama’s policies in the Middle East has nothing to do with those minor irritants. It is directly related to the cause American liberals, especially Jewish ones, consider the most important – that is, creation of a Palestinian state. Put yourself in the shoes of such liberals, and it is hard to comprehend how, after four years of Obama, the chance for peace between Israelis and the Palestinians is inestimably lower than it was when George W. Bush left office.

Bush bequeathed to Obama a functioning peace process which was temporarily halted by warfare in Gaza and elections in Israel. Yet, instead of acting to resume the direct negotiations as quickly as possible, getting the perspective of possible concessions from both parties and then moving to close the deal through direct Presidential involvement, Obama chose to spend the formative first months of his term “putting daylight” between the United States and Israel, giving speeches on the greatness of Islam, making new and unilateral demands on Palestinians’ behalf and sending George Mitchell to Ramallah and Jerusalem without any coherent brief or authority.

Instead of doing what comes easy to them – blaming Israel  – American liberals should recognize a simple truth. While Mitt Romney openly expresses his doubts about the possibility of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obama keeps talking about how “Palestinians deserve their own state”. Leaving aside the obvious question – why Palestinians deserve a state, but Kurds don’t – it is now clear that the President and his team never really believed in peace and only sought to leverage a public spat with Israel into a rapprochement with the Arab and Muslim world. We know now how well that turned out.

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