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November 11, 2013 10:20 am

The Obama Administration is Spineless in the Middle East

avatar by Ben Cohen /

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on April 9, 2013. Kerry has made seven trips to the Middle East this year to push U.S.-brokered Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations. Photo: U.S. Department of State. – Here, in a nutshell, are the principles driving the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy. Screw the Syrians. Don’t upset the Iranians. And stop those damn Israelis from wrecking Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations.

We are coming to the end of year marked by shameful climb-downs in the face of our enemies and utterly unreasonable demands made of our allies. In Syria, Obama temporarily toyed with the idea of launching air strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, before being seduced by a Russian proposal to have that same regime dismantle its own weapons of mass destruction. There were lots of good reasons to attack Assad, for example his military reliance on the Iranian regime and the terrorists of Hezbollah, as well as the moral imperative of combating the sheer evil of chemical weapons, but Obama, buoyed by isolationists on right and left, placed his faith in Vladimir Putin instead.

On Iran, the Geneva talks bringing together the mullahs and the P5+1 (the five members of the U.N. Security Council along with Germany) are a massive boost to the faux moderates around President Hassan Rouhani. The whole spectacle, frankly, was pathetic: as Iranian state television aired a video which depicted an imaginary missile strike against Israeli cities like Tel Aviv and Dimona, western negotiators were busily figuring out how to ease the sanctions on the Iranian regime.

But it’s on the front of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that this Administration’s lack of backbone really shines through. Step forward Secretary of State John Kerry, who had the temerity to visit Israel this week in order to lecture Israeli voters about their government’s supposed lack of commitment to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

It’s worth revisiting what Kerry said. “If we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel and an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel,” Kerry declared in a joint interview with Israeli and Palestinian broadcasters. “If we don’t end the presence of Israeli soldiers perpetually within the West Bank, then there will be an increasing feeling that if we cannot get peace with a leadership that is committed to non-violence, you may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”

This is such arrant nonsense that it’s hard to know where to begin. For one thing, it’s news to me that the Palestinian leadership is committed to non-violence. Hamas, which rules Gaza and is absolutely a part of the fractured Palestinian leadership, is not only committed to violence, but to violence with the sole purpose of destroying Israel. As for Mahmoud Abbas and the PA, they continue to glorify violence in their statements, refuse to abandon the so-called “right of return,” and are actively fanning conspiracy theories around the death of Yasser Arafat, perhaps in order to trigger a third intifada that Kerry says Israelis should be worried about.

Even more absurdly offensive is the idea that Israeli policies are to blame for the delegitimization campaign against Israel. Yes, Mr. Secretary, if only the Israelis would dismantle West Bank settlements, everything would be fine and dandy. Never mind the century-old Arab war against the Zionist movement. Never mind that these same Arab countries gave refuge to Nazi war criminals while promoting Holocaust denial and ethnically cleansing their own Jewish populations. Never mind that the efforts of your predecessors to deliver a solution were routinely frustrated by the Palestinian refusal to concede that Israel has a legal and moral right to live in peace.

Kerry’s statements remind me of a famous poem by Bertholt Brecht, entitled “Die Lösung” (“The Solution”). In it, Brecht sarcastically asked the communist leaders of East Germany, given their disappointment that the people “had forfeited the confidence of the government,” whether they should “dissolve the people and elect another?” In Kerry’s view, the Israelis are stubbornly refusing to accept his version of reality, and therefore they must either change accordingly or accept what’s coming to them.

There’s another, more persuasive version of reality out there. A recent poll conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute reveals that 73 percent of Israelis do not believe Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations will lead to peace. Another poll, conducted among Palestinians by Arab World for Research and Development, shows that 40 percent of residents in both the West Bank and Gaza don’t feel their leadership has given them sufficient information about the current round of negotiations.

If the Obama Administration had any courage, it would use these sobering statistics as the starting point of its approach. But as we know only too well, it doesn’t, and that’s why its increasingly bitter entreaties are doomed to fail.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for His writings on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics have been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the New York Post, Ha’aretz, Mosaic, and many other publications.

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  • Yale

    Much of the todo about what Kerry is saying now is part of an effort to avoid facing up to something many Jews/Liberals still can’t get themselves to admit, even to themselves:

    Essentially everything Obama has done has been wrong, except when he chose to continue policies initiated by George Bush that he ran against.

    For Liberals to admit that Obama has been consistently wrong, while Bush was often right, would be to admit to a level of political illiteracy that their egos cannot tolerate. This is the only reason Obama’s popular support has not found itself within the margin of error of zero. If Democrats came to understand this, and internalized it, they would join their Republican colleagues in facing down Obama.

    This makes election 2014 perhaps the most critical one since that of 1860. If Republicans win control of both houses, further malfeasance by Obama would likely lead to his impeachment, and probable removal, with race riots to follow. If Democrats control one or more houses in Congress and continue to rubber stamp whatever Obama wants, then there may not be an election 2016. If Democrats are prepared to recognize Obama for what he is, a would-be dictator, and then stand up to him, then just maybe our government will turn back to doing what it is supposed to be doing.

    For those who reject out of hand the notion that Obama wishes to be a dictator, what do you think he meant when he campaigned with a promise to transform America so it is no longer recognizable?

  • Luigi Rosolin

    The civil war of Syria is ethnic-religious (Rebels Islamic extremist control) and government regime of Bashar al-Assad control by Iran-Saudi Arabia and oil interest.
    Iran is control by a regime that is religious: Islamic ideology, which promoting imposition of Islam to all and will use any nuclear capacity to eliminate Israel -Jews and the western free world soon they can.
    Obama father was Muslim and he is a false Christian that is facilitating Islam takes over.
    Israel cannot trust Obama and his administration.
    Palestinian peace talk and Iran one: are smoke in the eyes, as the ideology behind is contradicting the lies of false peace.
    Remember that Muslim is allowed to lies to fulfil their credo and does not even exist in the culture morality as western term value.

    • Tomm

      What part of Kerry, representing the United States of America, threatening the Democratic country of Israel with violence against their citizens and property, do you not understand?
      He did not call upon the perpetrators to exhibit restraint.
      He not caution that violence was not the solution an was unacceptable to the American people.
      He did not acknowledge that Religious intolerance was in violation of the Mandate for Palestine and was the underlying cause of all of these conflicts.
      He threatened violence if Israel did not yield.

  • BM

    You may think that pointing out that Kerry is wearing a distinctly poor example of the wigmakers art is hardly worthy of this weighty discussion on his performance – but just think how he would come across if he took it off!
    “Bring on the clowns”…”they’re already here”.

  • Fred

    Obama & Kerry & Co. have taken over from Chamberlain
    the slogan “Peace in our time” . While betraying Israel.

  • There is only one thing to understand about Iran as long as it is an Islamic republic, run by apocalyptic zanies under the spell of the Mahdi fantasy, and that is that it can never be allowed to get nukes, else unimaginable horror will surely follow. Too bad, while Pres. Obama promised that it will never happen on his watch, he didn’t say he’d prevent it from happening on the next watch, by doing nothing for 8 years. Not the U.S. but poor outnumbered surrounded Israel faces extinction if it doesn’t do what the U.S. won’t. Iran probably will never face extinction like Israel does, hence who cares about world opinion, GO ISRAEL.

    I too am under the spell of a fantasy, and am not afraid to admit it. I see the world a thousand years from now, and it has a thriving Jewish state of Israel, and the Muslim World is KAPUT.

    • Joshua

      Well said.

  • yussi

    Kerry is not the VP but rather the sec of state and a spineless one at that. Its always easier to blame Israel and Jews for all that is wrong rather than confront the fanatical arabs who are wreaking terror and violence on the entire western world.Who shoots rockets,who bombs buses,schools,railroad stations,airports,planes,cars and civilian areas ON PURPOSE??? It aint Jews Kerry! Wake up and smell the Heinz catsup,grow a pair and deal from power not weakness.Set them straight once and for all and stop using Jews as a foil.Oh and tell the President the same thing. I supported him and am now very sorry I did.

  • Dov

    There is really only one solution and it is our vote. We are democrats and always voted democrat. I say, enough is enough. Lets turn this one time to Republicans. 2014 an onwards, lets vote republican. Going with democrats means a knife in our back. They hate us! r

    • yussi

      You yield too broad a brush. Most dems are with us and most reps are not. Dont be fooled…Sort out the candidates and vote for the person,NOT THE PARTY>.

      • Vern Trotter

        As a 74 year old Republican, I do not know any in my party who do not firmly back Israel. You are mistaken when you say “Most Reps are not!”

        • Ray in Seattle

          I agree with you Vern. I will be voting for several Republicans this time around.

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s ill-advised comments prove he has no genuine understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Obama Administration’s appeasement policy with Iran is destabilizing the region. Israel will be forced to act alone to defend herself. And the first Mid-East regional war in over forty years will occur because of weak American leadership.

  • Obama, in 2008, said “will never confront Islam”. He has followed through in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Libya, Palestinians, Gaza.
    He has bowed to Russia, China, the shared Nuclear Weapons Development quartet Iran-Pakistan-NKorea-Russia.
    Obama/Clinton, now Kerry, has Isolated Israel and have abandoned all of America’s friends, including my country, Canada.
    Guy Uddenberg, a strong friend of Israel.

  • Steven Korbin

    “SPINE-less?” I can think of another kind of “less” that is both more appropos AND accurate. Rhymes with “thick.”

  • Rick Brandt

    I give my vote to Israel to defend the free world by stoping the Iranian nuclear program. Since America is weekened its moral position. It seems Vice President Karry wants to follow in Chamberlans shoes. Remember when America faiked to help Belgium, Poland and others when Germany invaded them.

    • Sonia Willats

      But this time America, via Kerry is courting nuclear conflagration in the Middle East, whilst egging on the Palastinians. Is this – can it possibly be- gross ineptitude, or something more sinister?

      Do Ashton, Kerry etc. not watch Iran’s simulation of the attack on Israel? Of course they do!

      I came to the conclusion a while ago that the world is standing on its head!