Anne Bayefsky is a professor at Touro College and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. She has forwarded us this condensed version of a longer piece posted here on the Jerusalem Post Web site, commenting on President Obama’s meeting with a select Jewish audience this past Monday:
Barack Obama is the most hostile sitting American president in the history of the State of Israel.
This was the very first meeting with Jewish community leaders. Earlier requests for an audience with major Jewish organizations had reportedly been ignored. Six months after taking office, the president finally got around to issuing an invitation – to stop the bleeding.
The meeting, however, did not showcase the president’s trademark engagement and dialogue routine. Instead, he cherry-picked his Jewish audience to include pro-Obama newcomers with little support in the mainstream Jewish world, such as J Street, while blackballing the Zionist Organization of America. This is a president willing to engage Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad but not ZOA President Mort Klein.
The White House did its best to keep a lid on the meeting, refusing to make it public until leaked, demanding strict confidentiality and going mum after the fact. But there is no papering over the distressing reality.
The president told his listeners that he preferred putting daylight between the US and Israel on the grounds that “no progress was made over the last eight years without it.” Evidently, unilateral disengagement of 21 settlements and 9,000 people from Gaza counts for nothing. And the Palestinians are more likely to end hate and violence if the US applies more pressure to their victims.
Even if Obama doesn’t get it, Mahmoud Abbas does. He is now refusing to negotiate anything with the new Israeli government until President Obama’s settlement conditions are met.
During the meeting, the president repeatedly described his new policy in terms of one of Yasser Arafat’s favorite mantras, “even-handedness.” That’s diplotalk for moral equivalence between Israel’s six-decade fight for survival and keeping Palestinians in limbo for three generations pending Israel’s destruction.
The president promoted his strategy of putting hard public “pressure” on Israel as a means to build more credibility with Arab states. He must have meant the kind of credibility that comes from his policy of leaving an “open door” to Iran after its discredited election.
The president joked that Al-Jazeera often airs pictures of him wearing a yarmulke at the Western Wall. Except the photo-op during the election campaign had been intended to fool a Jewish audience that is no longer amused.
Reports also quote the president as claiming Israel has yet to “engage in serious self-reflection.” Considering Israel is a democratic country forced to send all of its children into the armed forces for two to three years, and its men into reserve duty for another twenty-five, that isn’t the audacity of hope. It’s just plain audacity.
There is no doubt that the pressure on Israel from the Obama administration is going to get a lot worse, as the president told the group that “there is a narrow window of opportunity for advancing the peace process.”
Everyone understood the threat. The narrow window is Obama’s self-defined political ambitions that bear no relationship to the realities of the Middle East – or to the welfare of either Israel or the US.
The Israeli press reports here and here today that Prime Minister Netanyahu has declined to follow Obama’s order to cease construction of a housing project in east Jerusalem. Bill Kristol’s unamused comment on Obama’s instruction that Israel engage in self-reflection is here. I think it’s fair to say at the least that the Israelis are the unwilling beneficiaries of the chutzpah of hope.