Israel is an American ally and therefore subject to the same shabby treatment accorded other prominent American allies by the Obama administration. But there is something distinctive about the shabby treatment accorded Israel by Obama. I offer six related hypotheses in the spirit of inquiry.
First, Obama doesn’t like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Among other things, Obama would prefer to deal with another Israeli leader who would be more pliable on issues of Israeli national security. He feels free to treat Netanyahu with extraordinary hostility.
Second, Obama — how shall we say it? — also really doesn’t like Israel very much. He conceives of it as a Western outpost superimposed over a native Arab population to right a historical wrong. He does not acknowledge the deep historical roots of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. He seems to buy the Arab narrative regarding Israel.
Third, Obama simply doesn’t assent to the strategic interest of the United States in Israel. He’s not particularly big on the defense of the United States to begin with.
Fourth, Obama conceives of Israel as a strategic detriment to the United States. Unlike most of the other American allies toward which Obama is hostile, in Obama’s eyes, Israel is an inconvenient ally. It is an impediment to his grand vision of a post-American world.
Fifth, Obama thinks that he could befriend the Arab/Muslim world if only a Palestinian state were to be created. Of course, he also needs to wean Americans from the perception that Islam is associated with jihadi terrorism, but that too would be easier, in his view, if the problem of the Palestinian Arabs were resolved. Obama means to oversee the creation of a Palestinian state come hell or high water.
Sixth, Obama thinks both extraordinarily highly of himself and extraordinarily poorly of those who beg to differ with him. He conceives of himself as a world-historic figure. While others may be too benighted to see their own interest and act on it, Obama has no such deficiency. Obama knows better than the Israelis do where their true interests lie. He is a man with a plan (more than one, actually), and he is going to act on it.
I’m sure there is more to Obama’s hostility to Israel than these considerations, but these must rank high on the list. Taken all together, from Obama’s perspective, these considerations make Israel from Obama’s perspective something of a Czechoslovakia vintage 1938.
I think that these considerations are to one degree or another at play in David Ignatius’s Washington Post column “Obama weighs new plan for Middle East.” Based on leaks from “two top administration officials,” one of whom is clearly General James Jones, Israel is to have a peace plan imposed on it by fiat. (Ignatius unfortunately doesn’t get around to details such as the division of the Palestinian Authority between Fatah and Hamas.)
Ignatius is a sophisticated columnist with great sources, but he is sophisticated in a stupid way. So I argued in posts including “David Ignatius’s Beirut boondoggle” in 2003 and in “In the company of murderers” more recently.
Ignatius swallows whole this statement of the rationale offered by one of his two Obama administration heavyweights: “The American peace plan would be linked with the issue of confronting Iran, which is Israel’s top priority, explained the second senior official.” But Obama accepts Iran’s nuclear weapons program in the sense that he rather obviously has no serious plan to deal with it. Hasn’t the Post’s senior foreign policy columnist noticed?
Elliott Abrams explicates Ignatius’s column in “Terms of endearment.” Abrams observes that Ignatius begins his column by writing that “despite recent turbulence in U.S. relations with Israel,” President Obama is considering trying to impose his own “peace plan.” Abrams asks: “Where did ‘despite’ come from?”
UPDATE: Glenn Kessler updates Ignatius’s column while Haaretz reports that Netanyahu declines to play Edvard Beneš. In related news, Haaretz also reports that he future Palestinian Authority presidential compound will be built along a street named for an infamous Hamas arch-terrorist. We await comment from President Obama, but Prime Minister Netanyahu has let it be known that he is not amused.
PAUL adds: Is Obama’s dislike of Israel related to the view that Israel was created to right a historical wrong, or to the view that the creation of Israel is a historical wrong? I suspect it’s the later.
In my opinion, the source of Obama’s dislike of Israel is not terribly different than that of his spiritual mentor, Jeremiah Wright. Compared to Israelis, Palestinians are downtrodden and non-Western. They are what leftist academics call “the other.” And promoting the interests of “the other” is a big deal for Obama — indeed, this imperative seems like the closest thing he has to a religion.
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