The New York Times has a front page story about the “far-reaching shift” under the Obama adminisration in how the White House “views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement.”
When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.
This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Obama’s claim that the absence of a settlement in the Middle East results in Americans being killed in combat is just a pretext for doing what Obama wants to do for ideological and perhaps psychological reasons — help the Palestinians obtain a state. Those who take up arms against our troops in Afghanistan (or to a very limited degree now in Iraq) do so to advance their interests (secular or religious) in the power struggle that’s occurring in their country. Neither Obama, Gen. Petraeus (who has flirted with Obama’s pet theory), nor anyone else has presented evidence that Americans are being killed in Afghanistan or Iraq because of whát’s going on in the West Bank or Gaza.
In addition, U.S. forces have never been pulled into any conflict involving Israel. The Israelis take pride in winning wars on their own; all they ask for is help in keeping their military supplied and up-to-date. This form of U.S. assistance hardly impairs our national security. To the contrary, our security is enhanced by having a powerful ally in a bad neighborhood.
It should be obvious by now that Israel cannot afford meaningfully to engage in any American sponsored peace process as long as Obama is president. If, as I believe, Obama is knowingly making false claims of linkage between American security and the lack of a Palestinian state, then Obama’s bad faith makes him a less than honest broker, on whom Israel cannot remotely rely.
Alternatively, if Obama actually believes that America’s security depends on Israel making whatever concessions are necessary to create a Palestinian state, then Obama will press Israel so mercilessly that Israel would be crazy to participate in peace talks.
Fortunately, Obama has lost essentially all of his credibility with the Israeli people. Moreover, as the Times points out, “the overwhelming majority of Israelis have become disillusioned with the whole idea of resolving the conflict” with the Palestinians. Thus, the Netanyahu government should be able to resist Obama for the forseeable future.
It seems to me that Obama has left Israel with no other rational option.