Jay Nordlinger wrote this past week regarding “[t]wo of our heroes, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II,” who “ticked me off about Israel.” Jay recalled them traveling to Israel to say, solemnly, “It is not in your interest to be an occupying power.” To which the Israelis said, or should have said, wrote Jay, “Oh, thank you for clarifying our interest for us! We never would have known!” Jay commented:
The assumption seems to be that, one fine day in 1967, the Israelis just waltzed into the territories, wanting their jollies. And how jolly it has been, these past 45 years (almost)! What a delight the West Bank and Gaza experiences have been for Israel! The intifadas were especially fun.
I wish non-Israelis could understand that Israelis want peace more than they do. More than they possibly could. Israel did not choose to be an “occupying power.” The Arabs, through their multiple wars of annihilation, chose it for them. And when Israel withdraws from such places as Gaza and southern Lebanon — the warring against Israel gets even worse.
Jay concludes the thought with the observation: “Yet Thatcher and JPII were so smart about so many things.”
We wouldn’t say the same of Barack Obama. His obtuseness regarding Israel forms part of a larger pattern of arrogance matched with wrongheadedness. Monumental self-regard matched with rank stupidity. Consider this March 2 JTA report by Ben Harris:
President Obama reportedly urged Jewish communal leaders to speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel’s seriousness about making peace.
In an hourlong meeting Tuesday with about 50 representatives from the Jewish community’s chief foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel, according to statements from both the White House and Conference of Presidents.
Top leaders of the conference welcomed the meeting and noted the president’s affirmation of his “deep commitment to Israel’s security.” Other participants echoed the upbeat line, telling JTA the meeting was positive.
But several participants at the meeting told JTA that the president also implied that Israel bears primary responsibility for advancing the peace process. They interpreted the president’s comments either as hostile, naive or unsurprising.
Obama said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one were on the table, according to participants.
“The Palestinians don’t feel confident that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions,” the president reportedly said.
“Many people felt that their worst fears about Obama were confirmed with respect to Israel,” one participant said. “They felt an enormous hostility towards Israel.” Others, the report continues, suggested that the president wasn’t hostile so much as naive about Palestinian intentions and his belief about Israel’s supposed lack of commitment to peacemaking.
The JTA report is only Obama’s most recent iteration of a thought he has expressed previously, perhaps even more offensively. In a mid-2009 White House meeting with 15 American Jewish leaders Obama told the leaders that he wanted to help Israel overcome its demographic problem by reaching an agreement on a two-state solution, but that in order to do so, Israel would need “to engage in serious self-reflection.” Bill Kristol commented at the time:
“Serious self-reflection!” It’s really good that Barack Obama is reminding the leaders and people of Israel to engage in that. I hope they’re up to it. After all, what do Israelis know about reflecting on, and living with, the life and death consequences of political decisions? What do Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya’alon — either as individuals or as leaders — know about war and peace? These are guys — and the Israelis are a people — who just coast along, taking an easy path, never debating, never thinking, never questioning, never second-guessing…and never making or asking their fellow citizens to make sacrifices.
Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod, on the other hand — they’re seriously self-reflective individuals. Look at their wide experiences at peace and in war. Look how they’ve had to grapple with life and death decisions for decades. For them, it’s not just talk and spin and positioning. The American president and his advisors — they’ve made personal sacrifices, they’ve come to grips with the tough choices over their decades of accomplishment in public life. They’ve got the standing to lecture the people and leaders of Israel on the need for self-reflection.
And so they did.
And so he did again.