The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl headlines his column on the administration’s renewed push for a Israel/PA peace deal with a question referring to President Obama: “whose side is he on?”
Good question! I think I know the answer, and I think Diehl does too. Diehl writes: “Obama continues to believe that Israel’s government, and not the Palestinians, is the primary obstacle to peace.” Diehl quotes a story from last week to portray the administration’s thinking:
A “senior defense official” accompanying Defense Secretary Robert Gates on his visit to Jerusalem last week put it this way: “The Israelis have a very deep strategic interest in getting out in front of the wave of populism that is sweeping the region . . . showing progress on the peace track with the Palestinians would put them in a much better position for where the region’s likely to be six months or a year from now.”
Diehl fails to note the utterly vapid consistency of the administration’s thinking on this point. Serving up Israel has been at the forefront of the administration’s Middle East strategery since day one, come rain or shine. Whatever the question, the answer has been “Israel.”
Yesterday’s incredibly muddled New York Times story on Syria raised a similar question. Whose side is he on? So far as one can tell from the story, the administration favors the Assad regime and the status quo in Syria. The Times, however, reports this bit of daring American diplomacy behind the scenes: “The new American ambassador in Damascus, Robert Ford, has been quietly reaching out to Mr. Assad to urge him to stop firing on his people.” Hey, that’s why we have an American ambassador there.
Hugh Hewitt reads the mind-boggling Times story as I do: “A reader has to conclude that the analysts who fear for the dictator are all among the unnamed Obama Administration officials. It is possible that Assad’s brutal and profoundly anti-American regime could be followed by an explicitly Islamist regime, but given Assad’s support for Hezbollah, it is very hard to imagine how the toppling of Assad could be a bad thing for peace, Israel or the United States.”
How reassuring — to Assad, if not Iran — to have Secretary Clinton announce that the United States will be taking a hands-off approach to Syria. According to Secretary Clinton, the elements that led to intervention in Libya — international condemnation, an Arab League call for action, a United Nations Security Council resolution — are “not going to happen” with Syria, in part because unnamed members of the U.S. Congress from both parties say they believe Assad is “a reformer.” (In ophthalmology?)
This isn’t exactly a joke, though it is almost funny. And It’s not exactly NSC-68, but it will have to do for now.