OBAMA’S ONLY POLICY
Caroline B. Glick
Jerusalem Post, August 5, 2011
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has explained repeatedly over the years that Israel has no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. So news reports this week that Netanyahu agreed that the 1949 armistice lines, (commonly misrepresented as the 1967 borders), will be mentioned in terms of reference for future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seemed to come out of nowhere.
Israel has no one to negotiate with because the Palestinians reject Israel’s right to exist. This much was made clear yet again last month when senior PA “negotiator” Nabil Sha’ath said in an interview with Arabic News Broadcast, “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept this.”
Given the Palestinians’ position, it is obvious that Netanyahu is right. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PA will reach any peace deal in the foreseeable future. Add to this the fact that the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and will likely win any new Palestinian elections just as it won the last elections, and the entire exercise in finding the right formula for restarting negotiations is exposed as a complete farce.
So why is Israel engaging in these discussions?
The only logical answer is to placate US President Barack Obama.
For the past several months, most observers have been operating under the assumption that Obama will use the US’s veto at the Security Council to defeat the Palestinians’ bid next month to receive UN membership as independent Palestine. But the fact of the matter is that no senior administration official has stated unequivocally, on record, that the US will veto a Security Council resolution recommending UN membership for Palestine.
Given congressional and public support for Israel, it is likely that at the end of the day, Obama will veto such a resolution. But the fact that the president has abstained to date from stating openly that he will veto it makes clear that Obama expects Israel to “earn” a US veto by bowing to his demands.
These demands include abandoning Israel’s position that it must retain defensible borders in any peace deal with the Palestinians. Since defensible borders require Israel to retain control over the Jordan Valley and the Samarian hills, there is no way to accept the 1949 armistice lines as a basis for negotiations without surrendering defensible borders.
Say what you will about Obama’s policy, at least it’s a policy. Obama uses US power and leverage against Israel to force Israel to bow to his will.
What makes Obama’s Israel policy notable is not simply that it involves betraying the US’s most steadfast ally in the Middle East. After all, since taking office Obama has made a habit of betraying US allies.
Obama’s Israel policy is notable because it is a policy. Obama has a clear, consistent goal of cutting Israel down to size. Since assuming office, Obama has taken concrete steps to achieve this aim. And those steps have achieved results. Obama forced Netanyahu to make Palestinian statehood an Israeli policy goal. He coerced Netanyahu into temporarily abrogating Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And now he is forcing Netanyahu to pretend the 1949 armistice lines are something Israel can accept.
Obama has not adopted a similarly clear, consistent policy towards any other nation in the region. In Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya and beyond, Obama has opted for attitude over policy.
He has postured, preened, protested and pronounced on all the issues of the day.
But he has not made policy. And as a consequence, for better or for worse, he has transformed the US from a regional leader into a regional follower while empowering actors whose aims are not consonant with US interests.
Syria is case and point. President Bashar Assad is the Iranian mullahs’ lapdog. He is also a major sponsor of terrorism. In the decade since he succeeded his father, Assad Jr. has trained terrorists who have killed US forces in Iraq. He has provided a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists. He has strengthened Syrian ties to Hezbollah. He has hosted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror factions. He has proliferated nuclear weapons. He reputedly ordered the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
Since March, Assad has been waging war against his fellow Syrians. By the end of this week, with his invasion of Hama, the civilian death toll will certainly top 2,000.
And how has Obama responded? He upgraded his protestations of displeasure with Assad from “unacceptable” to “appalling.” In the face of Assad’s invasion of Hama, rather than construct a policy for overthrowing this murderous US enemy, the Obama administration has constructed excuses for doing nothing. Administration officials, including Obama’s ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, are claiming that the US has little leverage over Assad.
But this is ridiculous. Many in Congress and beyond are demanding that Obama withdraw Ford from Damascus. Some are calling for sanctions against Syria’s energy sector. These steps may or may not be effective. Openly supporting, financing and arming Assad’s political opponents would certainly be effective.…
Today there is a coalition of Syrian opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in the country. Their representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al-Qaida terrorists in the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and embrace liberal policies.
This week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats. Why didn’t she hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House? By refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.
But then, embracing pro-Western Syrians would involve taking a stand and, in so doing, adopting a policy. And that is something the posturing president will not do. Obama is much happier pretending that empty statements from the UN Security Council amount to US “victories.” If he aims any lower his head will hit the floor.
Obama’s preference for posture over policy is nothing new. It has been his standard operating procedure throughout the region. When the Iranian people rose up against their regime in June 2009 in the Green Revolution, Obama stood on the sidelines. As is his habit, he acted as though the job of the US president is to opine rather than to lead. Then he sniffed that it wasn’t nice at all that the regime was mowing down pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Tehran and beyond.
And ever since, Obama has remained on the sidelines as the mullahs took over Lebanon, build operational bases in Latin America, sprint to the nuclear finishing line, and consolidate their power in Iraq and Afghanistan.
[Last] Wednesday, the show trial began for long-time US ally former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons. During last winter’s popular uprising in Egypt, Obama’s foes attacked him for refusing to abandon Mubarak immediately.
The reasons for maintaining US support for Mubarak were obvious: Mubarak had been the foundation of the US alliance structure with the Sunni Arab world for three decades. He had kept the peace with Israel. And his likely successor was the Muslim Brotherhood. But Obama didn’t respond to his critics with a defense of a coherent policy. Because his early refusal to betray Mubarak was not a policy. It was an attitude of cool detachment.
When Obama saw that it was becoming politically costly to maintain his attitude of detachment, he replaced it with a new one of righteous rage. And so he withdrew US support for Mubarak without ever thinking through the consequences of his actions. And now it isn’t just Mubarak and his sons being humiliated in a cage. It is their legacy of alliance with America.
Recognizing that Obama refuses to adopt or implement any policies on his own, Congress has tried to fill the gap. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a budget that would make US aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the PA contingent on certification that no terrorist or extremist organization holds governmental power in these areas. Clinton issued a rapid rebuke of the House’s budget and insisted it was unacceptable.
And this makes sense. Making US assistance to foreign countries contingent on assurances that the money won’t fund US enemies would be a policy. And Obama doesn’t make policy—except when it comes attacking to Israel.
In an interview with The New York Times [last] Thursday, Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said he and his father are negotiating a deal that would combine their forces with Islamist forces and re-establish order in the country.
To a degree, the US’s inability to overthrow Gaddafi—even by supporting an opposition coalition that includes al-Qaida—is the clearest proof that Obama has substituted attitude for policy everywhere except Israel.
Acting under a UN Security Council resolution and armed with a self-righteous doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect,” Obama went to war against Gaddafi five months ago. But once the hard reality of war invaded his happy visions of Lone Rangers riding in on white stallions, Obama lost interest in Libya. He kept US forces in the battle, but gave them no clear goals to achieve.
And so no goals have been achieved.…
If nothing else, the waves of chaos, war and revolution sweeping through Arab lands make clear that the Arab conflict with Israel is but a sideshow in the Arab experience of tyranny, fanaticism, hope and betrayal. So it says a lot about Obama, that eight months after the first rebellion broke in Tunisia, his sole Middle East policy involves attacking Israel.
PEACE PROCESS PROFITEERS
AND THE BLESSINGS OF A PREFERABLE STATUS QUO
Rubin Reports, July 30, 2011
Israel’s historic position toward the territories captured in the 1967 war has been: Israel will control this land until it can achieve peace or at least a better situation for itself by leaving them. Jordan made peace. And [Israel] agreed to pull out of most of the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank when the PLO promised (that’s a key word and a promise not kept) to make peace.
In contrast, Israel later [totally] withdrew [militarily] from the Gaza Strip and dismantled all of the settlements there for two reasons. First, as a gesture that it hoped would show its desire for peace and would promote that goal. Second, because it seemed better to have its forces on a defensible line.… Nevertheless, this policy did not work out so well and Israel ended up in a worse strategic situation without making any serious gains (arguably the reverse was true) in international support.
Regarding the West Bank, the lesson of the Gaza Strip withdrawal and also the southern Lebanon withdrawal have been learned. There, Israel turned over all of the populated sections (except for a small portion of Hebron) to the Palestinian Authority. Since 1993, no new settlements have been established (there have been small new outposts against government policy though the government has not always removed them) or expanded in their size. The status quo isn’t wonderful but it is quite tolerable.
Recently, a number of people—many of them with a wide public audience—in the West have started clanging the bell that Israel must clear out of the West Bank as soon as possible or else face a terrible situation. Their arguments have no merit.…
What are these arguments? That more Palestinians are being born. So what? That Israel won’t be a democratic state if it continues to control part of the West Bank? If Israel survived as a democratic and decent society for decades when it ran everything in the Sinai Peninsula, the Gaza Strip, and all of the West Bank, it can certainly do so when it controls just part of the West Bank where virtually no Arabs live.
Another argument is that the regional situation is worsening. Well, when you are facing greater security threats on your borders is not the best time to shrink your borders further and turn total control of land over to those who either don’t want to make peace or who soon would be bullied, persuaded, or overthrown by those who want to tear up the commitments and renew the conflict. And that would be renewing the conflict on terms much less favorable to Israel.
There is the argument that once a piece of paper was signed that there would be perfect and lasting peace with no more problems. But both the politics of the [Palestinian Authority] and events in Egypt show that’s ridiculous.
So finally there is the fall-back argument: We must do something! We must try! Do what? Make things worse? Of course, trying means more busy work for the highly paid official and non-government peace processors. Free air fares! Banquets! Papers and articles to write! Meetings to go to! Pretending to be important and doing great things!
And just because they can imagine a wonderful peace in their heads—rather than understand what’s going on in the heads of people in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Iran, Gaza, and the West Bank—they deem that sufficient to inflict their glorious visions on others.… In most cases, what [the professional peace processors] are doing is akin to press[ing] buttons at random on a complex piece of machinery with no understanding of how it works, having barely read the manual, and being totally indifferent to the consequences for others who live in the building.…
As long as the status quo is preferable to the alternative, the status quo looks pretty good. You don’t compare the status quo to your fantasies but to realistic alternatives, weighing the material price for each risk or concession.
And if conditions ever change so that real and lasting peace based on compromise is actually possible—and it won’t be soon—that situation can be met with a changed Israeli policy.
Until then, or at least until they start acting responsibly instead of playing dice with our lives, the peace processors can, to quote an Egyptian proverb, “Go drink the Nile.”
A RETREAT TO THE 1967 BORDERS: ASSISTED SUICIDE
As reported by the Jerusalem Post, “[Israeli] Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Monday that Israel and the US were working on a document saying the parameters for returning to negotiations with the Palestinians would be based on the speech US President Barack Obama gave at AIPAC in May, and spelling out in greater detail what Obama meant by…a return to the 1967 lines, with mutual agreed swaps.”
In Netanyahu’s words, “we are interacting with the US to put together a document [for an agreement with the Palestinians] using language from Obama’s second speech [the AIPAC speech].”
Paradoxically, Mr. Netanyahu then proceeded to say that “The Israeli goal is direct negotiations with the Palestinians, without preconditions.”
That Mr. Netanyahu is considering conceding to Obama’s demand that Israel retreat to the “1967 borders” as a basis for future negotiations with the Palestinians, irrespective of “conditions” or “guarantees” (which, by all accounts, would uniquely comprise the intangible and non-binding Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state), is a mystery, for, if the report is true, it represents the prospective coming of full circle of a man who has historically been labeled as “hawkish.”
This transformation—which could be said to have begun in 2009 at Bar Ilan University, when Mr. Netanyahu formally endorsed for the first time the creation of “Palestine”—has culminated in the crossing of a “red line” (also known as the 1949 Armistice lines): To date, Israel’s repeated concessions to the Palestinians, though risky and dangerous, have for the most part been containable.
Gaza, for example, following Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal, has essentially become an Iranian-sponsored jihadist war zone dedicated to Israel’s destruction, but nonetheless one that Israel can subdue militarily. Furthermore, the self-negating effects of Israel’s incessant pandering to the “international community’s” pressure—at the expense of its unequivocal legal and historical rights, as well as its moral authority—which contribute to (some might even say justify) the wretched global campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, have thus far been manageable, primarily offset by a booming economy driven by Israel’s collective creative power.
Yet Israel’s retreat to the 1967 lines is universally considered as a suicidal prospect.
Despite “promises” of “land swaps,” what is bound to happen is that once the “1967 borders” becomes accepted “peace process” lexicon, Palestinian terror will make certain that no agreement is reached until such time, perhaps years from now, when the world again—predictably—reneges on its “commitments” vis-à-vis the Jewish state by foregoing the term “land swaps” altogether.
Hence, if Mr. Netanyahu accepts the “Obama principles,” Israel essentially will be agreeing to ingest a fatal poison (1967—really 1949—borders), whose lone “concessions” (land swaps) will be in the hands of the Palestinians. And the sole “voice” encouraging the Palestinians to administer said medicine will be Obama’s—if he is re-elected, which is increasingly moot.
Moreover, should Netanyahu comply with Obama, he also would be effectively acceding to dividing Jerusalem (the Western Wall, for example, the Jewish people’s holiest site, resides outside of the 1967 boundaries), notwithstanding repeated glorious assertions to the contrary: “Some 44 years ago, IDF troops realized the vision of the prophets…and restored Jerusalem’s glory.… Jerusalem was united, and will never be divided again, etc.”
Despite all this, there is still hope.
This past May, Mr. Netanyahu gave Israel—along with all those in the Diaspora who passionately advocate for Israel’s Likud Prime Minister and his Party’s platform—the first real glimmer of hope for reconciliation with the Palestinians since the Oslo process collapsed under the weight of the first Intifada. What Mr. Netanyahu provided was unbridled leadership; that is, he did not bend to American pressure or break to “popular” demand, but rather stared down the most powerful man in the world and rebuked Obama’s May 19 “Arab Spring” speech—the prelude to Obama’s somewhat watered-down (“damage control”) speech to AIPAC three days later.
Mr. Netanyahu affirmed: “For there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities. The first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines—because these lines are indefensible.… Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide. It was half the width of the Washington Beltway. And these were not the boundaries of peace; they were the boundaries of repeated wars, because the attack on Israel was so attractive.”
The continued infusion of truth into the public discourse by strong, principled Jewish leaders—who place Israel’s ongoing security above all else—is the only chance Israel has to ever forge lasting agreements with its neighbors. And that this has a positive effect on the American electorate, Israel’s only real international support, is reflected in continuously high pro-Israel poll figures.
If Mr. Netanyahu fails to realize this and succumbs to Obama, the Prime Minister will not only be jeopardizing the dim prospects for peace, he will also be resigning himself to a patently false narrative: that Israel is fighting a losing battle, and therefore must preemptively concede to its enemies.
As a keen student of history, Mr. Netanyahu should know that there is no light at the end of the tunnel of appeasement.
There is only the abyss.
(Charles Bybelezer is the Publications Chairman
at the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.)