Monday, 23 May 2011

RubinReports: Obama At AIPAC: Beneath The Flattery, He Revealed His Indifference to Israel’s Needs and His Tilt Against It

Obama At AIPAC: Beneath The Flattery, He Revealed His Indifference to Israel’s Needs and His Tilt Against It

This article is published on PajamasMedia.
By Barry Rubin

I expected President Barack Obama’s AIPAC speech would be a bunch of feel-good clichés to persuade the audience that he is Israel’s best friend. Thus there would be nothing worth analyzing in it. But as I read the speech carefully I was astonished at how thoroughly Obama reveals his underlying miscomprehension, indifference, and even hostility toward Israel.

Examine this speech and you see everything wrong—far more than in his Cairo or State Department speeches on the Middle East—with Obama’s view of Israel and why he cannot be trusted on this issue.

There are some remarkable Freudian slips in his formulations and they have nothing to do with his discussion of the framework for Israel-Palestinian peace.

He spoke at great length of his support for Israel, how he wants it to be strong and secure, and the common values of the two countries. Yet if he really thinks that, why didn’t he say such things in his State Department speech on the Middle East or elsewhere?

Obama stated:

“We also know how difficult that search for security can be, especially for a small nation like Israel in a tough neighborhood….When I went to Sderot, I saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket. And when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I grasped the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the map.”

Yet his regional policies have undermined Israel’s security:

--Without getting anything from Hamas (the group that shoots rockets at Sderot) he pressed Israel to reduce sanctions against Hamas, helped bring into power a pro-Hamas government in Egypt, and sent $400 million in U.S .taxpayer money that objectively strengthens the Hamas regime.

--By not actively opposing Hizballah and Syria taking over Lebanon, thus increasing the threat on Israel’s northern border.

--By waiting so long before he moved on Iran sanctions and by failing to support the Iranian democratic opposition.

--By acting as apologist for the Syrian terrorist-sponsoring dictatorship.

--By not keeping U.S. promises to Israel on countering Hizballah’s return to southern Lebanon and arms’

--By helping create a situation in Egypt that will definitely lead to a radical, anti-American, anti-Israel takeover and probably leading to an Islamist regime there.

--By becoming an apologist and booster of the most anti-Israel (and Islamist) Turkish government ever he has done nothing to help Israel deal with the enmity of its closest regional ally. Obama quickly capitulated to the Gaza flotilla.

--By never really criticizing or pressuring the Palestinian Authority on anything at all, even when it rejected his initiatives, broke its promises to him, or made him look foolish. Consider Vice-President Joe Biden’s temper tantrum about a Jerusalem zoning board okaying a construction project in the distant future to the administration’s basic indifference to ongoing PA incitement and the naming of things against terrorists who murdered Israelis.

That’s not a complete list.

(Incidentally, Obama doesn't even seem to grasp the existential fear of U.S. Arab allies about Iran's power or Islamist revolutions that will wipe them off the map.)

He may talk a good game on Sderot and Yad Vashem but in practice his policies have largely ignored the points he made to AIPAC.

“Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.”

Obama is correct that U.S.-Israel military cooperation remains quite strong but his policy shows he definitely does NOT understand the challenges Israel faces.

“Today, Iran is virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system, and we are going to keep up the pressure. So let me be absolutely clear – we remain committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Nice words but in fact Iran is finding a lot of loopholes; Obama is not cracking down on Russia, China, and Turkey (to name the three main countries that are helping Iran).

“As I said on Thursday, the Iranian government has shown its hypocrisy by claiming to support the rights of protesters while treating its own people with brutality. Moreover, Iran continues to support terrorism across the region, including providing weapons and funds to terrorist organizations. So we will continue to work to prevent these actions, and will stand up to groups like Hezbollah who exercise political assassination, and seek to impose their will through rockets and car bombs.”

As you already know, the Obama administration has distinguished itself by the minimum it has done regarding Iran’s repression of the democratic opposition. And how has the U.S. government stood up to Hizballah? In fact, it has most definitely NOT stood up to Hizballah.

“And I indicated on Thursday that the recent agreement between Fatah and Hamas poses an enormous obstacle to peace. No country can be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization sworn to its destruction. We will continue to demand that Hamas accept the basic responsibilities of peace: recognizing Israel’s right to exist, rejecting violence, and adhering to all existing agreements. And we once again call on Hamas to release Gilad Shalit, who has been kept from his family for five long years.”

Once again, though, the opposite is true. Up to Obama’s recent State Department speech, the administration’s talking points were NOT to condemn the agreement but to take a wait and see approach. Even Obama’s discussion of the issue in his major speech did not attack the agreement (much less pressure the PA against doing it) but merely said that they would have to prove to Israel they were going to adhere to the Quartet conditions. Indeed, the PA and Hamas have already come up with clever ways to get around these issues.

“As I said to Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe that the current situation in the Middle East does not allow for procrastination.”

In principle, Obama’s idea that we must do something quick to resolve the Israel-Palestinian issue because of current conditions (I’ve been hearing that exact line for 40 years) sounds nice. In practice, though, here’s what it amounts to: The Palestinians are intransigent. They should not be punished. Israel must make more concessions.

Obama doesn’t take the Hamas threat seriously, nor does he take a real tough line on incitement. The only thing he presses the PA on is that it should talk, not that it should give.

Consider this carefully:

“There is a reason why the Palestinians are pursuing their interests at the United Nations. They recognize that there is an impatience with the peace process – or the absence of one. Not just in the Arab World, but in Latin America, in Europe, and in Asia. That impatience is growing, and is already manifesting itself in capitols around the world.”

So Obama doesn’t say that the Palestinians are trying to circumvent negotiations with Israel and mutual compromise! No, their problem is that they are too eager for peace.

Ok. Here’s a quiz for you: If the Palestinians are impatient with the slow pace of progress, who is responsible for the lack of progress? If the Palestinians are so eager to make a deal, the fault must be with…Israel.

That paragraph is a Freudian slip on Obama’s part. Yet since the PA wouldn’t negotiate for two years, including almost nine months during an Israeli construction freeze, that would throw into question its eagerness.

(I recall how in 2000 we were told the same thing about Arafat being in a hurry to make a deal. Then when he refused to negotiate more and went to violence, the same people told us how foolish we were in rushing him!)

“But the march to isolate Israel internationally – and the impulse of the Palestinians to abandon negotiations – will continue to gain momentum in the absence of a credible peace process and alternative.”

Think about how this is totally in contradiction to the history we lived through. The march to isolate Israel internationally will continue no matter what Israel does, whether it is involved in talks or now. Why? Because the goal of those behind it—mainly the Western leftists and Islamists—is to destroy Israel.

Again, though, there’s a Freudian slip here. For Obama’s failure to recognize the motivation means he doesn’t understand the problem. And Obama has contributed to the delegitimization of Israel. What’s he saying here: Israel hasn’t given enough and made enough concessions to move the peace process forward and that’s the reason for growing hostility to Israel.

That means he doesn’t realize the sacrifices Israel has made for the cause of peace: withdrawing from Sinai, southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank; losing more than 2000 people murdered by terrorism; and so on.

Israelis have drawn the precise opposite conclusion. If years of demonstrating our desire for peace, making concessions, taking risks, and empathizing with Palestinian suffering has only intensified the hostility toward us, perhaps that hostility isn’t our fault and is due to something else.

On that point, Obama is totally clueless. For him, Israel still needs to prove it wants peace. But the PA doesn’t.

One more Freudian slip. Israel isn’t doing enough to keep the Palestinians to abandon negotiations. So the fact that the PA doesn’t want to make true peace is…Israel’s fault once again.

Incidentally, can you imagine Obama talking about how Palestinian and Arab behavior might create an “impulse” of Israel “to abandon negotiations”? Of course not.

Obama can quote the Talmud but he can’t deal with the impending catastrophe in Egypt. How can he speak at AIPAC and not mention that the most important country in the Arab world is moving quickly to tear up its peace treaty with Israel, end sanctions on Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and create a massive new security problem for Israel! A fitting symbol of his total indifference about, “How difficult that search for security can be.”

On the surface, President Obama’s speech to AIPAC will reassure many about his care and commitment to Israel. Yet a careful reading of the speech shows the exact opposite.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist for PajamasMedia at His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is

RubinReports: Obama At AIPAC: Beneath The Flattery, He Revealed His Indifference to Israel’s Needs and His Tilt Against It

Israel Matzav: Will that be all, Saeb?

Will that be all, Saeb?

Former 'Palestinian' chief negotiator bottle washer Saeb Erekat says that if only Israel would agree in advance to withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines, we could start negotiating again. Of course, he doesn't say just what it is we might negotiate.

What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Will that be all, Saeb?

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian Authority' admits paying terrorists' salaries

'Palestinian Authority' admits paying terrorists' salaries

The 'Palestinian Authority' has admitted that it is paying salaries to terrorists in Israeli jails (as reported here). Moreover, it claims it has been doing so since 1994.

So where was our government this whole time?

Israel Matzav: 'Palestinian Authority' admits paying terrorists' salaries

Israel Matzav: What Ketzaleh thinks Bibi should say to Congress

What Ketzaleh thinks Bibi should say to Congress

What will Prime Minister Netanyahu say to Congress on Tuesday night? National Union leader Yaakov Katz (Ketzaleh) wrote a speech that he sent to Netanyahu, and he asked Arutz Sheva to translate and post it (Hat Tip: Gershon D).

If only he would say it.

Read the whole thing.

Israel Matzav: What Ketzaleh thinks Bibi should say to Congress

Israel Matzav: Why did Obama do something so dumb?

Why did Obama do something so dumb?

J.E. Dyer believes that President Obama has no clue how to negotiate.

If Obama had merely recommitted America to seeking a resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, without staking out a specific parameter for the negotiations, I doubt Bibi would have made the statements he did in the press conference on Friday. It all could have been left unsaid, for who knows how many more months. But Obama backed him into a corner by announcing a US position based on the pre-1967 armistice line. Failing to address that prejudicial announcement – appearing with the American president in seeming accord – would have made Israel look weak and out of options. Israel can’t afford that; indeed, no nation in that part of the world can.

So Bibi said what had to be said. Where Obama had stepped in and outlined a position the US has no business delineating, Netanyahu said what only the prime minister of Israel is in a position to say. It was not Obama’s place to say any of these things – that the “right of return” demand is “not gonna happen,” that the pre-1967 armistice line is not acceptable as a border – any more than it was his place to impose the pre-1967 line as a condition. The purpose Obama served – however inadvertently – was getting Bibi to say these things. And say them from the White House, sitting next to the president of the United States, to boot.

Obama served this purpose by hearkening to his particular muse: the Muse of Campaigning. I’m not sure he has ever heard from the Muse of Negotiation, but in the case of his Middle East speech, the two muses had conflicting advice.

Obama isn’t the first American president to give short shrift to the fundamentals of negotiation; most of our presidents know little about it. As a superpower, we are essentially a continent-size island with only two land borders, and our chief executive is his own separate branch of government, intended to counterbalance the legislature rather than emerging from it after years of parliamentary sausage-making. It is rare for our presidents to enter the office with any meaningful experience in negotiation, and even rarer for them to appreciate it as a political discipline and be good at it.

But I don’t know that we’ve ever had a president who seemed, as much as Obama does, to live in a galaxy far, far away from “negotiation,” the human concept. It’s not that he appears to dismiss the ramifications of his actions for ongoing negotiations; it’s that they don’t even seem to occur to him. In one of the most counterintuitive episodes in a long time, it took an attitude this blunderingly dysfunctional to corner the consummate statesman Benjamin Netanyahu and induce him to say, bluntly and unequivocally, what had to be said about Israel’s irreducible requirements for survival.

I was going to point out that Obama spent two years (or was it four?) in the Senate, but that seems kind of pointless. But what if Obama purposely wanted to degrade Israel's position? What could go wrong?

Israel Matzav: Why did Obama do something so dumb?

Love of the Land: The Thomas Friedman myth

The Thomas Friedman myth

Giulio Meotti
Israel Opinion/Ynet
22 May '11,7340,L-4071894,00.html

Op-ed: Columnist's application of globalization theory to Arab-Israeli conflict is delusional

Thomas Friedman is one of journalism's greatest celebrities, the single most famous US interpreter of the Middle East and the liberal columnist who has the most influence on the way Americans understand Israel. His 1989 book “From Beirut to Jerusalem” has been a best-seller, as was “The world is flat.”

Friedman also plays a major role in shaping Obama’s rhetoric about Israel’s return to the pre-1967 armistice line, which the late Abba Eban dubbed the “Auschwitz borders.”

For the first time now, the four digits (1967) have become formal American policy. It was also a Friedman victory. It was he, after all, who invented the so-called “Saudi plan for peace in the Middle East.” And it was Friedman who wrote that the White House is “disgusted” with Israeli interlocutors.

In Manhattan, Friedman is an elegant and wealthy Jewish intellectual. But what are the consequences of his ideas for Israel, the only UN member surrounded by neighbors willing to kill themselves to destroy the Jews, and the nation globally elected to be an emblem of evil?

Friedman has created a myth of personal disillusionment with Israel that is designed to lend credibility to his indictment against the Jewish State. His method is simple and delusional: Applying the globalization theory to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Mutual respect, money, education, computers, Internet, hedonism and modernity are Friedman’s solutions to the nationalistic bloodbath. Economics trumps politics in his technocracy.

As a Jewish reporter in Beirut and Jerusalem, Friedman confessed, he was unable to remain objective because of the “tribal” nature of the conflict. He has described his personal biography as the story of “a Jew who was raised on . . . all the myths about Israel, who goes to Jerusalem in the 1980s and discovers that it isn’t the summer camp of his youth.”

The famous columnist has always been a militant of the Palestinian cause. By the time he graduated from Brandeis University, he was identifying with “Breira”, a pariah group within the American Jewish community. He belonged to the steering committee of a self-styled “Middle East Peace Group” that vigorously opposed the mounting storm of protest among American Jews over Yasser Arafat’s appearance before the United Nations in a time when the Palestinian leader proudly claimed Jewish lives.

In 1985, after the Shiite hijacking of a TWA airliner, Friedman attacked Israel for not releasing the 700 terrorists whose freedom the hijackers were demanding. Israel’s refusal, he claimed, “certainly contributed” to the hijacking.

Friedman has always defended Yasser Arafat and failed to draw attention to his evident connections to terrorism. Friedman then demonized Ariel Sharon, while praising Arab dictators such as Saudi Prince Abdullah. Friedman also “criticized” the Israeli settlers, an entire population group that loyally serves in the army, pays its taxes and defends the state, demonizing them in global columns.

According to the US columnist, Israeli settlers are a “cancer for the Jewish people” and those who “collaborate” in the building of settlements are “enemies of peace” and “enemies of America’s national interest,” no less. Friedman has compared Islamist fanatics who want to destroy Israel to the “lunatics of the Likud” and Arab dictators whose endorsement of suicide bombings threatens Islam to the “collaborators” whose support for a “colonial Israeli occupation” threatens coexistence.

Friedman has always been diligently undermining Israel’s claim to the moral high ground by placing victims of terrorism on the same plain as their barbaric perpetrators. “What Israeli settlers and Palestinian suicide bombers have in common is that they are each pushing for the maximum use of force against the other side,” he wrote after the killing of Kobi Mandell.

For Friedman, building a home on disputed territory is apparently the moral equivalent of stoning Jews to death. To equate the two, as Friedman always does, is to create moral mush. At age fourteen, Kobi was immobilized and stoned to death, his body hidden in a cave. The terrorists soaked their hands in the boy’s blood and smeared the walls of the cave with it.

Friedman also compared terrorist militias in Iraq, who butchered Americans and Iraqis alike, to the Jewish inhabitants of Judea and Samaria. One of Friedman’s columns in 2004 was particularly shocking: “...Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he’s had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro-Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who’s ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates.”

Friedman’s language resembled that of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. His incredible words, coming at a time when anti-Semitism is skyrocketing globally, were repulsive. From Friedman’s mansion in the Maryland’s woods the Middle East maybe looks really flat. But that’s not an excuse for pushing what can be called Zionicide.

Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism

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Love of the Land: The Thomas Friedman myth

Love of the Land: Language Matters in the Middle East

Language Matters in the Middle East

Michael Rubin
22 May '11

One of the more irresponsible press habits during the Iraq war was the inconsistent use of the passive voice. Americans might kill five Iraqis in an operation gone awry, but when a bomb went off in a school yard, the major networks and newspapers would passively report, “20 children killed in Iraq.” Never would they say, “Terrorists killed 20 children in Iraq.” Over time, the message of the language matters: When people talk about the tens of thousands of civilians killed after Saddam’s fall, they ironically assumed American responsibility rather than realize that it was the terrorists killing Iraqis whom the Americans and Iraqi government jointly were fighting. To abandon Iraq amidst the terrorist insurgency would not (and will not) bring peace and security, but would be the equivalent of handing Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge.

In the Arab-Israeli conflict language also matters. Israel’s borders today are the 1967 borders, modified only by the annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and some minor arbitrated settlements with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. Why do we talk about President Obama demanding that Israel go back to the 1967 borders when he technically means withdrawal from the West Bank and portions of Jerusalem to return to the pre-1967 border, i.e., the 1949 Armistice Lines?

Technically, the West Bank is disputed territory, not occupied territory. There was no independent Palestine in 1967 before the Six-Day War. The status of the territory was just as unresolved before 1967 as it was after. If the Israelis “occupy” the portions of the West Bank unresolved under Oslo and subsequent accords then the Palestinian Authority also “occupies” those areas. To resolve the dispute takes negotiations and compromise, not mob rule or executive fiat. Make no mistake: I personally favor a two-state solution and believe that Israel will not ultimately possess the entirety—or even the majority of the West Bank—but I also believe that after so many wars launched from the West Bank, peace requires defensible borders, not an advanced front line for Arab, Iranian, and perhaps Turkish rejectionists bent on Israel’s annihilation.

Along the same lines, the term settlement shows tremendous bias. If portions of Jerusalem are unresolved, then new Palestinian construction on disputed lands are as much “settlements” as new Israeli construction. To speak of Palestinian civilians and Israeli settlers is to accept a false narrative and a dehumanizing one.

It behooves those who believe that Israel matters and its security and Jewish identity are important to be accurate with language. Otherwise, they simply cede points in negotiations and risk putting Israel in an even more precarious position as diplomacy continues.

If you enjoy "Love of the Land", please be a subscriber. Just put your email address in the "Subscribe" box on the upper right-hand corner of the page.

Love of the Land: Language Matters in the Middle East
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