Obama has forgotten who his true friends are

12 March 2010

Published in The Jewish News: 12th March 2010

Since his inauguration, President Obama’s Middle East diplomacy has caused consternation in Israel and beyond. His fixation on freezing West Bank settlements has helped to create the impression that he is a naïve leftist doggedly pursuing an Arabist agenda.

Now his administration is overseeing indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and, once again, settlements have come under the spotlight. Israel’s recent decision to approve 1,600 homes in East Jerusalem was condemned by Joe Biden for ‘undermining trust’ between the two sides and ‘complicating’ negotiations.

This position is rather odd, given that Senator Mitchell had previously accepted that the 10 month settlement freeze would not apply in East Jerusalem. But stranger still is Washington’s refusal to tackle the real causes of the current impasse.

Fundamentally, the Palestinian Authority has never abandoned its destructive mindset regarding the Jewish state. First there is Mahmoud Abbas’ refusal to recognise Israel as a Jewish state, a position he has held consistently in recent years. It has enabled the Fatah leader to foster the dream of the ‘right of return’ of Palestinian refugees, a formula for the destruction of Israel.

Then there is the daily incitement to violence against Jews and Israelis, currently at epidemic levels. Teenage Palestinians in the West Bank are taught The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as fact and given maps of the Middle East with Israel erased. When they attend a mosque, they hear sheiks proclaiming that the murder of Israelis is an Islamic duty, indeed the highest religious duty. They see Jews routinely compared to pigs and apes on their televisions.

Far from turning his back on terror, Abbas has glorified it. He recently described the Fatah trained killers of Rabbi Meir Avshalom Hai, a 45 year old Israeli killed last December, as ‘shahids’ (holy martyrs). He recently approved the naming of a public square in honour of Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who masterminded the killing of 37 Israelis in 1978. Collectively, these things keep the Palestinian mind primed for another round of battle.

This belligerence, which naturally must end, should not be seen as just another Israeli grievance. Its cessation should be a precondition for discussing any grievances. There should be no quid pro quo for ending Palestinian violence, as if the expansion of settlements and the promotion of terror were somehow equivalent.

Yet already you can hear the cries of liberal indignation. How can diplomacy work in an atmosphere of partisanship? Should America not be an honest and impartial broker between Israel and the Palestinians? Would it not be immoral for Obama to favour one side’s position over another?

But this view involves a most spurious form of moral equivalence. Israel remains a long term, dependable American ally and law abiding democracy, which is defiantly battling the scourge of fundamentalist terror. The PA, by contrast, has done little to show that it could become a terror free democracy or a Western oriented state.

As Itamar Marcus of Palestine Media Watch notes, the PA’s key ideological allies are states with a visceral loathing of America: Cuba, Venezuala, North Korea and Iran to name but four. Thus to place Israel and the Palestinian Authority on the same footing is both intellectually and morally wrong. It is to sell out an American ally.

Yet selling out America’s allies has become an unfortunate hallmark of the Obama administration. The President’s cringing obeisance before Iran and insistence on ‘unconditional’ talks ensured that he gave only muted support to the beleaguered Green movement.

Obama bent over backwards to appease the Russians over missile defence and by doing so, abandoned his East European partners. Most recently, he refused to acknowledge British sovereignty over the Falklands, preferring Argentina’s case for UN mediated intervention. In each case, the President won contempt from enemies and allies alike.

Obama certainly can play a constructive role in furthering the cause of regional peace and security. But by failing to acknowledge his country’s genuine friends, he is setting himself up for failure.


31 December, 2013

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