As the POTUS/TOTUS in chief wing their way to Egypt for Obama’s promised address to Muslim nations, Israel is wary…. anticipating a new direction in the US-Israeli relationship.
Pressure. Defiance. Collision. After George W. Bush’s terms of endearment for Israel — a country he once described as a “light unto nations” — a different terminology is being used to describe its cloudy relationship with his successor, Barack Obama.
At odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Palestinian statehood and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the new U.S. president will try to patch ties with the Muslim world in an address he will deliver in Egypt on Thursday.
Israelis and Arabs will be listening carefully for one of Obama’s expected messages — policy Netanyahu has met with defiant words — that creation of a Palestinian state is essential for peace and settlement expansion must stop.
The U.S.-Israeli rift after eight years of a Bush presidency that pursued statehood only late in its second term and turned a blind eye to settlement building is raising questions over whether a close alliance will deteriorate into alienation.
Maariv, a popular Israeli newspaper, summed it up in a one-word, front-page headline on Tuesday: “Pressure”.~~~
Possible scenarios for twisting Netanyahu’s arm could range from U.S. inaction at the United Nations in thwarting resolutions critical of Israel to choking off some military supplies, political sources and commentators said.
“Delaying the shipment of spares for the Apaches can ground the air force,” political columnist Ben Caspit wrote in Maariv, referring to Israel’s U.S.-made attack helicopters.
“The replenishment of ammunition and weapons supplies in the event of another expected conflagration in the Gaza Strip or Lebanon is a matter of American goodwill,” Caspit said.
While few expect the US to apply pressure using Israel’s defense system as the carrot, Obama’s finding himself pressured by Congressional members in his own party.
“My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). “I think it would serve America’s interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.”
“When Congress gets back into session the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me,” she said.~~~
But even a key defender of Obama’s Mideast policy, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), is seeking to narrow the administration’s definition of “settlement” to take pressure off Obama. And the unusual criticism by congressional Democrats of the popular president is a sign that it may take more than a transformative presidential election to change the domestic politics of Israel.
Other Democrats, in interviews with POLITICO, raised similar concerns. While few will defend illegal Jewish outposts on land they hope will be part of a Palestinian state, they question putting public pressure on Israel while — so far — paying less public attention to Palestinian terrorism and other Arab states’ hostility to Israel.
“There’s a line between articulating U.S. policy and seeming to be pressuring a democracy on what are their domestic policies, and the president is tiptoeing right up to that line,” said Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), who said he’d heard complaints from constituents during the congressional recess. “I would have liked to hear the president talk more about the Palestinian obligation to cut down on terrorism.”
“I don’t think anybody wants to dictate to an ally what they have to do in their own national security interests,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who said he thinks there’s “room for compromise.”
“I have to hear specifically from the administration exactly how they define their terms and is there room for defining the terms,” he said, referring to the terms “settlement” and “natural growth.”
The Israelis are patiently waiting exactly what the TOTUS will prompt the POTUS to say. For unlike Obama’s predecessor, no advance copy of Obama’s speech was provided. And this, they say, is a harbinger of the relationship to come.
“The situation is very gloomy. They are waiting to see what Barak can achieve in Washington,” the source said.
“And they are waiting to hear (Obama’s) speech. They have no idea what he will say. With Bush they would have had the draft in advance. But they are in the dark. This is part of the American withdrawal of cooperation.”
Offering an incentive, Mitchell told the Israeli delegation that Netanyahu sent to London that if he agreed to a settlement freeze, Obama would press Saudi Arabia to do more to normalise Arab relations with Israel, the source said.
That now seems unlikely, given Israel’s position.
Netanyahu has said Israel had a historic opportunity to pursue peace now with an Arab world that largely shared its concern about Iran’s nuclear programme.
The nuclear issue was high on the agenda of Netanyahu’s talks with Obama in Washington two weeks ago and on many Israelis minds on Tuesday, when air raid sirens sounded as part of the country’s biggest-ever civil defence drill.
Yet, as Curt points out, Obama does not offer that same firm stance with the Iranian threat when he suggests that Iran has a legitimate need for nuke power… knowing full well that the current regime is not quick to offer up their real intentions on their enrichment programs.
Instead of pressuring Ahmadinejad, the POTUS prefers to practice “tough love” tactics with an ally, Israel.
On the eve of his trip to the Middle East, President Obama promised today a dose of tough love for a new Israeli government that has signaled significant disagreement with his administration’s policy for the region.
Obama described the U.S.-Israeli relationship as a special one in which Americans are “deeply sympathetic” toward what he called a “stalwart ally,” but he made it clear that he will continue to push the country’s new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, toward acceptance of a Palestinian state.
“Part of being a good friend is being honest,” Obama told National Public Radio in an interview taped this afternoon. “And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory, in the region is profoundly negative, not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that’s part of a new dialogue that I’d like to see encouraged in the region.”
Obama called the status quo “unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security,” and he promised to use his trip to make clear that the United States will follow through on its commitment to peace in the region.
“It is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace,” Obama said. “That there is not equivocation and there is not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side. It’s going to have to be two-sided.”
An obviously history deficient Obama does not recognize that all Israel talks with Palestine have been one sided, with the majority of concessions being offered by Israel, and spat upon by the other side.
But we’ve seen the Obama approach… it’s to take a step back in diplomatic civility from allies, and a step forward towards traditional enemies… from Latin America to the Middle East and Africa. And it is, on this wave of increasing approval from Arabs – [except for decreasing approval among Palestinians and Lebanese] – he intends to sail into a hoped for Middle East peace legacy on his magic carpet.
As even the liberal BBC points out, the two-state solution is hardly novel, nor Obama’s original idea.
In advance of the speech, the president said in an interview with the BBC that he hoped to see progress by the end of the year, through “tough, direct diplomacy”.
He has already provoked a row with the Israeli government over West Bank settlements, demanding that all activities cease. This includes what is called “natural growth”, which is defined – at a minimum – as the building of more housing for the children of settlers.
This is not in fact a new demand. It was made, using the same phrase, in the 2003 roadmap for the Middle East, endorsed by the Quartet of the US, the UN, the EU and Russia.
The row between Israel’s adamance for “natural growth” for the settlements and willingness to give up the outposts and Obama’s attempt to apply pressure for old demands highlights a reality Obama seems unwilling to accept – that a two-state solution is a far away as it ever was. Yet, following a meeting with PA’s Abbas, Obama still walks away, exuding “confidence”. Insuring his appointed minions are on the same international stage, SOS Hillary joins her boss in the demands to Israel saying there are no exceptions to the US demands on Israel INRE settlements.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with her Egyptian counterpart, Mrs Clinton said that the president was “very clear” with PM Benjamin Netanyahu at their recent meeting that there should be a stop to all settlements.
“Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease,” Mrs Clinton said.
The Israelis describe construction inside existing settlements as natural growth. Mr Netanyahu has said that this will continue.
“There is no way that we are going to tell people not to have children or to force young people to move away from their families,” a senior official quoted Mr Netanyahu as telling the Israeli cabinet on Sunday.
However, he has said he is willing to remove makeshift outposts in the West Bank – small settlements, sometimes with only a few people – that the Israeli government itself considers illegal.
True to the prozac mentality that seems widespread of late, the world remains “hopeful” to the anticipated soaring and empty rhetoric, regurgitation of old ideas – delivered in a new, smooth TOTUS style from Cairo. Against the back drop of pyramids, perhaps? And while Obama may score popularity points with some Muslim nations with his “just words”, it will not change their attitude towards Israel’s right to exist…. the heart of the stumbling block.
But then, as Obama knows, it’s easy to push around our allies. I’ve said for a while, much to the poo pooh’ing of many friends, that this President was going to alienate our allies in the world. As it stands today, we have stalwart friends, and dedicated enemies that hate us.
By the time Obama’s through, we’ll have lukewarm friends, and dedicated enemies that still hate us. Big improvement, eh?
Vietnam era Navy wife, indy/conservative, and an official California escapee now residing as a red speck in the sea of Oregon blue.
Yet another attempt to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The settlements issue is small potatoes that ignores the elephant in the room
Well, Obama is keeping his campaign promise – He is pissing off our allies and spooning up with the dictators he said he would.
I think it is sad enough that we as a nation allowed the republican party to get so crazy with things as to piss off the public enough to elect this clown FOR CHANGE.
And now Bush and Cheney’s polls are going up as people realize just what a mess we are now in thanks to the American Idol President.
I find it interesting how the right wing spins the truth to make Obama look bad..
That seems to be the main purpose of FA.
The Associated Press has it a little differently…
Nice post Mata.
Dude, did you even read what she wrote? Never mind, there’s no way you read it.
The Associated Press? The AP?? yeah, right. the Authority Palestine it should be called. When we hear his speech in Cairo we will hear a flushing sound in the background, and that will be the sound of our Israeli allies as well as our Lebanese Allies Rafiq Hariri and Walid Jumblaat and their respective parties being flushed down the toilet bowl of appeasement to Iranian mullahs and The Egyptian Muslim brotherhood. Rashid Khalili taught Barak Hussein Obama well unfortunately.
If you’d stop spinning yourself, you’d be able to focus, CRAP. This is about Obama admin backing down on Israeli support in order to win Arab friends. And as articles from early May, following the big announcement of Obama’s Cairo visit, the Muslim Brotherhood hated him then… and will continue to hate him after. Your link to a johnny-come-lately AP story merely confirms that he will not appease our enemies, and the Muslim world will do nothing to control them.
Obama will accomplish nothing, save to push away genuine friends, and acquire dubious friendships with the Muslim world that will continue to assail Israel…. despite his soaring rhetoric.
We already have a ‘pfakistinian’ state called Jordan. We have another ‘pfakistinian’ rump state in Lebanon. We have a third ‘pfakistanian’ state in gazastan, and a fourth in the West Bank. Why do pfakistinians have four states and consider one Israeli state too much to swallow? Why does the democrap administration agree? Well, as with djimmah carter the jewish voters who voted 3/4 for Mr. Israelicide Obama may regret what horrors are to come. But they will blame it on Bush and Netanyahu no doubt, not on the Pres.
Hm, well it seemd the Egyptians are not too impressed with PEBO, seems they think he is foolish and don’t want to hear his “empty” words unless he says he is going to change the US relationship with Isreal. I guess poor Barry is not as charissmatic as he thought he was, especially around people who see him for what he is, a spoiled America with nothing in his hands but empty promises and nothing else.