Thursday, March 18, 2010

More in Anger than in Sorrow

The Economist ponders the motivations for Obama's anger at Israel:
One school of thought holds that Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton escalated their reaction to the Biden insult in order to make Mr Netanyahu abandon his rightist allies and tread the American path to peace; some say the president was waiting for a chance to destabilise him to force his replacement by someone more emollient. A rival theory is that there is no plan: Ramat Shlomo simply ignited the rage that has smouldered in Mr Obama’s breast since Mr Netanyahu refused his call last year for a total freeze on settlements, forcing Mr Mitchell to waste nearly a year niggling for a temporary compromise.
Forgive me if I've gotten my narratives mixed here, but wasn't unflappability one of the many things that had people so swooning about Obama? He's never ruffled, the gushing pundits told us, a rational fellow who stands above the weaknesses of mere mortals who are controlled by their emotions, their prejudices and their animosities.

So were they wrong? Or were they right, but there's something uniquely aggravating about Jews living in their homeland which makes otherwise stoic Obama lose his cool? Wouldn't that be odd?

The report then concludes with this parting shot:
In testimony to a Senate committee this week, General David Petraeus, hero of Iraq and America’s commander in the wider Middle East, said the unsolved conflict in Palestine was fomenting anti-Americanism in the wider region. An obvious point, perhaps; but yet another reason why the love is draining out of a special relationship.
Set aside the question as to the love which is or isn't draining. The fundamental point is the contention that since the "wider region" (the Muslim world, perhaps?) isn't willing to live with a Jewish state, America's interests would best be served by jettisoning Israel. Now I know that's not what Petraeus said, but it is a logical oversimplification of what he reportedly did say. If the Muslims really really don't like having a Jewish state in their midst, perhaps America ought to try harder to mollify them.

Interesting, isn't it.


NormanF said...

America can throw Israel under the bus to mollify the Arab/Muslim world. Its just simple logic and there's no real conspiracy behind American moves since last week.

ShrinkWrapped said...

Just for the record, David Petraeus said nothing of the kind. Max Boot at Contentions notes that in the transcript of the Senate Armed Services Committee meeting has a minimal response by Petraeus to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and merely says it is a problem that we keep an eye on. Boot's post is "A Lie: David Petraeus, Anti-Israel" at
Here is the transcript excerpt:

We keep a very close eye on what goes on there [in Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip], because of the impact that it has, obviously, on that part of CENTCOM that is the Arab world, if you will. And in fact, we’ve urged at various times that this is a critical component. It’s one reason, again, we invite Senator Mitchell to brief all of the different conferences that we host, and seek to support him in any way that we can when he’s in the Central Command part of the region, just as we support Lieutenant General Dayton, who is supporting the training of the Palestinian security forces from a location that is in the CENTCOM AOR as well.

And in fact, although some staff members have, various times, and I have discussed and — you know, asking for the Palestinian territories or something like that to be added to — we have never — I have never made that a formal recommendation for the Unified Command Plan, and that was not in what I submitted this year. Nor have I sent a memo to the White House on any of this — which some of this was in the press, so I welcome the opportunity to point that out.

Again, clearly, the tensions, the issues and so forth have an enormous effect. They set the strategic context within which we operate in the Central Command area of responsibility. My thrust has generally been, literally, just to say — to encourage that process that can indeed get that recognition that you talked about, and indeed get a sense of progress moving forward in the overall peace process, because of the effect that it has on particularly what I think you would term the moderate governments in our area. And that really is about the extent of our involvement in that, Senator.

Danny said...

Isn't it odd that no one ever mentions the fact that Obama's spiritual mentor (recently "repudiated" for clearly opportunistic reasons) is an outspoken anti-Semite?

Barry Meislin said...

Everyone has internalized that particular lie---i.e, Obama's claim that "Gosh, I never knew about that".

Just like all the other lies.

And all the others to come.

He lies. The pope is Catholic. Let's move on and focus on the really important things.

Like Hope and Change.

(I think that at this point most people even expect him to lie. You can't say something like this, of course, because the NARRATIVE will declare you to be a the NYT's main Israel reporter brilliantly theorized, or should that be "claimed" regarding Obama's supposed erosion of support among Israelis (something, Haaretz, rather curiously, is doing its best to deny via its latest polls). No doubt Bronner said this more in sorrow than in anger...trying to reassure us all that his being Jewish HAS NOT and WILL NOT compromise the quality or nature of his (abysmal) reportage.

Anyway, what seems clear to me is that the so-called Israel Lobby and the country they purport to serve are being set up by this benighted administration as THE main reason for its lack of success (in every sphere). (And might that not be considered poetic justice of a kind as far as the mostly liberal, mostly Israel-supporting Jewish community is concerned?---Though in their defense, one might say that never in their deepest, darkest hour could they have imagined that Obama didn't think more or less exactly like they do, on the subject of Israel....)

What seems less clear to me is that whether Petraeus said what he was reported to have said (and he doesn't strike me as the kind of person to make such a statement) or not: the sentiment/ideology expressed absolutely reflects the POV of Walt & Mearsheimer's powerful, if absurd, thesis---and those who have enthusiastically adopted it (or should that be, again, "adopted it more in sorrow than in anger"?, etc.), i.e., Obama and his bumbling, if not-so-amusing cohorts.... Anyway, what isn't clear to me is this: if Israel will be blamed by for future American setbacks in the M-E (just as Israel has been blamed for past American setbacks in the region), and if the recent election in Iraq has been such a success (all things being relative), why shouldn't Bibi just flat out claim that the success of Iraq's election is due to Israeli settlements?....

(Or does sauce for the goose work only in one direction?...)

Sergio said...

Now, if Obama is being harsh with Israel, that means that the "Elder's Lobby" isn't that powerful after all...Or, maybe, this is a a clever move from those evil Elders to divert attention from their satanic machinations, or...

By the way, what about the Dubai affair? My current bet is that the Golem did it.


Anonymous said...

Robert Wistrich interview
- this uplifted me right now and helped me a bit over the drivel the Quartet has been come up with in Moscow

Robert Wistrich on the meaning of "new" anti-Semitism

and to dear Sergio:
my "sources" by now seem all to be sure that it was Mossad and Goldberg is mad at Israel for it because it angered the "most open-minded country" - I wonder if the chattering classes would be willing to consider that for Israel it might be OK to defend itself on the far side of the moon.
But even in my small remote town opticians shop windows are full of big sun glasses ;-)

as to Petraeus:
he certainly is unanimously beloved by all in the commentariat - voices who are closer to the actual troops or who have fighting experience pay hommage in much more reserved tones ... but what do people who do the actual work know about it, have ever known about it or will ever know about it ;-(((


Sergio said...

Hi Silke,

I'm finishing Wistrich's book, and I've just read the interview you mentioned. The book is good, a real eye-opener and very depressing... But, that's reality, folks!

Meanwhile, our ingorati mollusk of a president sends a diplomat to Syria. What a moron! He has *NO* clue whatsoever of how insignificant and ridiculous he is!



This Is Hell said...

Maybe it's as simple as Obama wants to cripple Israel exogenously of any strategic interests he may have in the region otherwise. He didn't come to Georgia's aid, he's disinterested in the Islamisation of Turkey, he's signaled that he doesn't care that Iran will have atomic weapons and and the missiles to deliver them soon.

Usually things are a lot less complicated than people want to give them credit for.

Anonymous said...

Re Petraeus: Yeah, the Muslims hate us for supporting Israel. They also hate us for giving basic rights to women, allowing homosexuals to live openly, not being Muslim, letting people who criticize Islam live unmolested, not resolving the Kashmir crisis in their favor, supporting authoritarian leaders like Mubarak, etc etc etc.

Shall we renounce those policies, too? Shall we let people in other countries with totally opposite agendas dictate our foreign policy?

And you wonder why Petraeus all of a sudden discovered the deep animosity towards Israel in the Middle East. It was there in 2003 when we first invaded Iraq. It is nothing new.

Maybe the accusation reflects his growing frustration that our military has been fighting Iraqis for seven (!) years now, with no idea how to wind it up. Classic move, blaming others for your failures.


Sergio said...

Just read some interesting articles by Jennifer Rubin in
At one point she wonders whether Obama's tantrum over the Jerusalem apartments was a warning at Israel against a possible strike at Iran.

Or maybe Obama is just an incompetent clown?... He's begining to look like my ignorati President Squid-Lula. And, hey,
wasn't Obama who said that Lula was "the guy"?

Crazy times...

All the best,


Anonymous said...

my to date best eye opener on Obama is what they said about his decision finding relating to the Afghanistan war at a recent Slate Gabfest that it didn't feel like war at all that it felt like the managing of a McKinsey project - my last decade on the job was dominated by a lot of McKinsey et al stuff - brillant young guys with no real life experience pushing through partly useful programs in an all or nothing style

BTW just read Marty Peretz on the brouhaha - it is sad to read it that man was so sure that Obama would be it and most interesting his going back into the infamous history of the powers that were to go along with "proximity" talks - reads like there's a tradition of apartheid talks -

as to Obama complementing Lula - that's what statesmen do if they hope to gain by it - in his WW1 books Churchill hated the communists like mad, the only actor he couldn't find one good word for but when it suited his beloved island he smiled at Stalin...

as to Jennifer Rubin - my first take was, influenced by the London Times, that Obama and his assistants were doing Petraeus bidding.

it is so maddeningly unjust and if a general is involved who may be keen of his place in the history books anything may happen...

and I hope that in real life Netanyahu has the kind of sex appeal that charms Clinton out of her hubris trip - the woman lets her hair grow teenage style might be a signal that she's susceptible to some ego-boosting from that angle.


Sergio said...


And, for heaven's sake (<--disclaimer: this is just a "fa├žon de parler", I really don't believe in this heaven-hell business :) ), Hillary, of all people, should have known better.

Didn't Bill tell her about that crazy terrorist-cum-pedophile chairman's rejectionism, the only consistent pattern of the palestinian "negotiators"? She still talks to Bill, doesn't she?



Anonymous said...

when Bill was freshly hospitalized some days ago she was professional enough not to cancel her meeting with Obama - hony soit ...

as for knowing better - she may well be into proving that she can better her still way too enticing husband and I think it was Goldberg who claims that with Sayyad Israelis now have a reliable partner - seems like they want to believe that anybody who has been through a US-university must have acquired virtue

but back to Hillary - as guys go - on pictures Petraeus has "it" - can you imagine him dazzling her with doing his one-armed-push-ups ?

I read "heaven" as an abbreviation for exasperation ;-) which is hard to pronounce for a native German speaker ...

Anonymous said...

I just read again the Petraeus comment ShrinkWrapped posted and stumbled over:

"the Palestinian territories or something like that"

as I understand it in the context of that quote Israel is part of "the Palestinian territories" - is that common military language??????

also I stumbled once again on how careful he words the stuff he has NOT done i.e. nothing in writing, nothing formal ...


Carrie said...

He had an anti-Semitic pastor for 20 years, surrounded himself with with anti-Israel advisors before the election, and had a Saudi-affiliated Nation of Islam Leader raising money for his Harvard education....and 78% of the Jews voted for him.

You just can't make this stuff up.


Sulzman said...


I read your blog because I get information on the conflict that I don't get in the States, and because even though I disagree with you on a lot of issues, I generally think that the way you discuss issues is intelligent, thoughtful, and sharply analytical. You've made me question my own premises about the conflict and expand my sense of its complexity.

However, this post does not represent any of that. There's nothing thoughtful about this post at all, just you making a wildly hysterical exaggeration about Obama's and Petraeus' views on Israel. Really, what we in America want from Israel is very simple: We want the Israeli right in Israel to be marginalized. That's it. It has nothing to do with "jettisoning" Israel, as you put it, unless Israeli policy is captive to the ultra-conservative right wing. Don't exaggerate. It's a total misreading of the Obama administration and America's interests in general.

(I would, as a side note, say that it's rather hypocritical of us to ask this of Israel, given that we--in America--have our own problem with a very sizeable and vocal right wing that makes our policies kockamamie in lots of ways. That said, hypocrisy or not, marginalizing the Israeli right-wing is what the Obama administration wants. And that's something that you can either recognize and deal with rationally, or pout and be hysterical about it).

Barry Meislin said...

Interesting comment.

But more seriously, who and/or what, in your view, has empowered the so-called "right wing" over the past decade, since:

* The Israeli electorate elected Ehud Barak in 1999(?)?
* Barak pulled out of S. Lebanon?
* Barak made his offers for a Palestinian State to Arafat in 2000/2001?
* Sharon pulled out of Gaza?
* Olmert made his offers for a Palestinian State to Abu Mazen in 2008?
* The Palestinian Authority position towards Israel (i.e., no recognition of it as a Jewish State, the demand to return to the May 1967 borders, the demand to return Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, to within Israel proper (?!), the daily incitement in the PA media and TV?, the PA's refusal to acknowledge the existence of a temple on the Temple mount and refusal to acknowledge Israel as the historical home of the Jews?)
* The position of Hamas towards Israel?
* The position of the PA towards Hamas (and vice-versa)?

How/why did all of this happen according to the Narrative?

Anonymous said...


for me it is not about whether you have a troublesome right in the US also i.e. whether you are a more decent society or not, it is about you not seeming to fully accept that Israel is a SOVEREIGN state

- the way you word your comment one wouldn't assume that Israel is a state under the Pax Americana umbrella but a protectorate or a semi-autonomous colony

It is the public lecturing part that is vexing to me, but of course I am only an "old" European and remember that we, our monumental murdering spree notwithstanding, never had to tolerate such public chastising, neither before nor after May 5, 1955.

and I wonder whether true friends of the US like Poles or Czechs do not start scratching their head thinking so that is what happens if we should get uppity: regime change will be demanded ...


Yaacov said...

Hi Dario -

I'm glad you come, and look forward to hearing more from you.

It seems you accept the first of the two explanations offered by the Economist. I prefer the second. So we disagree.

The advantage to the second is that all it says about Obama is that he's ineffectual: hardly something one can disagree with I'd think, when it comes to the Middle East. Ineffectual, and not very well informed. The first explanation posits that Obama respects Israel's democracy, indeed, Israel's voters, less than he respects the thugs in Teheran, whom he's obviously not trying to displace.

As you may know, I voted for Kadima, not Netanyahu, and would again today. For what it's worth however, the fellow who is doing more than anyone else to bolster Netanyahu's coalition these past past 10 months or so is Obama. So if your interpretation is correct, your government is doing everything in its power to achieve the opposite outcome.