Thursday, March 25, 2010

An Israeli Perspective on Obama

Quite a number of people, including readers of this blog, feel Obama is an antisemite and hates Israel. I don't. He clearly isn't enamored of us, that's true, but his problem is broader than animosity towards Israel: the man doesn't understand the world. Being the president of the United States means he can call in whatever experts he wishes, and his lack of understanding of the world is so comprehensive he doesn't recognize that the folks feeding him data and interpretations are inept. As I've repeatedly said, it takes two years to learn the job of president of the US, so perhaps he may yet learn - though time is running out, and he's making things worse as he goes (not only on our subject).

Here's an article in Hebrew about how he's screwing up Israel-Palestine. There's nothing particularly new in it, and the reason I'm linking is the identity of the author: prof. Eitan Gilboa, perhaps Israel's most prominent scholar on the US and on Israeli-American relations. He's a centrist, like most of us, not a firebrand. When he writes a column flatly declaring "Obama is tripping-up Netanyahu" (whom Gilboa probably didn't vote for), and it appears on Y-net, it reinforces the commonly accepted version around here in a way that an op-ed in Haaretz never will.

I fail to see how forging an Israeli consensus that America is not to be trusted can remotely promote peace. Someday, should an agreement ever be reached, Israel will be required to take enormous, life-endangering risks. We won't take the risks because of our love and trust in the Palestinians; if we can't trust the Americans, it will be all that harder to convince us. This may not be just, but it's the real world.


Barry Meislin said...

I fail to see how forging an Israeli consensus that America is not to be trusted can remotely promote peace.

Ah, but you, too, are missing the point.

Which is, that promoting peace is NOT the point.

The point is ridding the US of the accusation that it is not a fair arbiter. Of showing that it is not beholden to the Jews or the Israel Lobby. Of getting the Zionist monkey off America's back.

Walt & Mearsheimer have worked their poison well.

If peace comes, well that would be great. Fine and dandy. But the pursuit of peace, which is that grandest of all resort for scoundrels (even greater, perhaps, than patriotism) is only the fig-leaf for the larger project, which is the reorienting of America, the reconfiguration of America, the recalibration of America, that is of a piece with the recently passed Health Care legislation, and which is the hallmark of the Obama administration.

Of changing America both at home and abroad.

Granted, the illusion (of peace) may have indeed been the point at one time, i.e., when Shimon Peres convinced Rabin of the need to agree to Shimon Peres's sincere if misguided beliefs.

However, since October 2000 and a few months later (Jan.-Feb., 2001), there should have been no doubt (though of course there was---and there continues to be---though less as far as Israelis are concerned) what the Palestinians' intentions were.

This is not due so much to the Arafat having rejected Barak's offers, and further offers, and Clinton's arguments in favor of an agreement; but THE WAY that this rejection "occurred"---that is, the way it was planned, staged, and implemented, not to mention the ceaseless propaganda that accompanied it, and which still continues to infect the PA media.

Now, ten years down the road, several wars later, with Israel's reputation in tatters---and a significant part of the world, and now the American administration, believing that defending Israel is not in their interest, they have decided that they are going to break the stalemate that they believe causes them so much grief (and the Muslim population in Europe does indeed consist of a threat).

Of course, they must phrase this in terms of "peace," "fairness," and "justice." Of breaking an "intolerable situation," an "endlessly tragic logjam." An "affront to humanity." What have you.


Barry Meislin said...

Obama has decided to force the Palestinians to have a state, which he will deliver.

To do this, he will have to force Israel to agree to give it to them under conditions that the Palestinians will accept.

Except that Israel will not be able to accede, forcing that country into even further isolation and global delegitimazation, with ramifications for Jewish communit8ies around the world.

Except, also, that the Palestinians will not agree to a state under any conditions other than those they have been demanding all along---conditions that mean the erasure of Israel.

But according to Obama's (and his advisors') view, what the Palestinians want is not as important as giving them the conditions that he feels they should accept. Obama believes he they can force the Palestinians to agree to the state they will force Israel to yield.

(After all, what are friends for?.....)

This is how Obama will prove to the Arabs and the Muslims of the world that America can be relied upon, that America is a fair arbiter.

"But how does one become a fair arbiter when Party A is willing to live with Party B that wants to destroy it?", is a question that one would rather not ask.

And, in fact, it is critical that one deny or ignore that Party B, in fact, wishes to destroy Party A, and proceed from there. Or to pretend that Party B doesn't want to destroy Party A. Or to regard it as an umimportant detail that can be changed by "the process."

So that Israel's preoccupation with its "partner in peace"'s desire, continually expressed, see Israel disappear is not a question that concerns the current US administration---enamored as it is of the idea of pursuing justice, breaking the "tragic" stalemate, and proving that America is fair.

The results of such high-mindedness?:

Well, we've seen what happened in 1948-1949; what happened in 1967. We'll be seeing it again, soon, with every indication that the next outbreak of violence will not be confined.

But at least this adminstration will be able to congratulate itself on account of its excellent intentions.... And tell the Israel Lobby where to go....even as the administration's decisions have ramifications for America and the "free world" for many years to come.

(But then the "free world" is another abstraction that has no significance for this administration.)

Barry Meislin said...

P.S. For some background (a precedent?) on what happens when a world power (Britain, in this case) decides it must absolutely act in its own (PERCEIVED) interest in the Middle East, "Seven Fallen Pillars" by Jon Kimche (written in 1950) is an account that very much ought to be read.

Anonymous said...

here is a lecture on Halford Mackinder who is said to have supplied the thinking for Brits in the Middle East

- I guess Mackinder is also the one behind Stratfor's thinking - "nice" look into George Friedman's thinking can be found at Victor's place (see blogroll)
(some years ago Friedmann was all over the NYT with his super-ability to predict anything once he put his experts to it - since he hasn't managed to predict the financial crisis he didn't use the word in the last lecture I heard by him)

as to the 18 months' rule for presidents my first boss said it takes equally long for a secretary (now called PA) to have their jobs at their finger tips. Experience convinced me that it is a pretty universal time frame and so I wonder whether all the expert advisors swirling around the president trying to pitch their point have had these 18 months at the specialty they claim to be top at (McKinsey sends its staff advising straight from the uni not bothering to teach them even basics in polite behaviour)


Anonymous said...

OT but too nice to waste

CiF-watch had something about the Guardian calling Israel arrogant - so I wanted to check how arrogant Mr. Erdogan's country figures - ooops only No 14 but of course they are not arrogant just proud ...


NormanF said...

Yaacov, Israelis cannot trust Obama - leaving aside the issue of whether he is anti-Semite. His degrading treatment of Netanyahu and brutal pressure applied to Israel on Jerusalem has convinced 96% of Israeli Jews that America under his Administration will never be a fair broker. Israel is being asked to make more concessions and the US has reneged on an undertaking it gave Israel as recently as last November, never mind the Bush-Sharon understanding a few years ago. This tells Israelis about how much an American guarantee right now is truly worth.

And that's exactly why there is not going to be any real breakthrough with the Palestinians in the course of this Administration and I will predict as Barry Rubin has, is that nothing is going to change for years to come.

4infidels said...

Barry Meislin,

Very nicely done!

My comments under the previous posting, "Screw Up, Second Round" address this issue as well.

Sergio said...

There's an excelent (at least to an outsider like myself) article by Evelyn
Gordon titled "The deadly price of pursuing peace" on the Quite clear an illuminating.



Anonymous said...

One cannot choose to trust or not to trust -- even in such a noble cause as "promoting peace". It is not a matter of choice, but of what one judges to be the objective truth of the matter. As Shelley said:

"This is the pivot upon which all religions turn; they all assume that it is in our power to believe or not to believe: whereas the mind can only believe that which it thinks true. A human being can only be supposed accountable for those actions which are influenced by his will. But belief is utterly distinct from and unconnected with volition."

Your Correspondent said...

It seems to be an iron rule:

It takes 7 years for a US President to understand the Middle East.

So what will Obama do when he figures it out?

Anonymous said...

"So what will Obama do when he figures it out?"

Blame Israel that she hasn't told him earlier?