Wednesday, July 21, 2010

American Turnabout?

The translators at Haaretz work under pressure, which may be the reason that many of their translated articles read as if they're still in Hebrew. Still, the point generally gets across. And the point in these two offerings from today's edition is that the Obama administration has significantly changed tack on Israel. Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel read the entrails of a recent speech by a high-ranking mandarin:
What became clear was that Obama had decided to change tactics, not to say his entire strategy. After the cold and rough attitude he displayed toward the prime minister during their previous meeting, and the widely reported crisis surrounding Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in March, the American president did a complete 180 in his public attitude toward Netanyahu. In the place of a chill came a hug. Different analysts have offered varying explanations for the change in Obama's approach. It is possible that the American cabinet decided that the original approach had failed and that a warmer approach would prompt Netanyahu to advance peace talks. It is also possible that fear of an adverse effect of tense relations with Israel on Jewish Democratic Party donors, especially ahead of congressional elections, played a role. What remains unclear is what Netanyahu promised Obama in exchange for the hug he received.
Aluf Benn, meanwhile, describes a fundamental cynicism in the way American administrations run foreign relations:

When the Americans needed China against the Soviet Union, they ignored both Mao's human rights violations and Taiwan. When China was perceived as an economic threat, the United States announced that it was selling arms to Taiwan, officially hosted the Dalai Lama, and acknowledged that there was censorship in Beijing and opponents of the regime were being persecuted. In relations with Israel, the settlements play the role that Taiwan and Tibet play in relations with China - a permanent problem that is emphasized or ignored depending on need. Are they angry with the prime minister? They remember Sheikh Jarrah and Yitzhar. Do they need Israel, or do they want to caress it because of yet another bit of pseudo-progress in the peace process? They back off the Judea and Samaria planning committee.

In spite of the basic cynicism, however, Benn thinks the turnabout is more substantial than mere posturing in the run-up to November's mid-term elections:

When Obama came into office he assessed that the United States had been weakened in the Middle East and hoped to reach an agreement on sharing influence with the regional power, Iran. So he cooled toward Israel and pulled out of the closet the well-worn club called settlements. But that didn't work. The Iranians waved off Obama's goodwill gesture, and the Arab states ignored the Palestinian issue and made it clear that blocking Iran was more important. As the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Washington said at a conference last week: "A military attack on Iran by whomever would be a disaster, but Iran with a nuclear weapon would be a bigger disaster."
Cooperation with the Israel Defense Forces has become closer and the Americans have opted to emphasize it, unlike their tendency in the past of playing it down. Israel has become a hit in Washington to the point where Shapiro, who praised the defense relationship, went as far as to mention two presidents, John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, for supporting a Jewish homeland decades before Herzl. Zionism was born at the White House, and we had no idea.
What is the lesson of all this? As some readers may recollect, I have been saying all along that it takes two years to learn the job of American president. As Obama passes his 18th month in office, he may finally be learning. (Here's hoping). The second comment is that after being a disastrous prime minister first time around (1996-99), Netanyahu seems to have learned his job, too. He understood better than Obama how things might go, and he mostly stood his ground until reality trumped vacuous idealism.

Not that either or both side won't do lots of stupid things from here on, mind you.


Anonymous said...

Google leaves me confused
- how does OY bit itself plus an exclamation mark translate?


NormanF said...

Every new American Administration that comes into office wants to rearrange the Middle East furniture. It spends the next two years finding out no one wants to go along with it and it eventually drops it. Peace in the Middle East, as the Obama Administration is slowly learning is as difficult to attain as it is to make rain fall in the Sahara Desert. The only reason George Mitchell is being sent on a pointless errand is to show the Administration is invested in it. In reality no one expects any real breakthrough to happen any time soon.

4infidels said...

Well, since someone wants to talk about John Quincy Adams, perhaps the American administration should also be aware of what JQA had to say about Islam, for then supporting Israel would be a non-brainer, which would be good as there is little intelligent work being done in D.C. these days.

To think that we once had a President with this clarity of thought, whose words illuminated rather than disguised essential truths...

President John Quincy Adams:

"In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar [i.e., Muhammad], the Egyptian, [.....] Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind.


Between these two religions, thus contrasted in their characters, a war of twelve hundred years has already raged. The war is yet flagrant ... While the merciless and dissolute dogmas of the false prophet shall furnish motives to human action, there can never be peace upon earth, and good will towards men."

Anonymous said...

Soccer Dad has news on the next Flotilla in the making (links below) - i.e. Ayers and Khalidi involved and now wanting to name the next one "The Audacity of Hope" (2nd Obama-Book quoting "God damn America" Jeremiah Wright) - $370.000 to give the blackmailers a leg-up are to be raised.

Where is the youth rebelling against old 68ers' like Ayers meddling?
Once a nut always in danger of becoming one again, lucid periods notwithstanding, as our own Götz Aly proved when he hoped for a revival of Ottoman hegemony.

and also this: