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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Israel's Obama Problem

Hints have begun trickling out of Washington D.C. that the Obama administration has realized that it went too far in attacking Israel, and may now be looking to take a step back. With general opposition from Israelis, street protests, and a forceful rejection from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the failure of Obama's approach is fairly obvious. But that doesn't mean that Israel's Obama problem is over. Not by a long shot.

The Obama administration's hard line on Israel was a show of arrogance by people who assumed that they owned the American Jewish community and that Netanyahu would quickly knuckle under. They proved to be wrong on both counts. But that initial setback only means that a new administration plan will rely less on an overt frontal attack.

In their first engagement, Netanyahu succeeded in tangling Obama in ambiguities, while letting the administration's own aggressiveness blunder into making Jerusalem an issue up front. That disastrous approach helped unify Israelis and even the American Jewish leadership into taking a stand against Obama. Obama's own overt thuggishness hurt him badly, with all but the Israeli far left backing away from him.

Obama hoped to leverage Israel's political rivalries to undermine Netanyahu. Instead Netanyahu leveraged Obama's thuggishness to overturn Livni who had become Obama's main Two State Solution proponent in Israel. Now with her Kadima party headed for a split, Obama's pressure on Netanyahu will have actually helped to strengthen the ruling Likud-Labor coalition.

Obama had brought a club, while Netanyahu had brought Judo lessons. And the outcome left Obama shaking his head and wondering what happened.

Meanwhile the American Jewish leadership has not proven nearly as tractable as expected. Obama's attempt to include the Soros funded Anti-Israel group, J-Street, on a par with real Jewish American organization was a bust, because all the weight Obama throws behind J Street cannot transform it into a valid representative of the Jewish community. Meanwhile his marginalization of non-left wing groups in his Roosevelt room meeting only fed the backlash against him within the American Jewish leadership, leading to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issuing a strong statement in support of Israel's right to Jerusalem.

Obama's promoters had worked very hard to create the illusory consensus of mass Jewish support for Obama, particularly by bandying about the phony 78 percent figure. In the real world though Obama's "base" within the Jewish community skews young, unaffiliated and unconcerned with Israel. Meanwhile the actual American Jewish communal and organizational leadership tends to skew older, more affiliated and very concerned about Israel.

The liberal Jewish media has tried to highlight that split to argue that the traditional American Jewish leadership is out of touch, but in fact they are in touch with the future of the Jewish community in America. By contrast Obama's base represents a demographic that is exiting from the Jewish community, and that prioritizes liberalism over Judaism. With Israel, Obama encountered the Jewish version of "folks clinging to their bibles and their guns". By creating a liberal echo chamber in the Roosevelt Room of J Street, with the likes of the Israel Policy Form, Peace Now and the National Jewish Democratic Council pretending to represent a Jewish consensus, he instead wound up out of touch with the real feelings in the American Jewish community.

But while Obama may have lost the opening round at home and in Israel, that only sets the stage for the next phase of the engagement. Obama is almost certain to lead with another high profile speech, this time perhaps in Israel. While Hillary Clinton and Gates build up some credibility on Iran, a subject that last time around Obama and his minions bluntly ignored, Obama will have a carrot to offer along with the stick, the promise that Israeli concessions will lead to American action on Iran. While Netanyahu is smart enough to know that Obama will do nothing about Iran, it's a lifeline that may prove too big to ignore.

A big part of the Jewish and Israeli backlash to Obama originated from the administration blatantly ignoring Israeli concerns about Iran's nuclear program and Hamas terrorism, as well as the refusal to hold Fatah to any actual terms. This time around it's fairly certain that the Obama administration will pay some lip service on at least 2 out of 3 of these, with Fatah likeliest to get a pass. Backed by a high profile speech to the Knesset that will be big on moving rhetoric of the "Some of my best friends are Jews" and "A good life for all the children of Abraham" variety, and short on substance, the next Two State Solution bid will pay more attention to PR and be less blatantly hostile than Obama's first shot across Israel's bow.

But essentially Israel's Obama problem comes down to this. While Israel has strong support in Congress because of the Jewish vote and general American sentiments in favor of Israel, Saudi Arabia has far more support among the foreign policy and defense establishment that actually make policy. It is why Congress passes pro-Israel resolutions, while the administration and the state department tends to ignore them. The Obama Administration is the most strongly Saudi influenced administration in American history, and considering that the other contenders are FDR, Carter and Bush Sr, that is saying a great deal indeed.

While the much ballyhooed AIPAC spent time meeting and greeting congressmen, the Saudis much more profitably spent that time working with diplomats and policy wonks where the real power in foreign policy lies. The likes of Chas Freeman, who but for an ugly statement in Tienanmen Square missed playing a key role in the Obama Administration, are their creatures. So is James L Jones, who unofficially is the second most powerful man in the Obama Administration, cracking the whip in all directions. As in part is Obama himself.

Obama's key foreign policy agenda is to win the love of the Muslim world. He has few counters left, having already sacrificed his own dignity and America's self-respect. Trying to pay off the Muslim world using Israeli territory is hardly a new idea in American or Israeli politics, but it's one that Obama intends to push to the limit. And backed by a Saudi allied foreign policy establishment that has no moral commitment to democracy or human rights, and sees Israeli as the primary destabilizing obstacle in the region-- there is no limit to how far Obama will push Israel, if Israel allows itself to be pushed.

The initial ruthless push was a manifestation of contempt by the Obama Administration for both Israel and American Jews. That contempt has not gone away, it has only been leavened by caution. The Obama official who stated bluntly that the administration had plenty of its own Jews working for them and did not need to liason with any representatives of the Jewish community, was giving voice to the administration view of where Jews belonged.

And the conflict is far from over. The Obama Administration has yet to really go after Netanyahu and American Jewish leaders, particularly through the media. That is likely being reserved for phase three. It has casually undermined Israel's defense contracts, but so far has not brought out the open economic blackmail. It has struck out at AIPAC only by way of going after conservative Democrats. It has not made a serious push to force a no confidence vote on Netanyahu and then rig a new election, the way Clinton did to get rid of Netanyahu the first time around. Netanyahu knows all this, which is why he's playing for time.

The Obama Administration would prefer to use those as the clinchers, not as their opening cards. But they already overplayed their hand by targeting Jerusalem. Obama could bring out his inner Chavez, deliver a speech lambasting Jews and AIPAC. He is however more likely to leave clownish theatrics like that to Biden, who along with Hillary Clinton has been the administration's fall guy for communicating the hard line on Israel.

The Obama Administration will have to choose between open antagonism or a soft shoe approach, and for now the next phase is likely to be led off by a soft shoe opening, with a dagger safely tucked away where it can be quickly put to use.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Just a few questions.
Do you trust Netanyahu to resist Obama & not fold under pressure?
Do you think Netanyahu will pull the trigger on Iran even without American approval?

Sultan Knish said...

I hope that Netanyahu will be strong enough, but I have a limited amount of confidence. Netanyahu is trying to play a complicated game, the people he's playing against may be amateurs and goons in suits, but they do have all the leverage,

Keli Ata said...

Obama went for the jugular when he made Jerusalem a target for his plans right off the bat. In a way it's good that he didn't seduce Israelis with a soft-sell, gradual approach.

I think Netanyahu will remain strong against Obama and his thugs.

Anonymous said...

Very fearful of the complicated calculus created due to the undeniable dependency of Israel on a Us (that is no longer what it hitherto was).

Anonymous said...

The whole Obama rise, success and deification came with a reason. Jews should see that help comes from G-d, not by worshiping America. We have lost our identity as Jews and Israelis, we have become analphabets in Judaism, we are ready to give away The Temple, East Jerusalem, everything, if only the Arabs and America would have the know how to do it nicely.

FinanceDoc said...

Great article. Methinks the soft shoe is coming next and that will be a more difficult bullet to dodge as many Jews feel slighted by Obama's indifference but will quickly suck up if he strokes their egos.

In the meantime, Obama is arming Egypt, Jordan, the Saudis, and Lebanon to the teeth, training a 5,000 man Palestinian army in J&S, handing $1 billion to Hamas, and withdrawing sanctions against Syria.

Israelis need to ignore Obama's lascivious lips and keep their collective hands on their wallets.

A Jew With A View said...

Obama gravely underestimated Jewish love of Israel. He's been so busy obsessing over how to 'reach' Islam that he neglected to factor in Jewish passion for our homeland. Hopefully there is more awareness now as to his ultimate aims. I'm guessing he's also alienated many American Christian supporters of Israel?

I'm aware that some Christian zionist support of Israel is a double edged sword, but the various Christian groups still represent many potential voters so presumably Obama will want them on side?

An Israeli friend of mine remarked yesterday that the Saudi Arabia would actually like to recognise Israel - but that the regime would be overthrown if it did indeed do so. Do you agree with him?



Obama's character - or lack thereof! - should now be clear for all to see following the way he's tried to bully Israel. I just pray Bibi remains tough and that even if he doesn't, Israelis leave him in no doubt as to their feelings on a divided Jerusalem etc.


As for J Street and others of their ilk - I don't class them as Jews. Ditto for those fruitcakes Neteuri Karta.

A Jew With A View said...

Here's an article some of you may appreciate :


http://network.nationalpost.com/np/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2009/07/27/laura-rosen-cohen-islam-just-isn-t-into-us.aspx

Sultan Knish said...

Obama has an emotional connection to Islamic aims, but none toward Jewish ones. So he has a great deal of trouble connecting toward Jews, during the campaign he dug up some camp counselor who liked Israel and began talking about reading Philip Roth.

As for American Evangelicals, the Obama campaign split them fairly successfully, and the situation is fairly chaotic. Soros has funded his own groups there too. In any case they may support Israel, but it's not the biggest voting issue. Other issues will play a much bigger role there.

Regarding Saudi Arabia, they have their own internal factions. They don't want to recognize Israel, but they need Israel as a balance against Iran, more than ever now that Saddam is out of power.

Saudi Arabia is weak militarily, but has a great deal of money, and uses it to buy influence. At the same time they're surrounded by states that could conquer them, which forces them to rely on US protection. On top of that their own internal Islamists ala Bin Laden are straining at the leash to overthrow the House of Saud and bring in their own Taliban regime. The regime compensates for that by funding terrorism abroad.

No Apology said...

All Obama needs is one tiny concession on the part of Netanyahu, just to get the Islamist's nose under the tent. How anyone in their right mind could demand concessions on the part of Israel, while ignoring the blatant, ongoing violence on the part of Hamas and Fatah, is beyond me. OK, Obama is a snake, that's a given. If the Jews haven't learned from history, the lesson will be repeated. And again, if necessary. The Jewish leaders have the skills and the charisma - well, Netanyahu does anyway - to out-maneuver the Muslims. Their will is about to be tested. If thy fail to defend their homeland, the so-called liberal Jews will be the first ones lined up against the wall and shot.

I know that Netanyahu knows all this. But he must go on the attack. Judo is good. A bullet is also good. A bomb, even better. They have nothing to lose if they act now, right now. The Jews at this moment in time stand alone in a world bent on their annihilation. Failure to deliver a crushing blow to the Muslims will result in defeat of the Jews. At least in this go'round.

Go Bibi!

Lemon said...

Obama is a world threat.
At one time America was a standard held up to the world and a beacon to point the way toward freedom and decency.
That is no longer true with men like we have had at the helm for a long while now.
Obama is just the infection rising to the top of an already gaping wound.
Israel would do well to take off on their own and forget America.
If not, they will fall with her and she is sinking rapidly.

Sara Toiba said...

I am anxious to read your opinion on 44 people being arrested recently in laundering money.
Are you planning to write anything about it? Do you think obama is involved?
Thank you.

Sultan Knish said...

it's unfortunately fairly commonplace local corruption. Obama isn't involved at this end of the chain, but he was involved in worse in Chicago.

Shtuey said...

Though we know it to be a red herring, the "settlement freeze" is the test. If Netanyahu accepts a freeze, even "temporary," it's over. Building will cease. Yesha will be evacuated, and then the push will be for Judenrein in east Jerusalem; at least that is my fear. Netanyahu has played the game pretty well so far, but I'll be happier if George Mitchell is shown the door, and his office closed.

If it were up to me the Israel wouldn't accept an American ambassador's credentials until the embassy was in Jerusalem. Watching Israel be bullied by a country that says "friend" when it won't even recognize the capital of the country...it makes me ill.

An easy fast to all.

Will48 said...

The Establishment is the real rulers of America, setting its policies like you said. Baker/Hamilton report of 2007 was a real change of power (with their forged NIE letting Iran off), not the 2008 Selections of pre-appointed President with McCain playing to lose so clearly.

The naive neocons were thrown out, AIPAC neutralized with the fake "spies" scandal, and the ruthless cold "realist" appeasnik "engagement" faction of Brzezinski came to power. All key positions were taken by them even before Obama, as NIE/07 affair proves.

These people have no illusions and no ideals left by a long shot, except preserving their power, the true protagonists of the coming American Empire (not as a metaphore). After the corrupted Roman Republic lost its way it didn't just went away. The ruthless fascist Empire came in its place.

What Obama is doing was openely set out by Brzesinski. Days after Resident 0buma was "elected", Brzezinski gave a lecture in Britain where he set out his grand new Global Management Strategy in the name of Stability. According to it, the US must:

UNITE in its goals with the EU top 3 (UK, France, Germany)
ENLARGE the club of super states from G7 to G14 (include Russia, China as equals)
ENGAGE the regional powers like Iran and accommodate them
PACIFY ISRAEL to avoid clashing with Arabs' "awoken masses which can only be pacified by extermination and we aren't willing to do that".

Yes in these words exactly. PACIFY. (watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oEHqNyDRQdY)

While the pro-Israel "Lobby" plays the democratic game by trying to lobby the elected representatives, the Arab Lobby plays the rigged game of bribing the un-elected government officials with the post-retirement high-paying jobs, and it's been doing that for decades along with the buying up the American Near Eastern studies wholesale, thus influencing the very basic outlook of American policy-makers, BEFORE they come to set their policy.

The American defense establishment is busy analysing its options but the rot has set from within long ago. We shouldn't ignore the decade of most devilish black lies spread against Serbs by the Western media, in the name of appeasing Islamism.

While open appeasement of pre-WWII was an ugly thing, at least they were open about it. Today's Western elites lie to themselves constantly (in order to feel good about their betrayal naturally) but nothing good comes out of lying to oneself all the time.

Sultan Knish said...

and an easy fast to you too

Anonymous said...

WARNING, WILL ROBINSON (and Others).
BE AWARE..
MANY of the "pillars" of the Pro-Israel movement have been coopted by Buraq Hussein supporters and spies.

Certainly, there is J-Street,, BUT recently, a POS Obama friend APTLY NAMED "SOLOW" has taken over leadership of Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. Soon another Hussein termite, Lee Rosenberg, will lead AIPAC. BOTH of them, imho, will seel out the Jews and Israel, just as Emmanueal and Axelrod have shown their choice to sell out Torah and Israel----they are AS PHONEY as Hussein's muslim-led Whote House "seder."

WATCH OUT. The enemy is within our own gates. Support ONLY groups with a CLEAR record of support for Israel, such as ZOA. Mort Klein or ZOA has never fallen for the crap of Buraq Hussein, and never will. Perhaps (certainly) that is why Mort Klein is never invited to the White House for the photo ops and will never be folled by this muslim enemy of the Jews, O'Bonzo.

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