According to one senior diplomatic source, the White House views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the following prism: Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has the will to make peace, but not the power; Netanyahu has the power, but not the will.This validates, of course, Obama’s uninformed, ideological pro-Palestinian perception of the conflict.
The presidential tactics, therefore, are informed by that overall assumption. How to give Abbas the power, and Netanyahu the will.
Well, one way to give Abbas the power is not to undercut him in the eyes of his public – which an unequivocal “no” to the refugee issue would have done. Another way is not to completely rule out Hamas, especially when the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is so popular on the Palestinian street.
A third way to give Abbas power is to raise his stature among his people – something that is done by adopting a position he has put forward for months: a return to the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps, as the basis for negotiations.
And how, if you are Obama, do you give Netanyahu the will to make peace? Show him where the US stands; box him into a corner, force his hand.
Netanyahu went to the US wanting to stand up to the president – feeling that following the pictures last Sunday of hundreds of Palestinians rushing the country’s northern borders, there would be huge public backing for saying clearly to the president that Israel could not return to the 1967 lines or tolerate any wishy-washy language on Hamas or the refugee issue.
Obama, the aide said, simply does not understand the Israeli psyche, and his failure to address the refugees – saying this would be dealt with later – just a few days after refugees rushed the Israeli borders, showed the degree to which he is tone deaf to the Israeli public.
One important flaw is his failure to realize that no Palestinian leader has the will or the power to make peace because the Palestinian public does not want him to!! In other words, like the Europeans, he is in willful denial of the core of the conflict: the objective of the vast majority of the Palestinian public (not to mention the Arab states) to dismantle Israel. Therefore, all Obama’s efforts to give Abbas the power are in vain. What they do, essentially, is to harden his position: if Obama forces the 1967 borders without rejecting the right of return and the Hamas-Fatah unity government, why should Abbas compromise on these issues when he knows that this public won’t accept it?
The other flaw is Obama’s failure to understand the Israeli recognition (net of leftist useful idiots), since Oslo, of the Arab “phases plan”. By constantly pressing Netanyahu for concessions Obama is triggering the survival instinct of the Israelis, their security concerns, and their distrust of US as an ally.
In other words, he is doing the exact opposite to what he should be doing to bring peace closer.With predictable consequences.
…A pattern is emerging: Deliver a speech to the world that is difficult to Israeli ears in one forum, and follow up with a speech geared toward American Jews in another, seemingly designed to reduce the fallout.Obama is exploiting here a disadvantage of Israel: the American Jews’ overwhelming liberalism, Democratic vote and, sadly, their failure to learn from their history, culminating in the Holocaust. Even though it has not reached the scope in Europe, there is an unmistakable increase in anti-semitism and anti-Zionism in the US, one that would have been unimaginable 10-15 years ago. Jews tend to respond to such by trying to prove themselves “good Jews”, more patriotic than everybody else, not like those bad Israelis. Unlike Israelis (1) they and particularly their elite are intimidated by accusations of "control" and "blind support of Israel against American interests", and (2) are more likely to fall for nice speeches even when actions defy them. Hence Obama’s one-two approach.
While Obama’s visit to Buchenwald in 2009 resonated with American Jews who were touched by the symbolism of an American president visiting the concentration camp, it did not strike any chord with Israelis.
Obama, for all his bluster during the speech about not taking the easy path and avoiding controversy, knows that he is going to need Jewish support in the next elections: both financial support and the votes. He also knows that with his Israel policy, he risks losing a few percentage points of the 78% of the Jewish vote he garnered in 2008, and that those percentage points, in key battleground states like Florida and Ohio, could be critical in a close presidential race.
Although these points are significant, they don’t give the speech its importance. That comes from the reception the address received. That Israel’s prime minister received a rock-star ovation from both sides of the aisle of both houses of Congress sends an important message of support to both friend and foe alike. Netanyahu knows this, and he knew it before walking into the House chamber. He knew the symbolic value of a speech by a foreign leader to a joint meeting of Congress, something that only happens about four times a year. He knew that he had the rhetorical abilities to get the congressmen on their feet repeatedly.I would urge all who are pro-Israel to resist the temptation of being overly impressed with and reliant on the Congressional response to a speech, particularly in a pre-election period. The US Congress has become an extremely flawed version of what it was in preceding times. It is riddled with incompetence and corruption and is quite flaky. The US is in steep decline and is not used to and does not know how to handle demise. So even if the Congressional support of Israel is genuine and will persist, it is not clear how exactly it will materialize in practice in a Middle East in which the Islamists are the strong horse. Indeed, that Obama has been able to do so much damage in the presence of such strong domestic support for Israel does not bode well.
Had the West comprehended the reality and its interests and had it still been committed to defending its core values, it would have withheld resources from the Middle East and the Arab culture and 7th century Islam would have taken care of the rest. But while experience of waning colonial powers in creating failed states in the Middle East should have given the West pause in creating yet another one and stop the delusion that money can lead to democracy, it has just decided to pump 12 billions into the Middle East likely to become Islamist and will probably recognize the non-viable, corrupt and terrorist state of Palestine.
UPDATE: Elliott Abrams (The Third Man) adds the calculus of Abbas to the mix and argues that Obama's failures have caused Abbas to dump the US and move to unity with Hamas and UN statehood, leaving Obama incoherent. Must read.
UPDATE II: David Frum (Obama Falls for Abbas’ Bluff) reminds us that US has the leverage on Abbas, but Obama behaves as if it's the other way around. And, of course, that's because Obama acts ideologically rather than per US interests.