Obama’s Mideast Misplay
By: RK Coffey
It took until late in the 4th quarter but our sports loving President finally lost his cool. Sure there was a lot of trash-talking, loads of disrespect and some uncalled fouls, but he forgot that the player that retaliates is the one who gets the penalty.
It is difficult to believe that the recent vote at the UN was anything but a slap to Netanyahu’s head. It is simply not credible to believe otherwise since this new US foreign policy posture will be immediately reversed after January 20th. And to expect that the right-wing Israeli government would react with anything else other than outrage and more building authorizations demonstrates a level of naiveté that is frightening and remarkably shortsighted. Nothing good ever comes from unsportsmanlike behavior.
It strengthens the Israel right. Allowing passage of this one-sided resolution gives tact approval for the ongoing violence condoned and supported by the Palestinian governments. No matter how onerous the check-points, travel restrictions and construction may be, they are not the same as killing an American citizen walking on the Tel Aviv beach. Road blocks can be removed and buildings can be demolished. But death is permanent. That is an easy sell for those who oppose a two-state solution.
Expect more buildings not less. Israel recognizes they are the junior partner in this relationship and that they remain dependent upon American aid in multiple arenas. But integral to their national psyche is a strong sense of self-reliance. The current Israeli leadership will assert their independence from world opinion by doing exactly the opposite of what Obama would like to see occur.
It tarnishes Obama’s foreign policy legacy. The points Obama got for killing bin Laden have been pretty much squandered by his chemical weapons in Syria “red line.” Now he will be portrayed as condoning violence and appeasing terrorists as his time as President is expiring. It’s hard to score when you are no longer in the game.
Only Nixon could go to China. To suggest that the US knows what is best for the Israelis is insulting and foolish. The overwhelming issue in the minds of the Israeli public is security. They consider themselves as an economically thriving, socially liberal democracy and cannot understand why Obama is willing to make a deal with a theocratic Iranian regime that suppresses dissent, executes gays and daily threatens Israel with destruction. Bibi’s views on the Palestinians may not represent the majority of Israelis. But his existential concerns regarding Iran certainly do. Just as only a rabid anti-communist like Richard Nixon could reach out to Red China, it will take someone with the security bona fides like Netanyahu to make a final peace deal with the Palestinians. Trying to ostracize Bibi is a big mistake. Obama swung late and missed.
It will hurt the Democratic Party. Few things have more bi-partisan Congressional support than “America’s most loyal ally in the Middle East.” Broad swaths of the US electorate are also strongly pro-Israel, particularly in the coastal southern states that the Democrats will need to carry in the future. Likely Democratic presidential candidates will have to quickly repudiate Obama’s move which can only add to the perception that the party is in trouble. A perspective that the Republicans will be happy to exploit.