Thursday, August 14, 2014

Barack Obama as Sal Tessio and Just as Unconvincing

Sal Tessio: [to Hagen] Tell Mike it was only business. I always liked him.

Tom Hagen: He understands that. 

As regular followers of this blog know I have never been one to single out President Barack Obama for opprobrium.

I've said that Israeli governments have had profound differences with all previous U.S. administrations and that we should not make a big deal about the troubled Netanyahu-Obama relationship.

Who can forget the set-up photo in the White House cabinet room of president Ronald Reagan glaring (if looks could kill) at the diminutive Yitzhak Shamir, foreign minister at the time, on one of his visits to the White House.

Now, though, I am beginning to be swayed to the view that Obama is giving Jimmy Carter a good run for level of presidential antipathy toward the Zionist enterprise.

Today's Wall Street Journal – heavily and sympathetically sourced to unnamed White House officials – carries a long piece – a bill of particulars – explaining why Obama has lost patience with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

The writer wants it known that U.S.-Israel relations are at their lowest point since Obama took office.

Who can quantify low?

Of course, Obama torpedoed the relationship from Day 1 (with an ignoble assist from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) by pushing for a "settlement freeze" and forcing Mahmoud Abbas to do so also.

Obama made it impossible to Abbas to even speak to Netanyahu without a settlement freeze in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

Talk about a non starter.

That amateurish stunt essentially sabotaged the status quo and made things worse. Much worse. It raised Palestinian expectations. 

Later, Obama gave a speech in Cairo in which he got just about everything about the Arab world wrong. To top it off, he clumsily justified Israel's existence on the basis of the Holocaust. As if the Jewish connection to Eretz Israel dated back to World War II and no earlier.

He went on to mishandle the Arab Spring.

He fumbled the Egypt crisis. Libya. The Iraq pullout (pullout good - way he did it bad).

It's a long list. 

Fast forward to today.

Obama has now instructed that future Israeli requests for weaponry including ammunition be approved by him at the White House.

The implication is clear.

The president was reportedly taken aback to learn that the Pentagon had routinely authorized Jerusalem to tap into a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in the Jewish state. Like he didn't know we were fighting Iran's proxy, Hamas and needed those supplies.

The re-op undercut White House and State Department efforts to pressure Israel into halting its military campaign against Hamas in Gaza.

In other words, before anyone in Israel, me included, complains that Netanyahu is not crushing Hamas – let's understand that the president of the US is working to save Hamas. Just like Reagan saved Arafat and the PLO in the 1982 Lebanon War.

And bank this:  U.S. guarantees and international  guarantees are only as good as the occupant in the White House. Only as good as that day's goodwill. 

Israeli restraint but good will. Israeli withdrawals - like from Gaza buys goodwill. And this goodwill has the shelf life of a container of fresh milk left out I the Middle East sun.

At least Reagan's heart was in the right place, or so say his supporters, and he was overwhelmed by Caspar Weinberger ("Why won't anyone believe me that I am Episcopalian -- my grandparents converted! I can prove it") and Reagan dumped the pro-Israel Al Haig for two-faced George Shultz.

So Reagan gets a pass from some.

Me thinks, Obama's dislike for things Israeli is of a different order altogether.

The president considers Netanyahu to be reckless and not to be trusted. 

Now, let's face it – our premier is a political chameleon and a backstabber – just like most politicians. So I am not suggesting there is no merit in the claim.

But Obama is angry at him for substantive reasons not because Bibi is, well, Bibi. He's angry about Bibi's principles - principles shared by most Israelis when it comes to Hamas, the Pakestinian Muslim Brothethood.

Israeli officials characterize the president and his team as naïve, the newspaper said.

That's putting it politely.

And it is not far from what most Americans think -- and I mean those who try to think well of Obama.

But is Obama only naïve or is there some kind of visceral refusal to "get" Israel. Even as a candidate he wanted Israel to pull back to the 1949 Armistice Lines.

The Netanyahu government has been counting on military-to-military ties and backing from the U.S. Congress as a workaround to White House animosity. It has basically given up on the White House.

But let's face it – how practical is this approach with some two years more to go in this administration?

One could count on one hand the number of high level officials simpatico to Israel in this administration  -- and still have five fingers left over.

Supposedly, goes the Journal piece, the administration believes that Israel is not been doing enough to limit civilian casualties in Gaza risking a humanitarian catastrophe. A position that parallels the Euro-Left and is about as naïve as naïve gets.

It willfully ignores Israeli efforts to limit collateral damage. Just naïve ?

Could the US do any better under identical conditions? I don't think so.

Obama is angry because his efforts to bring about a ceasefire have been undermined by Israeli opposition to giving Qatar and Turkey roles in the process. Left unsaid is that Egypt and israel are on the same page. 

Qatar (paymaster of Al Jezerra) and Turkey are the primary backers of Hamas. Turkey's president for life ran for election on an anti Zionist platform calling Israelis worse than Nazis.

Turkey has gone over the edge but NATO doesn't have the guts to face up to the fact that the current regime in Ankara has nothing in common with the Turkey that was admitted to the alliance.

Turkey is a stalking horse for the wrong side in The Long War. Separate story.

Supposedly, the Obama administration was particularly incensed when on July 30 a U.S.-supplied Israeli shell struck a United Nations school in Gaza, so the Journal reported. The Israeli army has again and again explained that Hamas is shooting from schools, mosques, and hospitals.

The evidence is available to the president on YouTube.

And there have been not a few cases when such school explosions turned out to be caused by Hamas misfiring at Israel. 
The administration was further riled when on Aug. 2 Netanyahu telephoned U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro to say that he didn't want the Obama administration "to ever second-guess me again" about how to deal with Hamas. The White House accused Israel of leaking the conversation.

Now, here I have to say that Netanyahu may have overplayed his hand.

If so, it reflects the frustration of having Shapiro (who speaks good Hebrew) make like he is a friend of Israel while representing a policy that is hostile to Israel's fundamental interests.

The relationship between Obama and Netanyahu has reached a nadir.

Obama is holding up access to the bullets, bombs, and ordinance Israel needs to overcome Hamas.

I can't read his mind or his heart but it is as if wants us in a war of attrition so that Israel will make concessions to the Palestinians of Hamas or the Palestinians of Fatah ( six of one, half a dozen of the other).

He is even holding off transfer of the additional $225 million in funding for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system that was approved by Congress.

Pretty clear it's both business and personal.

It's  gonna be a bumpy two years until Obama leaves the White House. 

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