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Fundamentally Freund: Ignore Obama’s lame-duck quacking
By MICHAEL FREUND
25/12/2013
As the great comedian Bob Hope once noted, “The only thing chicken about Israel is their soup.” Let’s keep it that way.
 
If the various rumors and reports are true, January may prove to be one tough month for US-Israeli relations.

According to several accounts, the Obama administration is said to be gearing up to push Israel into a corner by offering its own proposals regarding how to shape a deal with the Palestinians.

With the clock ticking on the nine months allotted for an agreement to be reached, US Secretary of State John Kerry likely will be twisting Israel’s arm, and applying pressure to other anatomical parts, to coerce the Jewish state into capitulation.

Under normal circumstances, it would be difficult for an Israeli premier to rebuff a concerted, full-court press from Washington, particularly when it involves an issue about which both the president and America’s top diplomat seem overly obsessed.

But these are not normal circumstances, and it behooves Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to stand firm and spurn any pressure that may be applied.

For although Barack Obama still has another three years in office, he is already starting to look a heck of a lot like a lame duck, one whose quacking can and should be ignored.

Consider the following: according to a Washington Post/ ABC poll released last week, Obama is closing out his fifth year in office with the lowest approval rating at this point in a presidency since Richard “Tricky Dick” Nixon. That is not the kind of company that an occupant of the White House likes to keep.

The survey found that just 43 percent of Americans approve of the job that Obama is doing, which is less than the 47% that George W. Bush managed to garner at the end of his fifth year in office.

In other words, Obama is now less liked at this point in his presidency than even Bush was.

A Fox News national poll conducted jointly by Democratic and Republican polling firms produced similar results, with Obama earning an approval rating of 41% versus a 53% disapproval rating.

Even worse, the survey showed that more Americans now view him as dishonest rather than honest, with 45% saying Obama is trustworthy and 49% saying he is not.

By contrast, in 2009, a whopping 73% gave him a thumbs-up for honesty.

Even the normally pliant and reliably liberal American media has begun to wonder aloud about whether Obama is morphing into a Democratic version of Bush the younger, much of whose second term was spent in irrelevancy.

You might be wondering: does any of this really matter? Obama is still the president.

Actually, it does matter, both politically and diplomatically.

As Commentary editor John Podhoretz noted in a recent New York Post column, “the president has gone from being someone in charge of events to someone who is being buffeted about by them – and once a leader loses his hold on the levers of power it’s very difficult to get them back.”

Obama’s loss of standing and sliding popularity serve to feed into the perception that he too is entering an early lame-duck phase, when a president no longer enjoys the ability to ram through policies and steer the ship of state as he sees fit.

And Democrats are already looking ahead nervously to the 2014 midterm Congressional elections, when Republicans are expected to make big gains in both the House and Senate. Many Democrats worried about keeping their seats are unlikely to cuddle up to a weakened president who is increasingly viewed as incompetent and untrustworthy, nor will they be rushing to get behind any new initiatives he may try to pursue.

On top of it all, Obama has plenty of headaches at home, from the ongoing NSA surveillance scandal to the disastrous roll-out of Obamacare, which is causing chaos and confusion among millions of Americans.

Simply put, there is no reason for Israel to kowtow to a fading president desperate for a foreign policy “win,” whether the issue is Iran or the Palestinians.

Where our security is at stake or our existence is threatened, we must not be afraid of standing up to an American president, particularly one as anemic and ineffectual as Obama.

As the great comedian Bob Hope once noted, “The only thing chicken about Israel is their soup.” Let’s keep it that way.
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