Starting with Iowa on January 3 and lasting through June, voters will be
choosing their candidates for the 2012 US presidential elections. And it is in
Israel’s best interest to pay attention to the foreign policy position of each
candidate as they attempt to garner as many votes as possible.
Republican contenders at this point appear to be Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and
Ron Paul. While the first two have expressed traditional Republican views
in general, such as robust defense spending, strong ties with Israel and bulking
up border security, Paul stands out for preferring less international
intervention, which, of course, likely includes a diminished relationship with
As for the Democrats, President Barack Obama, as an incumbent,
already has an advantage over potential rivals – and there don’t seem to be any
strong contenders anyway as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has declared her
intention to stay out of the race.
All candidates understand the
importance of the Jewish vote and will therefore make Israel a priority, even
though many voters are probably more concerned about domestic issues than
foreign policy issues.
In his book The Reasoning Voter, Samuel L. Popkin,
a professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego,
discusses how “campaigns can increase the importance of an issue in an election
by raising its perceived importance among voters.”
These types of
campaign do not generally change people’s beliefs, but rather change their
With this past year being a historically important one with
the rise of the “Arab Spring,” the fall of various dictators and the death of
Osama bin Laden among some of the top highlights, candidates will most likely
place the Arab-Israeli conflict at the center of their foreign policy as they
seek to help infuse calm into the region.
BUT WHEN foreign powers get
involved in the Arab- Israeli conflict, it is often Israel that is pressured to
bend and concede with no real movement on the Palestinians’ part. And in this
sense, Obama’s foreign policy has been a disaster.
He has pandered to
authoritarian rulers in countries guilty of massive human rights violations in
the naive hope they will adopt a different worldview.
Stephen P. Cohen in his book Beyond America’s Grasp: A Century of Failed
Diplomacy in the Middle East, former president Woodrow Wilson believed the US
should “seek peace and cooperation rather than military advantage or projection
Obama has consistently shown his desire to achieve his lofty
and idealized Wilsonian ideas for the US’s position in the world.
remark at a nuclear security summit in Washington, Obama said, “Whether we like
it or not, we remain a dominant military superpower,” which some understood to
suggest he did not believe the US should maintain its dominant global
His 2009 Cairo speech, in which he called for a “new beginning”
between the United States and the Muslim world, was naive at best.
his demand to remove the term “Islamic extremism” from the 2010 National
Security Strategy document.
And Obama has consistently placed
unprecedented pressure on Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, while demanding very
little from the Palestinians.
One of the most – if not the most –
disastrous decisions the Obama administration has made so far, as part of its
foreign policy, is its endorsement of the Palestinian narrative that requires
Israel to push back its territory to the 1949 armistice lines, otherwise known
as the 1967 border.
In a speech in May, Obama announced, “Israel and
Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that
secure and recognized borders are established for both states.
Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their
potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state.”
Obama’s position has
pushed the Palestinians into a corner as they can no longer accept a compromise
on the border issue.
Obama has made himself more Palestinian than the
And Republican candidates are aware that Obama has taken
the wrong approach in dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict. According
to Reuters, Romney said recently that Obama has “repeatedly thrown Israel under
the bus,” and Gingrich recently thrust himself into controversy by declaring
that the Palestinians are an invented people who want to destroy
Obama, in a pointed reference to his Republican opponents, said
the bonds between Israel and the US “transcend partisan politics – or at least
The White House wants to shore up support among Jewish
voters for Obama’s 2012 reelection bid. He won nearly eight of every 10 Jewish
votes in 2008 but a slip would jeopardize his re-election drive in battleground
states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where Jews are an important swing
With this in mind, Obama seems to have forgotten over the past
three years that even if elections are not on the horizon, Israel is an
important issue on a global scale and is not to be tossed to the
Yet he has done exactly that.
During Vice President Joe
Biden’s visit to Israel in March, the Jerusalem District Planning Committee
approved the construction of 1,200 apartments in Ramat Shlomo, a neighborhood in
the northern part of Jerusalem – a plan that had been in the works for three
years. Biden released a statement in which he voiced his strong opposition to
the decision. He wrote, “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to
advance planning for new housing units in east Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu apologized, Israel thought the episode was done and forgotten, but
unthinking strategists at the White House decided to reignite the issue
resulting in Hillary Clinton’s approximately 43-minute phone call during which
she berated Netanyahu and demanded he halt construction and show resolve to
arrive at a settlement with the Palestinians.
According to White House
officials, this was all coordinated with the president.
And on the day
Biden was leaving, the Palestinians saw fit to dedicate a square in the city of
El-Bireh to Dalal al-Mughrabi, the suicide bomber responsible for the 1978
Coastal Road Massacre in which 37 Israelis were killed and 72
The US administration’s response was suspiciously
NILE GARDNER, a Washington-based foreign affairs analyst and
political commentator, writes in his blog, “While the Obama presidency has moved
with the speed of a tortoise in condemning the beating and killing of political
protesters in places like Iran and Syria, it has pounced with panther-like
agility in condemning every move Israel makes to build more settlements in
Jerusalem and the West Bank, as though Israel’s desire to build more homes for
its own people is an affront to civilization.”
Gardner also compiled a
list of Obama’s insults against Israel.
In March 2010, Obama humiliated
Netanyahu by leaving him in the White House Roosevelt Room while he went to have
dinner with his family. In great contrast to the way he treats Israel, Obama has
gone out of his way to woo Syria, a rogue nation guilty of massive human rights
In his Cairo speech in which he naively called to “broaden
our engagement based upon mutual interests and mutual respect,” Obama drew a
parallel between the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinian people in what
Gardner describes as “a disturbing example of moral equivalence.”
September 2009, during his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama
drew a ridiculous connection between rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and
living conditions in Gaza.
Among other US insults to Israel, Gardner
includes David Axelrod’s attack on Israeli settlements on Meet the Press
Clinton’s call on Israel in April 2010 to show “respect” and White House Press
Secretary Robert Gibbs’s strange remarks in an interview on Fox News
Chris Wallace in March 2010, demanding that Netanyahu come “to the table with
constructive ideas for constructive and trustful dialogue about moving the peace
process forward.” And of course, there is the recent widely reported
conversation between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Obama during which
they expressed their distaste for Netanyahu into microphones they did not
realize were switched on.
The Obama administration has repeatedly created
unnecessary tension with Israel while at the same time burying any Palestinian
faults and inaction related to negotiations with Israel.
As the recent
Emergency Committee for Israel ads asked, “Why does the Obama administration
treat Israel like a punching bag? Enough with the cheap shots. It’s time for the
Obama administration to stop blaming Israel first.”
seems to have warned against this type of animosity years ago. In his farewell
address, delivered on September 17, 1796, he said, “Antipathy in one nation
against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay
hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when
accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur... Excessive partiality for
one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they
actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the
arts of influence on the other.”
The US administration would surely argue
that it is a “strong supporter of Israel” and that Israel is a “staunch ally,”
highlighting the “unwavering bond that exists between the two
And the administration would point to its covert activities
to prove that it really does assist Israel militarily and
But the public should not be judging the president and
his administration by what cannot be seen but rather by what we do
And what we see is less than encouraging.
We should not
forget the moments of haughtiness Obama has displayed towards Israel since he
was elected. Nor should we forget that he visited Cairo to make a
“groundbreaking” speech – yet never visited Israel as president.
to judge Obama by his visible actions and attitude towards Israel. His foreign
policy stinks and his Wilsonian method of appeasing the Arabs at Israel’s
expense should not be overlooked at the polls.
Yes, the US backs Israel
on Iran but it has not moved as quickly as Israel wants it to, as Obama has been
dragging his feet to allow for “diplomatic efforts” to take hold.
yes, the US has repeatedly vetoed anti-Israel resolutions at the UN. But Israel
should not be viewing that as a favor from Obama, but rather as a sensible and
logical decision by the US to protect its own interests – and strongest ally –
in a forum controlled by backward countries.
Israel needs to keep a close
eye on the foreign policy approach of all the candidates. If Obama’s 2008
campaign was about domestic change, he may want to make 2012 about change on the
foreign policy level by creating a new “new beginning,” change the US’s failed
diplomatic strategy in the Middle East and start fighting rogue governments
while fully backing Israel.[email protected]