You know President Barack Obama understands he’s got problems with Israel (and
with its supporters in the United States) when he trots out Rahm Emanuel to
write an op-ed in defense of his alleged love for Israel.
have been born to an Israeli father and had his son’s bar mitzva in Jerusalem,
but to have him attest to Obama’s credentials on Israel is like having Mel
Gibson act as a spokesman for Australia, or Arnold Schwarzenegger for Austria,
or Dominique Strauss-Kahn for France’s tourism board. In other words, it’s
totally meaningless and even – for those who know something about the
individuals involved – counterproductive.
There are, however, two
important things it tells us about Obama and his administration: First, they are
detached from reality enough to think this is a clever idea. Rather than going
to someone actually recognized as being pro-Israel or active in Jewish affairs,
he turned to a political crony disliked by both communities.
near-fanatical support for Obama by the majority of American Jews, he is totally
deaf to their concerns and feelings.
Second, it shows that Obama always
prefers a cheap public relations gesture to a substantive policy
Just because Emanuel was born to an Israeli father doesn’t mean
he knows much about the country. I was struck by the total vacuousness of his
big argument: “President Obama, like every student of the Middle East,
understands that the shifting sands of demography in that volatile region are
working against the two-state solution needed to end generations of
If Obama is a student of the Middle East, he gets an
I’m a student of the Middle East, and I think that’s total
Why is the “demography” in the region against the two-state
solution? Because there are more Palestinians? Who cares? That has absolutely
zero political impact.
Israel does not rule the Gaza Strip. Hamas
Israel does not rule the people of the West Bank (as opposed to
territory there without any people living in it). Fatah does.
That’s been the basic situation now for 17 years. (Not the Hamas part, the
Palestinian Authority aspect.) So what if the Palestinian population doubles,
triples, quadruples? That has no effect on Israel’s status as a democratic
There is something interesting going on here. Unlike the peace
process rhetoric of the 1993-2000 period, nobody dares to talk about how
wonderful life for Israel would be if it turned over all the territory captured
in 1967 and accepted a Palestinian state. They can only say that things will be
worse if it doesn’t.
People in Israel don’t believe this, and for good
For one of Obama’s closest advisers to write something like this
in a major newspaper – with the text approved, no doubt, by the White House –
proves that these people are totally out of touch with the situation. It is the
equivalent of someone writing about Russia as if it were still the Soviet Union,
thinking Britain still rules a worldwide empire, or believing creatures from the
planet Beldron-5 have landed on Earth and taken over Luxembourg.
What truly represents the “shifting sands... working against
the two-state solution” and leading potentially to more “generations of
bloodshed” is the rising tide (the mixed metaphor is deliberate) of
revolutionary Islamism that this administration does not try to dam up. It is
Obama’s support for revolution in Egypt and opposition to it in Syria. It is the
refusal to recognize that the Palestinian leadership is the cause of failure for
every peace effort since 1947 (partition into two states) – no, I should say
1939 (the British effort to give the whole thing to the Arabs after 10
It is the Obama administration’s inability to understand that the
failure to achieve peace is not based on borders or Jerusalem, but on the
continued attempts by Muslims generally to wipe Israel off the map. Indeed,
partly thanks to Obama’s policies, they are more confident of doing so than they
were 10 or 20 years ago. (They’re wrong, but they are – literally – going to die
trying.) That Emanuel can write such nonsense and not be laughed at is a sign of
how off-kilter is the whole Western debate on the Middle East.
CONSIDER the logical fallacy of arguing that things are becoming worse, so
Israel must rush into peace now. If things are going to be worse, why make
concessions in exchange for a piece of paper that will be torn up, and that is
guaranteed by people who can’t be trusted? Here, Mr. Emanuel, are the tests
Obama will fail: 1. Will the United States call for the overthrow of the
anti-American Syrian dictatorship? 2. Will the US government take strong action
as Egypt moves to become a radical state and stops observing the US-guaranteed
peace treaty with Israel? 3. Will the US government take strong action to stop
helping the Fatah-Hamas government, which openly incorporates terrorist and
genocidal forces? 4. Will the US government take strong action to stop the
transformation of Turkey into a semi- Islamist, anti-democratic, anti-Semitic,
anti-American regime allied with Iran? 5. Will the US government reverse its
policies, so that once again America is a world leader that protects its allies
in Latin America (against radical regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and
Cuba); Central Europe and the south Caucasus (against Russia); and elsewhere?
Since the answer to all those questions is “no,” why the hell should Israel risk
its existence on your (bad) ideas and (worthless) promises? Indeed, Israel is
not going to commit suicide because you tell it to. On the contrary, Israel and
the half of your own people who have woken up to your dangerous mismanagement
are trying to stop you from committing suicide on their behalf. I hate to use
the most over-used analogy in the world, but arguing that Israel should make a
deal right away because of the “shifting sands” is like British prime minister
Neville Chamberlain arguing in 1938 that the Czechs had better give up the
Sudetenland fast, before the real radicals take over in Germany.
writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center
(www.gloria-center.org) and editor of
Middle East Review of International
Affairs (MERIA) Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at