Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has explained repeatedly over the years that
Israel has no Palestinian partner to negotiate with. So news reports this week
that Netanyahu agreed that the 1949 armistice lines, (commonly misrepresented as
the 1967 borders), will be mentioned in terms of reference for future
negotiations with the Palestinian Authority seemed to come out of
Israel has no one to negotiate with because the Palestinians
reject Israel’s right to exist. This much was made clear yet again last month
when senior PA “negotiator” Nabil Sha’ath said in an interview with Arabic News
Broadcast, “The story of ‘two states for two peoples’ means that there will be a
Jewish people over there and a Palestinian people here. We will never accept
Given the Palestinians’ position, it is obvious that Netanyahu is
right. There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that Israel and the PA will
reach any peace deal in the foreseeable future.
Add to this the fact that
the Hamas terror group controls Gaza and will likely win any new Palestinian
elections just as it won the last elections, and the entire exercise in finding
the right formula for restarting negotiations is exposed as a complete
So why is Israel engaging in these discussions? The only logical
answer is to placate US President Barack Obama.
For the past several
months, most observers have been operating under the assumption that Obama will
use the US’s veto at the Security Council to defeat the Palestinians’ bid next
month to receive UN membership as independent Palestine. But the fact of the
matter is that no senior administration official has stated unequivocally, on
record, that the US will veto a Security Council resolution recommending UN
membership for Palestine.
Given congressional and public support for
Israel, it is likely that at the end of the day, Obama will veto such a
resolution. But the fact that the president has abstained to date from stating
openly that he will veto it makes clear that Obama expects Israel to “earn” a US
veto by bowing to his demands.
These demands include abandoning Israel’s
position that it must retain defensible borders in any peace deal with the
Palestinians. Since defensible borders require Israel to retain control over the
Jordan Valley and the Samarian hills, there is no way to accept the 1949
armistice lines as a basis for negotiations without surrendering defensible
Say what you will about Obama’s policy, at least it’s a policy.
Obama uses US power and leverage against Israel to force Israel to bow to his
What makes Obama’s Israel policy notable is not simply that it
involves betraying the US’s most steadfast ally in the Middle East. After all,
since taking office Obama has made a habit of betraying US
Obama’s Israel policy is notable because it is a policy. Obama
has a clear, consistent goal of cutting Israel down to size. Since assuming
office, Obama has taken concrete steps to achieve this aim.
steps have achieved results. Obama forced Netanyahu to make Palestinian
statehood an Israeli policy goal. He coerced Netanyahu into temporarily
abrogating Jewish property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. And now he is
forcing Netanyahu to pretend the 1949 armistice lines are something Israel can
Obama has not adopted a similarly clear, consistent policy
towards any other nation in the region. In Egypt, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya and
beyond, Obama has opted for attitude over policy.
He has postured,
preened, protested and pronounced on all the issues of the day.
has not made policy. And as a consequence, for better or for worse, he has
transformed the US from a regional leader into a regional follower while
empowering actors whose aims are not consonant with US interests.
IS case and point. President Bashar Assad is the Iranian mullahs’ lapdog. He is
also a major sponsor of terrorism. In the decade since he succeeded his father,
Assad Jr. has trained terrorists who have killed US forces in Iraq. He has
provided a safe haven for al-Qaida terrorists. He has strengthened Syrian ties
to Hezbollah. He has hosted Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian terror
factions. He has proliferated nuclear weapons. He reputedly ordered the
assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri.
March, Assad has been waging war against his fellow Syrians. By the end of this
week, with his invasion of Hama, the civilian death toll will certainly top
And how has Obama responded? He upgraded his protestations of
displeasure with Assad from “unacceptable” to “appalling.” In the face of
Assad’s invasion of Hama, rather than construct a policy for overthrowing this
murderous US enemy, the Obama administration has constructed excuses for doing
nothing. Administration officials, including Obama’s ambassador to Damascus,
Robert Ford, are claiming that the US has little leverage over Assad.
this is ridiculous. Many in Congress and beyond are demanding that Obama
withdraw Ford from Damascus. Some are calling for sanctions against Syria’s
energy sector. These steps may or may not be effective. Openly supporting,
financing and arming Assad’s political opponents would certainly be
Many claim that the most powerful group opposing Assad is the
And there is probably some truth to that. At a
minimum, the Brotherhood’s strength has been tremendously augmented in recent
months by Turkey.
Some have applauded the fact that Turkey has filled the
leadership vacuum left by the Obama administration. They argue that Turkish
Prime Minister Recip Erdogan can be trusted to ensure that Syria doesn’t descend
into a civil war.
What these observers fail to recognize is that
Erdogan’s interests in a post-Assad Syria have little in common with US
interests. Erdogan will seek to ensure the continued disenfranchisement of
Syria’s Kurdish minority. And he will work towards the Islamification of Syria
through the Muslim Brotherhood.
Today there is a coalition of Syrian
opposition figures that include all ethnic groups in the country.
representatives have been banging the doors of the corridors of power in
Washington and beyond. Yet the same Western leaders who were so eager to
recognize the Libyan opposition despite the presence of al-Qaida terrorists in
the opposition tent have refused to publicly embrace Syrian regime opponents
that seek a democratic, federal Syria that will live at peace with Israel and
embrace liberal policies.
This week, US Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton held a private meeting with these brave democrats.
Why didn’t she
hold a public meeting? Why hasn’t Obama welcomed them to the White House? By
refusing to embrace liberal, multi-ethnic regime opponents, the administration
is all but ensuring the success of the Turkish bid to install the Muslim
Brotherhood in power if Assad is overthrown.
But then, embracing
pro-Western Syrians would involve taking a stand and, in so doing, adopting a
policy. And that is something the posturing president will not do. Obama is much
happier pretending that empty statements from the UN Security Council amount to
US “victories.” If he aims any lower his head will hit the floor.
PREFERENCE for posture over policy is nothing new. It has been his standard
operating procedure throughout the region. When the Iranian people rose up
against their regime in June 2009 in the Green Revolution, Obama stood on the
sidelines. As is his habit, he acted as though the job of the US president is to
opine rather than to lead. Then he sniffed that it wasn’t nice at all that the
regime was mowing down pro-democracy protesters in the streets of Tehran and
And ever since, Obama has remained on the sidelines as the
mullahs took over Lebanon, build operational bases in Latin America, sprint to
the nuclear finishing line, and consolidate their power in Iraq and
On Wednesday, the show trial began for longtime US ally
former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and his sons. During last winter’s
popular uprising in Egypt, Obama’s foes attacked him for refusing to abandon
The reasons for maintaining US support for Mubarak
were obvious: Mubarak had been the foundation of the US alliance structure with
the Sunni Arab world for three decades. He had kept the peace with Israel. And
his likely successor was the Muslim Brotherhood. But Obama didn’t respond to his
critics with a defense of a coherent policy. Because his early refusal to betray
Mubarak was not a policy. It was an attitude of cool detachment.
Obama saw that it was becoming politically costly to maintain his attitude of
detachment, he replaced it with a new one of righteous rage. And so he withdrew
US support for Mubarak without ever thinking through the consequences of his
actions. And now it isn’t just Mubarak and his sons being humiliated in a cage.
It is their legacy of alliance with America.
Recognizing that Obama
refuses to adopt or implement any policies on his own, Congress has tried to
fill the gap. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed a budget that
would make US aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the PA contingent on
certification that no terrorist or extremist organization holds governmental
power in these areas. Clinton issued a rapid rebuke of the House’s budget and
insisted it was unacceptable.
And this makes sense. Making US assistance
to foreign countries contingent on assurances that the money won’t fund US
enemies would be a policy. And Obama doesn’t make policy – except when it comes
attacking to Israel.
In an interview with The New York Times on Thursday,
Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said he and his father are
negotiating a deal that would combine their forces with Islamist forces and
reestablish order in the country.
To a degree, the US’s inability to
overthrow Gaddafi – even by supporting an opposition coalition that includes
al-Qaida – is the clearest proof that Obama has substituted attitude for policy
everywhere except Israel.
Acting under a UN Security Council resolution
and armed with a self-righteous doctrine of “Responsibility to Protect,” Obama
went to war against Gaddafi five months ago. But once the hard reality of war
invaded his happy visions of Lone Rangers riding in on white stallions, Obama
lost interest in Libya. He kept US forces in the battle, but gave them no clear
goals to achieve.
And so no goals have been achieved.
Gaddafi’s son feels free to meet the New York Times
and mock America just by
continuing to breathe in and out before the cameras as he sports a new Islamic
beard and worry beads.
If nothing else, the waves of chaos, war and
revolution sweeping through Arab lands make clear that the Arab conflict with
Israel is but a sideshow in the Arab experience of tyranny, fanaticism, hope and
betrayal. So it says a lot about Obama, that eight months after the first
rebellion broke in Tunisia, his sole Middle East policy involves attacking