It is not every day one can announce a shift in world history, but today is such
a day. We are now in a new era, in the Middle East and the rest of the world.
This is not a joke – definitely not a joke – and, as you will see, it is no
Let me explain. For the past seven weeks I have
been in the United States, mostly in Washington, DC. I have spoken and listened
to many people. As a result, I am in a position to describe to you with a high
degree of accuracy what US policy will be for the next 3.5 years, and perhaps
for many more.
The administration has crossed a line regarding, in simple
terms, backing the “bad guys.”
This is literally true in Egypt, Syria,
Sudan, the Palestinian Authority, Bahrain (with its support for the opposition),
Qatar and Turkey. In some ways, as we will see, the war on terrorism has been
turned into the war for terrorism.
Too extreme? On the contrary, this is
not a conservative or liberal analysis, merely an honest one. Let’s take a
serious look at Obama’s Middle East policy in the second term, from 2013 to
January 20, 2017.
The real US diplomatic line is: Bad Netanyahu (and
Israel) – why can he/they not be moderate and flexible (concessions like, say,
releasing 100 terrorist murderers in exchange for nothing don’t count), like
Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas (and the Palestinians, who are
actually inflexible, constantly escalate demands and reject US strategy on the
peace process); or like Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (throwing
intellectuals and journalists in prison, betraying US strategy on Iran, backing
anti- American Islamists, and sending former army officers for long jail terms
on phony charges)? During the coming months, and even years, if they are given
to me, I will pursue these themes. You may not believe what you read here today
or tomorrow, but eventually, you will.
Let me repeat: this is going to
happen. As shocking as it might sound, it is in fact already happening. It is
unavoidable, because with a president who will not learn, a bought-off elite, a
sold-out second-term Congress and a remarkably cowardly or partisan media,
nothing will change. The situation will only get worse and more
In this series of articles, I will describe eight things that
will almost certainly happen during the rest of Obama’s term, and how to
minimize the resulting harm to the interests of the United States and its
would-be Middle East allies.
Here is the first of these inevitable
themes, any one of which would be horrid enough. However, note they can all be
mitigated and delayed.
Israel cannot depend on the US. That doesn’t mean
Obama and others will not provide military aid or say nice things at every
event, but rather that there is no US commitment that one can assume will be
upheld nor any Israeli initiative that will really be implemented.
is a complex issue, but here are some brief points: The idea that Obama and his
team are the greatest friend of Israel is a deadly insult, and I can prove it in
Minute one: The United States has undermined Israel on many
issues. Do I have to provide a list? Okay, here’s a partial list: Egypt (support
for a hostile Muslim Brotherhood government); Tunisia (ditto); Sinai (enabling
insurgency); Hamas (the desire to keep the Brotherhood – an ally of Hamas –
government in power in Cairo); Turkey (supporting the Islamist, anti- Israel
government); Syria (support of radical Syrian Islamists); Europe (lack of
support for Israeli position on peace process); America itself (encouragement of
anti-Israel forces among Jewish community and in Obama constituency);
Palestinians (lack of criticism or pressure on Palestinian Authority,
I’ll save more for later, but I think this is an impressive enough
list for starters.
Minute two: But wait, there’s something more
The most dangerous, insulting argument is this: Secretary of State
John Kerry has repeatedly said – and this is the theme of the administration
supporters, including Jewish supporters: The greatest danger to Israel is if
Israel does not get peace soon.
This is an absurd lie. The greatest
danger to Israel would be for Israel to accept a dangerous and unworkable peace
agreement that the other side would not implement. In other words, the greatest
danger for Israel would be to listen to the bad advice of Obama, Kerry and their
Consider: who should be more knowledgeable about Israel’s
situation and more aware of its real interests, Israel or America? Do people
think that Obama knows better than Israelis? That he cares more? That’s absurd
A survey by (the very dovish) Israeli Democracy Institute
showed 65.6 percent of Israelis questioned did not expect to see a deal in talks
between Israel and the Palestinians within a year. And if you take into the
account the don’t-knows and no-opinions, that percentage goes up.
fact, 55.5 percent of the Israeli people – and 63% of Israeli Jews – said they
were against Israel agreeing to return to the 1967 lines, even if there were
land swaps which would enable some Jewish settlements in the West Bank and east
Jerusalem to remain part of Israel. And the reason isn’t the terms ostensibly
offered, but rather the credibility, or lack thereof, of the United States and
But the US government and its supporters believe that
the Israeli government in partnership with Obama should betray the beliefs,
aspirations and security of the Israeli people.
And we are not only
talking about Jewish settlements, even for those willing to give every one up
for real, lasting peace.
To better understand what has just happened,
consider the following analogy: Israel was walking down a dark alley in the
belief that kindly old Uncle Sam – perhaps a bit grumpier lately – had its back.
Then it peered over its shoulder and froze in horror at the sight of the
terrifying monster just behind it. Yet you will never ever hear an Israeli
politician admit that.
Read Netanyahu’s unprecedented memo on the talks
and the prisoner release. It reads as if he had seen a ghost; he is trying to
signal something very grim and serious, and there is no implication that he
believes in any possibility of compensation for this concession.
with the wasted effort of an extremely unilateral Palestinian prisoner release,
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government went along because they realized
something: This was not a routine exercise.
During the process, they
realized that the indifference of the United States to Israel’s interests was
extremely high; that Congress was hypnotized; that the Jewish community in its
Obama worship was largely neutralized; and that rather than fighting European
hostility, the White House was conducting it.
Looking over their shoulder
in the misty night, they realized that a very large beast was following them. If
you read Netanyahu’s unprecedented memo to the Israeli people as to why the
terrorist prisoners were released, you get that clear signal. They realized that
the Obama administration was extremely dangerous and that it was necessary to
Of course, the talks will not go anywhere, because the
Palestinians know that they have a strong hand and they will therefore overplay
it. But the US administration’s willingness to punish Israel to win public
relations points and shore up the doomed US alignment with Islamists has to be
The author is the director of the Global Research in
International Affairs (GLORIA) Center (www.gloria-center.org), editor of the
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal and Turkish Studies.
His forthcoming book is Nazis, Islamists, and the making of the Modern Middle
East (Yale University Press).