Obama Netanyahu at White House 311 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Since the earliest days of Barack Obama’s presidency, there have been two major
conceptual differences between how Israel and how the US administration view the
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The first difference has to do with the region. While the US
maintains that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum is the key to unlocking
peace in the Middle East and getting other countries in the region on board to
help stop the Iranian threat, Israel’s position is to first deal with Iran –
neutralize it – which will then make it easier to reach an accord with the
Israel’s logic is that Hamas and Hizbullah – Iran’s two
proxies – will be much less able to gum up the works whenever diplomatic
progress looms if Iran is defanged.
The second key conceptual difference
has to do with how to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with the US still
tied into the land-forpeace formula – Israel gives up land and gets peace in
return – and much of Israel, bitten badly by reality, no longer convinced that
formula is relevant.
And along comes the cache of WikiLeaks documents and
reveals that Obama’s linkage of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to
Iran is nothing short of fiction – a fiction he and his key aides have been
spinning since the beginning of his tenure.
At his very first White House
meeting with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in May 2009, that famous meeting
in which Obama called for a complete halt to all settlement construction, Obama
was asked what he thought about Israel’s position that only if the Iranian
threat were solved could there be real progress on the Palestinian
“Well, let me say this,” Obama said. “There’s no doubt that
it is difficult for any Israeli government to negotiate in a situation in which
they feel under immediate threat. That’s not conducive to negotiations. And as I’ve said before, I
recognize Israel’s legitimate concerns about the possibility of Iran obtaining a
nuclear weapon when they have a president who has in the past said that Israel
should not exist. That would give any leader of any country
“Having said that,” the president went on, “if there is a linkage
between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it
actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the
Palestinians – between the Palestinians and the Israelis – then I actually think
it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a
potential Iranian threat.”
And that position, that progress on the
Israeli-Palestinian issue – that stopping settlement construction – would
somehow magically mollify the Arab world and get it to put its shoulder to the
wheel regarding Iran has been a constant thread throughout the Obama regime.
Here it was popularly dubbed “Yitzhar for Bushehr.”
What the WikiLeaks
cache revealed, however, was that this argument was a fabrication. There was no
need to crack the Palestinian-Israeli nut before getting the “moderate” Arab
nations in the region – Saudi Arabia, the Persian Gulf states, Egypt and Jordan
– on board regarding Iran, because those nations were already fully camped out
on board the deck of the ship, just waiting for action against Iran.
this doesn’t mean efforts should not be made toward trying to solve the
Israeli-Palestinian issue, but don’t say the reason is to get the Arabs to stop
The following quotes from Arab leaders culled from the WikiLeaks
trove do not exactly portray a picture of leaders who need any further
enticements before “getting on board.”
• Saudi Arabian King Abdullah,
quoted by the monarchy’s envoy to the US in 2008 as exhorting the US to attack
Iran and end its nuclear weapons program, said in reference to Iran – according
to one cable – that it was necessary to “cut the head of the snake.”
King Hamad of Bahrain was quoted in 2009 as saying, “That program [the Iranian
nuclear program] must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than
the danger of stopping it.”
• Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed
in 2009 urged the US, according to another cable, not to appease Teheran and
said, “Ahmadinejad is Hitler.”
• Maj-Gen. Muhammad al-Assar, assistant to
the Egyptian defense minister, was quoted in a cable in 2010 as saying that
“Egypt views Iran as a threat to the region.”
Obama was obviously well
aware of the views of these leaders, most of whom he personally met, yet he
continued to propagate what he must have known to be a falsehood – that these
countries would only sign on to sanctions and otherwise support efforts to
neutralize Iran if there were progress on the Israeli-Palestinian
Obviously these countries wanted to see progress on that track,
but this desire had nothing to do with Iran. Nor would an Israeli-Palestinian
accord lead them to be supportive of aggressive steps toward Iran, because they
were already practically dreaming of those steps.
To link the two issues
– the conflict with the Palestinians, and Iran – was to badly muddle the issue.
Why exactly Obama felt compelled to do so is one of the key questions the
WikiLeaks documents raised in relation to our region.