US President Barack Obama claims he is a friend of the State of Israel. He has time and again declared his “unshakable support and commitment” to the Jewish state and touted the “unbreakable bond” between the US and Israel.
Yet he and his administration have publicly pressured and rebuked Israel more times than is worth counting, more times than any other ally and, or so it feels as least, more times than all of America’s allies combined.
Since Obama’s “Unbreakable Bond” tour of Israel almost two years ago – a visit ostensibly meant to mend US-Israel relations – there have been a number of confrontations between the administration and Israel. These include tensions throughout the recently failed peace negotiations, particularly the US blaming Israel for the failure of those negotiations, a dispute over construction in Jerusalem, the “chickens***” incident and the administration’s boycott of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Congress speech.
The latest incident is the president’s reaction of disdain following the reelection of the prime minister and the Likud party.
While the leaders of other nations publicly and without delay congratulated Netanyahu on his recent victory, Obama waited. Protocol dictated it, the White House claimed.
Instead, the administration unleashed a torrent of criticism of Netanyahu, both by feigning concern for Israeli Arabs who may have been hurt by Netanyahu’s rhetoric and over Netanyahu’s statement of the obvious: a Palestinian state would be dangerous at this juncture and will not be established during his tenure.
Anonymous administration officials (perhaps the same ones who called Netanyahu “chickens***” or claimed that Netanyahu “spat in our face” by accepting an invitation to address the Congress) yet again set to work attacking Netanyahu.
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One senior official claimed that Netanyahu’s statement was forcing a “reassessment” of US Middle East policy. Not a chance term, “reassessment” recalls the crisis in US-Israel relations under president Gerald Ford.
Administration officials further indicated that the US might not support Israel in the UN Security Council and might even support Palestinian admission to the United Nations. That would mean that the US would for the first time ever support a Palestinian state even if such a state continued the Palestinian terrorist war against Israel.
When Netanyahu elaborated and explained that peace between Israel and a demilitarized Palestinian state would be ideal, but that reality made it currently impossible, the White House refused to let it go. As if Obama was personally insulted by Netanyahu’s position, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that despite Netanyahu’s explanation, “We can’t forget” Netanyahu’s comments.
Once Obama’s displeasure was clear he made the required phone call to Netanyahu. But even then he could not limit the discussion to congratulating Netanyahu, but used the call as an opportunity to repeat the threat of reassessment.
President Obama claims that all of the public hostility, despite his “unshakable” and “unbreakable” bond with Israel, is due to the policies of Israel’s prime minister and his hawkish party, the Likud.
Indeed, long before he could demonstrate his unshakable and unbreakable bond with Israel, that was how Obama, as candidate for president in 2008, responded to accusations that he would not be a friend to Israel in the White House. Obama responded at the time by complaining that it was unfair that “to a strain within the pro-Israel community... unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel” then “you’re anti-Israel.”
He has no problem with Israel, you see, just the Likud.
But the Likud has led 11 of the 16 Israeli governments since Menachem Begin first broke the Israeli Left’s monopoly on power. The Likud is currently in the process of forming its 12th government.
And for the three Israeli governments that will have spanned Obama’s presidency, all will have been led by the Likud.
No, Mr. President. You need not be pro-Likud, but if your commitment to Israel is unshakable, that should be true even when the Likud is in power.
You should be sympathetic to Israeli reservations and fears regarding Palestinian statehood and other security concessions that lay behind the Israeli public’s support for Likud leadership.
After all, these concerns are not confined to the Likud or its allies. Even Labor (“Zionist Union”) candidate Tzipi Livni recently stated that she does not favor granting the Palestinians a fully sovereign state. And it was the late Labor prime minister Yitzhak Rabin who said – in the midst of the Oslo peace process – that he opposed Palestinian statehood. Toward the end of his life, Rabin stated that the end-goal of negotiations was for the Palestinians to have an autonomous entity that would not be a state, but something less than a state.
But, Mr. President, even if these concerns were not shared by the vast majority of Israelis, when the people of Israel elect the hawkish Likud to lead them, being committed to Israel means not taking every opportunity, or creating opportunities, to threaten and attempt to force them to reverse that decision.
Unlike the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Iran and even many American allies, Israel is a democracy.
As such, the people of Israel held a vote, in a free election, to determine the composition of their legislature and government. We chose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud to lead us. You do not have to agree with it, Mr. President, but you must respect our decision.The writer is director of Likud Anglos, a Likud Central Committee member and an attorney.
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