Obama’s slap in the face

"I am not one of those who believes that Barrack Obama purposefully set out to maliciously ruin the Middle East."

By SHARREN HASKEL
December 27, 2016 21:13
Barack Obama

President Barack Obama during a news conference in the White House. ‘What was the role played by countries like the US in the Arab Spring?’. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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 After eight years in office, this past Friday night represented the grand finale of Barrack Obama’s tenure, capping off a foreign policy that was controversial from the start not just for its alienation of traditional and long-time allies, but for its attempts to get close with some of its worst enemies.

The approach of the Obama administration has been criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike, his foreign policy concept challenged worldwide. However I am not one of those who believes that Barrack Obama purposefully set out to maliciously ruin the Middle East. I believe that his actions and inactions are simply indicative of a lack of understanding. He and his closest advisers have used the last eight years to conduct experiments in foreign policy without giving consideration to the consequences, thinking all along the way that they know the Middle East better than it knows itself.

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The Middle East is a violent place, where most wars and fights stem from deep religious and ethnic conflicts with histories that are centuries old.

In this neighborhood only the strong are respected, and only the strong survive. In this neighborhood, no matter your religion or ethnicity, a person’s word is their honor. And where you do find peace and coexistence, you find that it comes only from the honoring of one’s word, from deterrence, and from strict enforcement of laws and assertion of rights.

In this neighborhood, if you give your word or make a promise but don’t stick to it, you lose respect and nobody will trust you. It doesn’t matter if you are a shop owner at the shuk giving your word on your product, or the president of a country promising their support to an ally.

This is the case not only with Israel, but with Egypt, Saudi-Arabia, Jordan and other Gulf states that long ago lost trust in the Obama administration, feel disrespected, and look upon his entire term with suspicion. For years the Arab media and politicians have not only stood in astonishment at the Obama administration’s approach, they have ridiculed it.

The suspicions of Arabs and Jews alike were shared by others too. Perceiving America’s weakness with Obama at the helm, several countries, including Russia, Iran and China, took advantage. Obama’s failures in Syria were perceived not only by Saudi Arabia as a cold shoulder to the region, but as a game changer, with Russia and Iran increasing their regional and global power. This shift in power has been characterized by a dwindling reliance on the US. Even European countries felt they could no longer trust or rely on the US in times of emergency after what happened in Ukraine.

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What the Obama administration’s approach failed to factor in was that the lack of a strong and firm policy not only results in the weakening of the image of the United States, but a weakened United States has led to the weakening of the United Nations – and if the international community is weak, then the entire free world should be worried about what comes next.

Such developments only benefit countries like Iran, which seeks to weaken international organizations in the pursuit of power which they gain through war and terrorism. They benefit evil terrorist groups like ISIS, the Taliban and Boko Haram. A weaker international community will never criticize or sanction such countries, nor will it intervene against the most inhumane massacres, and that will only further enable those countries to continue on their evil and destructive paths – the true sources of violence, death, instability and yes, a lack of peace.

In truth, this is exactly what Obama has managed to achieve in the last eight years – his approach has given aid to the inciters, his policy has resulted in more aggressive actions, more war and more death. The UNSC resolution on Friday was made against Israel, the one and only true democracy in the region, the pillar of stability in the Middle East, the only stronghold that fights terror with one strong hand whilst guarding stability and human rights with the other. The Obama administration’s decision was a slap in the face to the only country in the region that in any way represents the same values that the US has sworn to stand for and strive to protect. With the whole word watching, these actions have only further eroded American standing outside of Israel, they have only further reduced the level of trust for the so called leader of the free world. But more importantly, the entire Middle East now understands that not only does America not have its back, it hasn’t for the last eight years.

This same distrust and inability to rely on the Obama administration is what gave rise to the call to Make America Great Again. This call didn’t just give hope to the American people but to the entire world, and no less to Israel. But President- elect Donald Trump has quite a mess to clean up now.

He will now need to re-sort the bad from the good, a mess that was created over a long eight years.

Obama had been planning his move at the UNSC for months. After taking office, he kicked off his foreign policy by turning a cold shoulder to Israel. He stopped in Egypt and pranced around the Middle East, but he did not have time to stop in Jerusalem. He declared his alliance with these other countries, but ignored the longstanding relationship with Israel. At the end, he didn’t throw sand only in the eyes of Israel. All of these countries see now what the meaning of “ally” meant to Obama, and the American reputation and international standing will suffer for years to come. The fact that this move came only weeks before he leaves office is interpreted here in the Middle East as cowardice.

Now that this has passed, I turn to the newly elected president, Donald Trump, who I believe to be a true, great friend of Israel. President Trump, Israel has been through many tough periods, many times throughout its long history as a people, and its more recent times as the re-established nation-state of the Jewish people.

Through all the trials, pogroms, holocausts and wars, nothing has broken us. And in the last 50 years, nothing has been able to sever our friendship with our greatest ally, the United States of America. We have certainly gone through a rough patch, but this only makes us more optimistic as we are looking forward to warm relations truly built on friendship, mutual appreciation, and working towards our mutual goals. Perhaps today more than ever, Israel and the whole world need America to be great again, so that we may truly put an end to the violence and wars that have taken root in her absence.

The writer is a Likud Member of Knesset (MK).

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