The Region: Rahm Emanuel? Really?

When President Barack Obama trots out his former chief of staff to write an article in defense of his love for Israel, you know he understands that he’s in trouble.

You know President Barack Obama understands he’s got problems with Israel (and with its supporters in the United States) when he trots out Rahm Emanuel to write an op-ed in defense of his alleged love for Israel.
Emanuel may have been born to an Israeli father and had his son’s bar mitzva in Jerusalem, but to have him attest to Obama’s credentials on Israel is like having Mel Gibson act as a spokesman for Australia, or Arnold Schwarzenegger for Austria, or Dominique Strauss-Kahn for France’s tourism board. In other words, it’s totally meaningless and even – for those who know something about the individuals involved – counterproductive.
There are, however, two important things it tells us about Obama and his administration: First, they are detached from reality enough to think this is a clever idea. Rather than going to someone actually recognized as being pro-Israel or active in Jewish affairs, he turned to a political crony disliked by both communities.
Despite the near-fanatical support for Obama by the majority of American Jews, he is totally deaf to their concerns and feelings.
Second, it shows that Obama always prefers a cheap public relations gesture to a substantive policy action.
Just because Emanuel was born to an Israeli father doesn’t mean he knows much about the country. I was struck by the total vacuousness of his big argument: “President Obama, like every student of the Middle East, understands that the shifting sands of demography in that volatile region are working against the two-state solution needed to end generations of bloodshed.”
If Obama is a student of the Middle East, he gets an “F.”
I’m a student of the Middle East, and I think that’s total nonsense.
Why is the “demography” in the region against the two-state solution? Because there are more Palestinians? Who cares? That has absolutely zero political impact.
Israel does not rule the Gaza Strip. Hamas does.
Israel does not rule the people of the West Bank (as opposed to territory there without any people living in it). Fatah does.
Hello? That’s been the basic situation now for 17 years. (Not the Hamas part, the Palestinian Authority aspect.) So what if the Palestinian population doubles, triples, quadruples? That has no effect on Israel’s status as a democratic state.
There is something interesting going on here. Unlike the peace process rhetoric of the 1993-2000 period, nobody dares to talk about how wonderful life for Israel would be if it turned over all the territory captured in 1967 and accepted a Palestinian state. They can only say that things will be worse if it doesn’t.
People in Israel don’t believe this, and for good reason.
For one of Obama’s closest advisers to write something like this in a major newspaper – with the text approved, no doubt, by the White House – proves that these people are totally out of touch with the situation. It is the equivalent of someone writing about Russia as if it were still the Soviet Union, thinking Britain still rules a worldwide empire, or believing creatures from the planet Beldron-5 have landed on Earth and taken over Luxembourg.
It is delusional.
What truly represents the “shifting sands... working against the two-state solution” and leading potentially to more “generations of bloodshed” is the rising tide (the mixed metaphor is deliberate) of revolutionary Islamism that this administration does not try to dam up. It is Obama’s support for revolution in Egypt and opposition to it in Syria. It is the refusal to recognize that the Palestinian leadership is the cause of failure for every peace effort since 1947 (partition into two states) – no, I should say 1939 (the British effort to give the whole thing to the Arabs after 10 years).
It is the Obama administration’s inability to understand that the failure to achieve peace is not based on borders or Jerusalem, but on the continued attempts by Muslims generally to wipe Israel off the map. Indeed, partly thanks to Obama’s policies, they are more confident of doing so than they were 10 or 20 years ago. (They’re wrong, but they are – literally – going to die trying.) That Emanuel can write such nonsense and not be laughed at is a sign of how off-kilter is the whole Western debate on the Middle East.
FINALLY CONSIDER the logical fallacy of arguing that things are becoming worse, so Israel must rush into peace now. If things are going to be worse, why make concessions in exchange for a piece of paper that will be torn up, and that is guaranteed by people who can’t be trusted? Here, Mr. Emanuel, are the tests Obama will fail: 1. Will the United States call for the overthrow of the anti-American Syrian dictatorship? 2. Will the US government take strong action as Egypt moves to become a radical state and stops observing the US-guaranteed peace treaty with Israel? 3. Will the US government take strong action to stop helping the Fatah-Hamas government, which openly incorporates terrorist and genocidal forces? 4. Will the US government take strong action to stop the transformation of Turkey into a semi- Islamist, anti-democratic, anti-Semitic, anti-American regime allied with Iran? 5. Will the US government reverse its policies, so that once again America is a world leader that protects its allies in Latin America (against radical regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Cuba); Central Europe and the south Caucasus (against Russia); and elsewhere? Since the answer to all those questions is “no,” why the hell should Israel risk its existence on your (bad) ideas and (worthless) promises? Indeed, Israel is not going to commit suicide because you tell it to. On the contrary, Israel and the half of your own people who have woken up to your dangerous mismanagement are trying to stop you from committing suicide on their behalf. I hate to use the most over-used analogy in the world, but arguing that Israel should make a deal right away because of the “shifting sands” is like British prime minister Neville Chamberlain arguing in 1938 that the Czechs had better give up the Sudetenland fast, before the real radicals take over in Germany.
The writer is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center ( and editor of Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal and Turkish Studies. He blogs at