14 November 09
As a result [of Obama's Middle East policy], “world opinion” toward Israel has gone from cool to frigid — in Europe especially. U.N. actions such as the Goldstone Report are one manifestation of this; denunciations of Israel, not to mention efforts to prevent Israeli officials from speaking on campuses and indeed to jail them if they come to Europe, are others. The cause is clear: As the United States, Israel’s closest friend, has backed away from Israel since the Obama inauguration, Europeans have backed even farther. They have seen the American coolness as license, indeed encouragement, to excoriate the Jewish state, and have enthusiastically done so.
This could be called Peace Processing 101, and it is obviously a course nobody in the White House has taken. Israel is a small country surrounded by people who hate and continue trying to destroy her. If Israel is to make concessions or take risks for peace, Israelis must feel secure enough to do so. How is this accomplished? The main way is through the U.S.-Israeli relationship. The closeness of the two countries serves the U.S. strategic objective of compelling the Arabs to abandon their quest for eliminating the Jewish state, and it reduces Israel’s fear of taking risks for peace. This is one of the major factors that led to peace with Egypt and Jordan — not Israeli weakness and isolation, but the Arab perception of Israeli strength.
The paradigm described above is premised on the idea that the Arabs have been the major obstacle to peace in the region. But Obama has taken a new tack. His paradigm, which is to create, as he put it recently, “daylight” between the two countries, is premised on something else; not outright Israeli culpability but certainly a belief that Israel has been a major part of the problem.
Changing the paradigm has been a central objective of many liberals, and certainly of the J Street faction. Instead of achieving peace by assuring Israel of its security, the administration is trying to make peace by causing the Israelis to fear they will be abandoned by the United States if they don’t do the White House’s bidding.
But now we can compare the two paradigms: close alliance versus “daylight.” The latter is already a debacle after only a few months in practice. It is opening the global floodgates of Israel-obsessed criticism. It is making Israelis distrust the U.S. — a development that will translate into a democratic veto over concessions and the deleveraging of U.S. influence. It has forced the Palestinians to compete with the White House in hostility to Israel, humiliating Mahmoud Abbas when the administration chose to retreat. Even the existence of the peace process itself — much less actual peace — depends on Israel’s faith in the United States to help protect it from the maelstrom of condemnation that is the “international community’s” favorite hobby. The only question now is whether Professor Obama is capable of learning anything from the Middle East lesson he is being taught.