03 June '15..
On Tuesday night, President Obama’s complete interview with Israel’s Channel 2 aired. The full text not only makes his comments about the Iran nuclear deal that I discussed Monday sound even more misleading, but also reveals again how tone-deaf he is to the realities of the conflict with the Palestinians.
It should again be noted that this interview, like his address to a Washington synagogue last month, is part of a Jewish charm offensive whose main purpose is to undermine opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. His goal is to convince Israel and its supporters to pipe down about the administration’s dangerous appeasement of Tehran and thereby, at the very least, secure enough votes in Congress to sustain a presidential veto of a vote to disapprove the agreement.
In order to persuade Israel and its friends to calm down about a dangerously weak deal that gives Iran two pathways to a bomb — one by easily cheating on it, and another by patiently waiting for it to expire — the president has been pouring on the love for Israel and paying lip service to its security. That is not without value as it establishes a baseline of support that makes it a little bit harder for the president to shift course and apply pressure on the Jewish state once he gets his deal approved. But it’s difficult if not impossible to believe in the reassurances he’s handing out when his defense of the deal is so misleading. It’s also hard to take his professions of affection for Israel seriously when he mischaracterizes the nature of the conflict with the Palestinians and why peace has yet to be achieved.
The first point that needs to be highlighted is that in the Channel 2 interview, the president again repeated his mantra about Iran’s nuclear program being “frozen” as a result of the interim deal the U.S. negotiated with Tehran in November 2013. Here’s what he said:
I said that in exchange for some modest relief in sanctions, Iran is going to have to freeze its nuclear program, roll back on its stockpiles of very highly enriched uranium—the very stockpiles that Prime Minister Netanyahu had gone before the United Nations with his picture of the bomb and said that was proof of how dangerous this was—all that stockpile is gone.
That would be great if it were true. But as the readers of the New York Times learned this morning, it isn’t. As I wrote yesterday, the administration is flummoxed by the revelations in an International Atomic Energy Agency report issued last Friday that shows that the stockpile of Iran’s nuclear fuel is not only not frozen, it has increased in the last 18 months by more than 20 percent. Though State Department spokesperson Marie Harf went ballistic on the Times for printing a story that she said was “inaccurate,” her only argument for that bizarre assertion is that she thinks Iran will make its nuclear stockpile disappear once the deal is completed and signed. As Iran has made clear, that’s not going to happen. But the main point to be gleaned from all this is that the president went on Israeli TV and failed to speak the truth about Iran’s stockpile. Nothing, not even the facts reported in a newspaper that often serves as an administration cheerleader is enough to stop the president from spouting inaccurate claims about his entente with the Islamist regime.
As for the conflict with the Palestinians, the president deserves a little credit for honesty when he conceded that a peace deal wouldn’t be reached during his presidency. But he also doubled down on the assertion that the primary obstacle to peace was the Israeli government’s skepticism about a two-state solution.
Obama’s focus on Israel’s lack of enthusiasm for more territorial withdrawals must be considered to border on an obsession. The Palestinians have shown no interest in negotiating with Israel on any terms and still won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders are drawn. As Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah reiterated in an interview this past weekend in the Washington Post, the PA is solely interested in making an end-run around U.S.-led negotiations and getting the international community to recognize Palestinian independence without requiring them to make peace with Israel first.
After repeated Palestinian rejections of peace offers that included statehood and control of almost all of the West Bank, Gaza, and a share of Jerusalem, and more terrorism, support for the peace process among the Israeli people evaporated. Though most would back a two-state solution if it led to real peace, they understand that the PA leadership in the West Bank can’t make peace even if it wanted to and the Hamas rulers of Gaza only want war to the death.
Under the circumstances, quibbling about what Prime Minister Netanyahu says about two states is irrelevant to the problems of a region rightly more about the threat from an Iran that is being boosted by Obama than Israel’s failure to make another futile peace offer. Yet, Obama continues to have hardly a word of criticism for a Palestinian political culture promoted by the PA that glorifies death and terrorism while claiming to be disappointed in an Israel that isn’t living up to his expectations. In the interview, he continued to implicitly compare the Palestinian struggle to wipe Israel off the map to the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Contrary to Obama’s specious charge, Israel hasn’t succumbed to “the politics of fear” but has instead embraced the politics of realism. Thus, the point isn’t so much that Obama’s view of the conflict continues to tilt in the direction of the Palestinians as he is completely disconnected from the reality on the ground that Israelis must confront.
Such a stance isn’t merely unhelpful, but also continues to give the Palestinians the impression that the world will tolerate their rejectionism. If Israelis must again spend part of their summer in bomb shelters as Hamas launches yet another terror offensive, we should think back on the signal that Obama sent the Palestinians about Israel’s isolation and understand that he set the stage for more violence rather than peace.