29 November '16..
In recent months, there’s been a lot of speculation about whether President Obama would use his last months in office to take a parting shot at Israel. In his final seven weeks, there is still a chance that he will allow a dangerously anti-Israel resolution to go up for a vote at the United Nations Security Council without a U.S. veto. But even if he is constrained by either common sense or a commendable desire not to tie the hands of his successor with an act that can’t be undone, supporters of the Jewish state should not assume that Obama’s attitude toward Israel will be something they can safely ignore once he leaves the White House.
A reminder of just how much damage an ex-president can do comes today in the form of an op-ed by Jimmy Carter published in the New York Times. In it, Carter urges Obama to do just what Israel’s friends fear: allow the Security Council to recognize Palestinian independence with the borders of the territories Israel seized in 1967 without first compelling them to make peace with Israel. That would be a reversal of decades of U.S. policy and do incalculable harm to Israel while not advancing the cause of peace.
Despite sharing an antipathy for Israel’s government, Carter and Obama are not close. If Obama does stab Israel in the back at the UN with a measure that will brand Israel as an outlaw state, it likely won’t be due to Carter’s influence. Yet the resurfacing of the 92-year-old Georgian at this crucial moment should alert the pro-Israel community to the possibility that Obama may use his post-presidency in a manner that will follow Carter’s pattern on the Middle East, but with the ability to create far more havoc than his predecessor.
Ever since he left the White House, Jimmy Carter has used the prestige of his former office to promote some anodyne causes like Habitat for Humanity. But he is almost as well known for his other post-presidential obsession: hammering Israel every chance he gets. Carter’s barely-concealed animus for Israel during his term in office was no secret, but it was overshadowed by Anwar Sadat’s courage in forging a peace with Israel for which the former president got more credit than he deserved.
Since then, Carter has stooped to false comparisons between Israel and apartheid-era South Africa and become a reliable apologist for anything the Palestinians do no matter how awful while never failing to attack Israel any chance he gets.
Carter left office as a defeated president and was labeled a failure. His presidency is chiefly remembered now, if it is remembered at all, as a prelude to the Ronald Reagan’s successful two terms, in which he presided over a robust recovery from Carter’s “malaise” and the defeat of the Soviet Union. Good works restored his reputation to some degree, but Carter’s standing at home and abroad has never been sufficient to lend the kind of weight to his attacks on the Jewish state that would have had an impact on American opinion or that of an international community already prejudiced against Israel.
That won’t be true of ex-president Obama.
Leaving office will not diminish Obama’s historic status as our first African-American president. History’s verdict on Obama’s major initiatives—ObamaCare and the Iran nuclear deal—may be that both were flops. But he exits the White House with sky-high approval ratings. Those numbers may grow in the next four years due to constant comparison with the mercurial Twitter-addicted Donald Trump.
That will place him in a unique position to influence a Democratic Party that has a growing faction that is unfriendly to Israel (as evidenced by the rise of Representative Keith Ellison as a likely next chair of the Democratic National Committee) and to sway international forums where his prestige will eclipse that of Carter or any other living president or world leader. Should Donald Trump keep his promises to stand by Israel, Jerusalem will not have to worry as much about its sole superpower ally as it has in the last eight years. But if Obama chooses to use the coming years of relative leisure to pursue his vendetta against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and to push for pressure on Israel or even to isolate it in the same manner as Carter, he could be almost as much of a problem for the Jewish state out of office as he was in it.
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