Obama’s Israel Policy: Speak softly and carry a very big carrot

By: Maidhc O’ Cathail     

Even those familiar with the long and shameful history of America’s appeasement of Israel were taken aback by the Obama administration’s extraordinary offer to Netanyahu.

In exchange for a paltry one-off 90 day freeze on illegal settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank (excluding East Jerusalem), Israel will get 20 F-35 stealth fighter jets worth $3 billion and a slew of other goodies. Yet Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reportedly gave up to eight hours with Netanyahu trying to persuade him to accept “one of the most generous bribes ever bestowed by the United States on any foreign power.” Praising the Israeli Prime Minister for eventually agreeing to put the offer to his security cabinet, President Obama took it as “a signal that he is serious.”

But is there any reason to believe that Netanyahu is any more “serious” about consenting to the creation of a viable Palestinian state today than he was in 2001? In a video aired on Israel’s Channel 10 this summer, Netanyahu was seen during the second intifada bragging to West Bank settlers about how he had sabotaged the Oslo Accords. “I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders,” he told them. In that secretly filmed conversation, Netanyahu also revealed his dismissive attitude toward the United States. “I know what America is,” he said. “America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in the way.”

And there is good reason for the Israeli leader’s arrogance. In a pre-midterm election interview with the Jewish Daily Forward, Congressman Gary Ackerman stressed that “Israel’s best bet for addressing any concerns about Obama’s policy” was for the Democrats to retain power. As evidence of their pro-Israel influence, Ackerman and other Jewish Democrats cited “the forceful criticisms they conveyed to the White House when they thought that Obama was leaning too hard on Israel.” Ackerman, who chaired the subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said that if Israel wanted “positive influence on the White House” it needed what he called the “first-class team” of Howard Berman, Barney Frank, Henry Waxman, Sander Levin and himself to continue chairing key House committees, because “we are all pro-Israel and we all have major, major, major influence in the executive branch.”
The Republicans’ subsequent gains in those midterms, however, are only likely to boost Netanyahu’s confidence in his ability to move America “in the right direction.” On the eve of his November 11 meeting with Hillary Clinton, the Israeli Prime Minister had what has been described as an “unusual, if not unheard of” (read: illegal) one-on-one meeting with incoming House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. According to Cantor’s office, the Congressman assured Netanyahu that “the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the Administration.” It wouldn’t be the first time that Cantor— set to become the highest ever ranking Jewish member of Congress—has attempted to undermine official U.S. policy in Israel’s behalf. Last year, while leading a delegation of 25 Republican congressmen to Israel, Cantor publicly criticised the Obama administration for interfering in such internal Israeli matters as the eviction of Palestinian families from their East Jerusalem homes and the ongoing 43-year Jewish colonization of the West Bank.
Given who has been shaping Obama’s Middle East policy, his administration may not require that much checking though. Since 2002, he has been advised by Lee Rosenberg, a key member of “a close-knit network of Chicago Jews,” who, in the words of the Chicago Tribune, “nurtured and enabled” Obama’s political career. According to Rosenberg, the then U.S. Senate hopeful “reached out” to the jazz recording industry entrepreneur and venture capitalist “to learn more about the issues affecting Israel and Middle East, and the U.S.–Israel relationship.” Later, when Obama’s Chicago backers made it clear to him that Israel was an issue “he had to get educated on,” Rosenberg accompanied the then-senator on his first trip to Israel, where he learned “an appreciation of the security needs.” A longtime board member (and currently president) of AIPAC, Rosenberg also introduced the presidential candidate at the pro-Israel lobby’s 2008 conference, when Obama, in contradiction of international law, vowed that Jerusalem “will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”
Dennis Ross, one of the principal authors of that speech, is also the originator of the incentive package. Having convinced Obama of the need “to come off as friendlier” to Netanyahu, the president’s current top adviser on the Middle East worked closely with Ehud Barak and Yitzak Molho, Netanyahu’s adviser, on preparing the original proposal which Netanyahu subsequently rejected. Ross, dubbed “Israel’s lawyer” for his over-solicitousness to Tel Aviv’s interests as President Clinton’s chief negotiator, was accused by an American government official earlier this year of being “far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests.” A fellow at the AIPAC-sponsored think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, he also served, until his government appointment, as founding chairman of the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, which views intermarriage with non-Jews as an “insidious” challenge. On hearing that Ross had joined Obama’s team, one Chicago-based pro-Israel activist commented, “now … we have no concerns whatsoever.”

And yet there are some who believe that Obama is anti-Israel…

(The writer is a free lance journalist based in Japan).

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  • Faisal Malik  On December 3, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    “And yet there are some who believe that Obama is anti-Israel…”

    many still believe that mr. obama is a muslim. pathetic thinking? who knows.

    very informative. nice one once again from Maidhc. i like the above pic describing the title. but i think the stick could have been a little shorter still. 🙂

    i like the way u used the word “illegal” at the beginning.

    form some pakistani people’s point of view, doesnt matter who resides in the white house. the zionists are always in control of whoever “seems” to be in charge there.

    democrats, republicans, …………two sides of the same coin.

  • Laila  On December 3, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Maidhc’s articles are VERY informative.Thanks for the post YAA.

  • Inam Khan  On December 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    It has become crystal clear that Obama won presidential election with Jewish support.Now he is trying to pay back the debt…………..Inam Khan

  • Summaya  On December 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    Obama is also a first-term senator with just two years’ service (he previously served eight years as a state senator in Illinois). His father is black, making Obama the only black senator currently in the Senate. Obama’s middle name, which means “the good, handsome one,” is of Arab origin, making him the only presidential candidate even remotely connected to anything Middle Eastern or Arab, although his father is actually Kenyan.

    With so many unconventional characteristics in his profile, Obama has made conscious efforts to appear nothing like a dove, especially when it comes to Middle Eastern issues. At times, especially in his discussions of the “war on terror,” Iran and the U.S. military, he can sound more hawkish than Hillary Clinton or the rest of the Democratic field, and as hawkish as some Republicans.

    The often-repeated criticism of Obama as long on rhetoric and short on ideas is more often justified than not. Obama also tries to have it both ways on many issues—withdrawing from Iraq but not entirely, negotiating with Iran but with bombing Iran always in mind, pledging to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but firmly maintaining an Israel-first approach.

    Obama frequently refers to the fact that unlike Sens. Clinton, Edwards, Joe Biden, Christopher Dodd and most of the GOP candidates, he did not support Congress’ 2002 authorization for war on Iraq. Obama, however, was an Illinois state senator at the time. Still, he’s taken a decidedly and consistently anti-war stance based on the assumption that Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis are more likely to settle their differences without an American presence than under American occupation—especially if they are pressured into doing so by the threat of an imminent American withdrawal. “And the only effective way to apply this pressure,” Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs, “is to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces, with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008—a date consistent with the goal set by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.” Nevertheless, Obama is opposed to a complete withdrawal: “We should leave behind only a minimal over-the-horizon military force in the region to protect American personnel and facilities, continue training Iraqi security forces, and root out al Qaeda.” Yet Obama wants to “make clear that we seek no permanent bases in Iraq.”

    Obama won plaudits and criticism for two major stands on Iran. He said the nuclear option against Iran should not be on the table even as the conventional-attack option does remain there. And he maintains that negotiating directly with Iran is a must: “Although we must not rule out using military force,” Obama wrote, “we should not hesitate to talk directly to Iran. Our diplomacy should aim to raise the cost for Iran of continuing its nuclear program by applying tougher sanctions and increasing pressure from its key trading partners. The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium-enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.” In exchange, Obama offers diplomatic relations with Iran, “economic engagement” and “security assurances,” removing the notion of “regime change” from America’s Iran policy.

    Rather than a withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, Obama seens a needed build-up of troops there, as well as the removal of restrictions on combat duties placed on some of the NATO forces. While running for the U.S. Senate in September 2004, he said missile strikes against Iran and Pakistan might be necessary to prevent extremists from acquiring nuclear weapons. In 2007, he said reducing aid to Pakistan, and attacking Pakistan proper, would be appropriate in the fight against al-Qaeda. “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act,” Obama said, “we will.”

    Clearly more sympathetic to the Palestinian plight than most candidates. “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people,” he told Iowa voters in March. He blames Hamas, the militant Palestinian group, for stalling peace talks, as well as the Bush Administration, which, Obama says, has “neglected for years” the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

    Obama, however, is just as eager to court Jewish votes by aligning himself unmistakably on Israel’s side first: Our starting point must always be a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel, our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy.” Obama is also non-committal on an actual peace plan.

  • Saulat Khan  On December 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm

  • Mohammad Bajwa  On December 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    There must be some deeper reason for America’s passionate attachment to Israel. It is not just that US administrations are taken for a ride.


  • Javed Chaudhry  On December 3, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    America’s unprecedented love for Israel started recently, only after 1967 war. The current American attachment with Israel has at least three important factors and two of those factors reinforce each other and are mutually inclusive. Because of that, Ariel Sharon (who is still in coma) once stated that they (Israel) owns America. I think he was right, considering that Obama recently declared that an attack on Israel would be considered attack on the US.

    Historically, the Jewish people did not have a very easy time in America during 19th and the first half of the 20th century. Although they were never persecuted in Americas unlike what happened to them in Europe during the last 2000 years, nevertheless, many Americans of western European stock in the US did not like the Jewish people. They brought their prejudices with them on the boat from Europe. Henry Ford (of Ford Motor Company fame) who, in a way, disliked them, even wrote a book to show his displeasure about the Jews.

    But some thing happened after the WWII, but really after 1967 in a big way. The three factors I have alluded to above, are:

    The Zionist dream for Greater Israel (minus the Palestinians or any Arabs).
    The American Imperialists dream to control worlds resources and economy. (the new world order – the modern way of colonial rule).
    The historical Jewish attitudes of running a state within the state as a defense mechanism purely for self preservation – often done by well organized minorities. [Note: a similarity can be noted among the Ismaelis living in Muslim societies]

    The factors, 1 and 2 are intertwined and support each other. Each factor can be expanded to show details but I suppose, the readers, would have some idea, where I am going with this narrative. For now I will leave it here for others to comment and add their own thoughts to it, (both supporting and opposing thoughts).

    Let me give you a little food for thought here before I finish – ask yourself a few questions:

    a) When we refer to the “Americans” who are we thinking about? There are about 300 million people in the US. What percentage of those, do you think are aware of how their government runs and how many of them are aware of or interested in the international affairs of the world, the politics, the economy – and the whole nine yards?
    b) There are about 12 million Jews in America. Calculate the percentage of the total population. Now add the numbers of all the Congressmen/women and the senators and find out how many of them are Jewish (never mind practicing or not). Now compare the percentage of the Jewish people in the country to what you find in the Congress and the Senate.
    c) The media (paper plus electronic) is the most important vehicle these days to create the public mindset, the voting patterns and the endorsement of what the government wants to do. Who owns or controls the 96% of the American media?


    • Mubashir Inayet  On December 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

      A good analysis Javed. Average American is so ignorant that it not even funny. On John Stewart Show they are told how some of thier politicians contradict themselves and all it generates is laughter!! Show over,case closed, pass me a beer.

      However there are increasing number of websites who are aware that their country is being milked dry by you know who and one senses that this awareness is bound to grow in time.



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