Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Chicago Sun-Times unloads on Obama: Insulting Netanyahu was a bad idea

(Chicago Sun-Times) At a time when Islamist fanaticism is roiling the Middle East and the Islamic State is on the march in Syria and Iraq, the Obama administration insults Israel, our only reliable ally in the region, by mocking Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a barnyard epithet for coward. Disrespecting a friend is no way to conduct foreign policy or impress allies in these troubled times.

The outburst by unnamed officials is only the latest sour exchange in what has seemed for some time like a deteriorating relationship.

Even the best of allies have disagreements. The White House and State Department have long complained about Israeli construction in disputed territories in the West Bank. Such building is, in my view, far from the central roadblock to peace negotiations that President Barack Obama and his diplomats portray it. Still, an argument can be made that the government of Netanyahu hasn’t been sensitive to Washington’s perspective.

For his part, Netanyahu has long had cause for concern about Obama’s commitment to Israel. In 2008 comments, Obama disparaged the Likud Party’s approach to governing Israel. A year later, Likud candidate Netanyahu was elected prime minister.

The current crisis started building when Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, in
private comments that inevitably became public, referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as “obsessive and messianic.” Yaalon apologized publicly but was snubbed in a recent visit to Washington when he was refused meetings with Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden.

Now, Biden recently had to apologize for his comments about Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. You might have thought he would have sympathized with Yaalon. But the administration didn’t.

To make matters much worse, journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of Atlantic magazine, who has good contacts in the White House, quoted “senior” administration officials calling Netanyahu a “coward,” “chickens---” and someone who’s “got no guts.”

For starters, Netanyahu once served in an Israeli commando unit and was wounded in action. What’s more, the officials were mocking him for not attacking Iran’s nuclear program. Recall that the administration had gone to great lengths to persuade Israel not to bomb Iran; it said U.S. diplomacy would stop Tehran’s nuclear bomb ambitions. That remains to be seen.

Kerry and administration spokesmen were quick to say the unnamed officials didn’t reflect Obama’s thinking. Maybe. What undergirds the administration’s loathing of Netanyahu is the delusional and dangerous belief that Israel is the obstacle to peace negotiations. This mistake is based on the notion, again delusional, that if the Israelis will only make more concessions, harmony will prevail.

For all the attention on Goldberg’s article, a most revealing observation about the Israeli-Palestinian situation came in a piece by New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. He wrote that in March Obama “offered compromise ideas” on peace proposals to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and “asked him point blank if he would accept them.” Reported Friedman, “Obama is still waiting for an answer.”

Welcome to Israel’s world.

In 2000 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat the most generous deal thought possible. Arafat never replied. Instead he launched a terror war that left thousands of Israeli civilians dead and maimed. In 2008 Prime Minister Ehud Olmert even improved on that offer; he got silence from Abbas.

No one has ever seen a Palestinian concession for the cause of peace.