Is Obama Anti-Israeli?

An uncharacteristically icy breeze has blown over the relationship between the United States and Israel, and it appears the Israelis in particular have little idea how to deal with the new American stance toward them and their policies. The change must seem especially difficult given the history of relations between the two countries over the past eight years, where the modal U.S. response to any Israeli initiative seemed to have been to endorse it. That has clearly changed.

The issue that divides the two countries, of course, is the settlement of Palestinian state question. The Bush administration tepidly endorsed the idea of an independent Palestinian state as part of its so-called Road Map and even rhetorically opposed the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank that are the current symbol of the loggerheads regarding movement on the Palestinian questions. That said, Bush and Secretary of State Condi Rice did little to push a reluctant Israel toward a peace settlement and kept its objections to the continuing flow of settlers into the occupied zone (a direct violation of international law) behind closed doors. Obama has opened those doors to a new Israeli government much more opposed to the two-state solution than its predecessors (who hardly embraced the idea) and has argued that the creation of a Palestinian state is one of the, if not the, most important hinges for peace in the region.

The Netanyahou government acts like it does not quite know what to do about this new American stance. Obama would clearly like Bibi and Company to halt settlement construction, roll back the Israeli population on the West Bank to something like the pre-1967 dimensions, and proceed with negotiating an independent Palestine. Bibi does not want to do any of these things and probably cannot politically. Netanyahou is, after all, the inheritor of the Greater Israel banner, and his father defined that Greater Israel to include Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. His career, and his standing in Likud, is premised on keeping and incorporating the occupied West Bank into Israel. Moreover, he heads a minority government with a tenuous hold on power, and his core support base is dominated by settlers and their supporters. Backing down would amount to political suicide (an outcome which, one suspects, would not exactly displease the Obama administration).

Obama, in other words, is trying to influence the Israeli political system to change in ways that system is not sure it wants to change. Set aside the argument that this is precisely what the Israelis have been doing all along in the United States (influencing U.S. policy in Israel’s interests). The question is whether what Obama wants is in the best interest of Isfrael or not: Is Obama anti-Israeli?

Obama and his supporters would clearly say No! Rather, their argument is that compromise on the two-state question (and thus on the settlements) is the only way the Israelis can ever have the peace they have always said is their principal goal. Some Israelis agree with Obama, others do not. Does disagreement over policy make one anti-Israeli? Obama and his supporters think not. Rather, they would argue the “tough love” they are trying to get the Israelis to accept is really the only long-term PRO-Israeli position to take. One can, and people do, disagree on this question. To call proponents on one side or another pro- or anti-Israeli overall is more or less like saying advocates or opponentsof health care reform in the United States are pro-or anti-American.

Bad analogy, one might say. Being on one side or another of health care reform may be important, but the issue of Palestine is potentially life-threatening to Israel, and that makes it different. Those who defend the Likud position argue that the Palsetinians have acted consistently perfidiously (not suspending terrorism, for instance) and that their leadership is corrupt and ineffective. Palestinians, of  course, argue much the same about Israeli perfidy (the settlements) and ineffectiveness in suppressing their own fanatics (the settlers).

One way to solve this problem may be an American guarantee (possibly reinforced by other regional actors) physically to provide security for all concerned in implementing a Palestinian state solution. This solution itself would be controversial. Where, for instance, would American forces come from to enforce it, given our military overcommitment in the region? Would either side trust outsiders (they have not in the past)? This might be an impractical solution, but is it any worse than what we have now?

Is Obama anti-Israeli? Or does he just see a different path to Israeli security than the current Israeli regime? It’s a matter of opinion.


5 Responses to “Is Obama Anti-Israeli?”

  1. William Bilek, M.D. Says:

    Setting aside, once again, the arguability of the legality of the settlements, and the role they play in the Middle East conflict, which this blog repeatedly raises, the question of whether disagreeing with the Israeli government makes one “anti-Israeli”, or worse, “anti-Semitic,” is important to address. The short answer to the question, is “No, it does not.”

    To take a viewpoint which opposes that of any government, including Israel’s, is entirely legitimate. To try and convince a government, or its electorate, of the “error of their ways” is the heart of friendship and democracy. However, if forcing that opposing opinion on a resistant population would result in the physical extermination of that population, speacial care must be taken. For example, many well-meaning individuals, world, and Israeli leaders, grabbed on to the opportunity that appeared with the Oslo Accords with almost wild abandon and optimism. Most of those now look back with deep remorse, and regret. “Oops! Sorry!” however, does not bring back the thousands who died as a result. Nevertheless, it must be recognized that Obama has a great degree of power to enforce his ideas, correct or not. The people of Israel, and their government do not have to accept his suggestions, but they may well have to pay a heavy price if they see their hopes for survival as not aligned with his belief of what is best for America. As for third party guarantees of Israel’s security, one only has to look at what the U.N. is doing in southern Lebanon today; what U Thant did in the Sinai in 1967; or President Lyndon Johnson’s “misplacement” of the treaty the U.S. signed with Israel in 1956, guaranteeing Israeli shipping freedom of access to the international waters of the Straits of Tiran. It won’t work.

    • The following is a reply to William Bilek, MD:

      Doctor Bilek, putting aside the obvious shame that you bring upon the field of medicine by showing you have fairly low intelligence, your short answer to the question is completely wrong!

      “Dr” Bilek, to take as you say a “viewpoint which opposes that of any government, Including Israel’s, is entirely legitimate” has no bearing on the question of whether Obama is anti-Israeli. Would you be willing to bet your pompous life that Obama isn’t anti-Israeli? I bet you wouldn’t, not just because you are a coward but because you know deep down Obama kind ‘a likes the old radical Islamist..

      Obama is anti-Israeli and pro-Islamic militant in his rhetoric. Not only does this half-man, affirmative-action propped up “politician” not understand the Israeli position, he doesn’t want to because of his background sympathies for all followers of Islam. I guarantee that if suicide bombers targeted black “African” Americans, Obama wouldn’t defend a two-state stance with the suicide bombers living next to the blacks. Obama thinks the Israeliis stole the land of the Palestinians, a complete misreading of history. Obama also simply prefers Islam over Judaism.
      He shows his radical Islamic tendencies in his extremely soft words to the awful Iranian government after false elections. He shows his radical Islamic tendencies by not demanding the cessation of Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear “power” program. Obama’s policies, if not blocked by saner men, my actually cause the downfall of the free world.

  2. After reading this article, I feel that I really need more info. Can you suggest some more resources ?
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  3. I found very informative. The article is professionally written and I feel like the author knows the subject very well. keep it that way.

  4. Anti-israeli…

    An uncharacteristically icy breeze has blown over the relationship between the United States and Isr […]…

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