No 617 Posted by fw, November 20, 2012
“There’s no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we’re fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.” —Barack Obama, November 18, 2012
Obama dissembles with the seeming conviction that responsibly informed people worldwide will believe him. This post provides a summary of excerpts from Jonathan Cook’s article cited below that explains why Gaza truth-telling is not a winning strategic option for the President. To read the full, original version, click on the linked title.
The speculation among Israelis and many observers is that an Obama second term will see much greater pressure on Israel both to make major concessions on Palestinian statehood and to end its aggressive posturing towards Iran over its supposed ambition to build a nuclear warhead. Such thinking, however, is fanciful. The White House’s approach towards Netanyahu and Israel is unlikely to alter significantly.
1. Obama and most Congressional politicians are AIPAC’s puppets
Obama got burnt previously when he tried to impose a settlement freeze. There are no grounds for believing that Israel’s far-right lobbyists in Washington, led by AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee], will give the president an easier ride this time. And as Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran Israeli commentator, noted, Obama will face the same US Congress, one that has “traditionally been a stronghold of near-unconditional support for Israel”.
2. Obama won’t risk handing on damaged relations with Israel to his successor
Obama may not have to worry about re-election but he will not want to hand a poisoned legacy to the next Democratic presidential candidate, nor will want to mire his own final term in damaging confrontations with Israel. Memories are still raw of Bill Clinton’s failed gamble to push through a peace deal – one that, in truth, was a far-more generous to Israel than the Palestinians – at Camp David in the dying days of his second term.
3. Obama and Israel share common Middle East policies and strategies
And whatever his personal antipathy towards the Israeli prime minister, Obama also knows that, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aside, his policies in the Middle East are either aligned with Israel’s or dependent on Netanyahu’s cooperation to work.
4. Backing Netanyahu’s opponents in upcoming elections is too big a gamble for Obama especially when Israel’s policies are unlikely to change no matter who wins
A sliver of hope for Netanyahu’s opponents is that a disgruntled US president might still take limited revenge, turning the tables by interfering in the Israeli elections due in January. He could back more moderate challengers such as Olmert or Tzipi Livni, if they choose to run and start to look credible.
But even that would be a big gamble.
The evidence shows that, whatever the makeup of the next Israeli governing coalition, it will espouse policies little different from the current one. That simply reflects the lurch rightwards among Israeli voters, as indicated in a poll this month showing that 80 per cent now believe it is impossible to make peace with the Palestinians.
5. Netanyahu is perceived to have power over Obama, which makes him popular with the Israeli electorate
In fact, given the mood in Israel, an obvious attempt by Obama to side with one of Netanyahu’s opponents might actually harm their prospects for success. Netanyahu has already demonstrated to Israelis that he can defeat the US president in a staring contest. Many Israelis are likely to conclude that no one is better placed to keep an unsympathetic Obama in check in his second term.
6. Championing an Israeli-Palestinian peace process has proven to be a losing gambit for American presidents
Faced with a popular consensus in Israel and political backing in the US Congress for a hard line with the Palestinians, Obama is an unlikely champion of the peace process – and even of the Palestinians’ current lowly ambition to win observer status at the United Nations.
A vote on this matter is currently threatened for November 29, with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas apparently hoping that the anniversary of the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine will provide emotional resonance.
7. Regardless of the outcome of Israel’s election, Obama is stuck with an Israeli government that will continue to reject an agreement with Palestinians
The reality is that the White House is stuck with an Israeli government, with or without Netanyahu, that rejects an agreement with the Palestinians. As tensions flare again on the Israel-Gaza border – threatening an Israeli attack, just as occurred in the run-up to the last Israeli election – it looks disturbingly like four more years of the same.
Jonathan Cook is an award-winning British journalist based in Nazareth, Israel, since 2001, and the author of three books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2011 Jonathan was awarded the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism citing him as “one of the reliable truth-tellers in the Middle East.”