Obama and Tactical Terror
In a retrospective interview with The Atlantic, U.S. President Obama griped about being lectured by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, being badmouthed by Jordan’s King Abdullah, and being let down by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. What a messy Middle East it is that refuses to lie down and roll over the way Obama would like it to play! Obama recalled how he had to point out his own (unrelated) credentials to shut up Netanyahu when he presented the Israeli perspective. It is odd that someone with an academic background and a rambling, lecturing style himself cannot bear anything resembling a lecture from anyone else.
Professor Obama owns pig-headed ideas, and no modus operandi for reality except favoring bad actors. Years of Iranian negotiations resulted in the U.S. giving away the store in financial assets and sanctions repeal in return for an unsigned piece of paper. A red line in Syria was simply erased and forgotten, as were the human targets of President Assad’s chemical weapons attacks. Obama’s three prior defense secretaries have criticized his handling and hog-tying of the military. Apparently, he couldn’t listen to them either, and so under Obama’s watch the Middle East has spiraled out of control as with human misery and death tolls still rising.
While Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers get the carrot of staying in power, Obama has wielded the stick in dealing with Israel. His shabby treatment of Netanyahu at the White House is legendary in Israel, where Obama’s approval ratings have been so low that the margin of error included sub-zero numbers.
The pursuit of “Middle East Peace” has become a presidential tradition, pushing Israel to give up tangible assets for an intangible peace. The real results of Israeli withdrawals are Hamas missiles from Gaza, a strengthened Hezbollah in Lebanon, and a vicious and lawless mess in the Sinai where the Egyptians authorities struggle to maintain control. In the relinquished towns of the Palestinian Authority, chief Abbas is using the current wave of incited terror to maintain “street cred” in his fiefdom. Looking just as Jew-hating and brutal as the P.A.’s competitor Hamas and keeping peace very intangible is key to Abbas’ survival.
No wonder Israelis are largely disillusioned with this whole game.
Palestinians still use terror to make foreign visitors sit up and take notice. Following this week’s series of bloody attacks on Wednesday, one of the first questions asked even in left-wing Israeli media was “is this escalation linked to Vice President Biden’s visit?” One thing few outsiders are aware of is that there is a long history of increased terror attacks linked to diplomatic visits. The police are not ruling the possibility given the planned shooting attack in Jerusalem.
One diplomacy-linked attack was the Jaffa Road terror bombing which took place when then-Secretary of State Colin Powell was here in 2002. The bomber self-detonated just as Powell was taking off nearby for a helicopter survey of the Lebanese border. This was a big publicity coup, as Powell dramatically surveyed the damage from the air. CNN reported the incident including Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi’s blackmailing call for U.S. pressure on Israel, the bookend to the bombing:
“We need genuine intervention. Sharon’s policies are bringing death to both peoples…We need to stop Sharon.”
Terror is a pressure tactic. U.S. interventions have pushed Israel to make concessions hoping this would end terror here and abroad. The result has been demonstrably disastrous, teaching terrorists that terror pays. This is the actual “cycle of violence”.
It is no wonder that a Pew survey released this week shows that Jewish Israeli opinions are shifting further to the right. Cynicism regarding the Palestinians’ desire to build a state has increased as it has become clear to most Israelis the destruction of Israel is the only goal the Palestinians have in mind. Nearly half of all Israelis surveyed now would support transfer or expulsion of the Muslim Arab population—not that this is a likely or even realistic scenario.
Had the Pew survey asked about U.S. interference, the numbers would show that the average Israeli on the street is not interested in having visits from American officials which at worst spur terror attacks and at the least tie up traffic for hours. Many feel that the Americans “just don’t get it.” It seems Obama still thinks solving the “Palestinian problem” is the main goal in the Middle East. With ISIS on our Syrian border and the Iranians test-firing missiles, Israelis know better than to beat that dead horse.
The Atlantic interview shows that Obama blames the current situation not on himself but on those irritating people who fail to see his vision. Israelis have lost patience with Obama’s willful insistence on seeing the Middle East through his own ego-tinted perspective. We have reality to handle, Mr. President, just let us get on with it.