Barry Rubin obamablunders US and Israel relations US politics US State Department



Obama is the poster child of epic fail.

When you look into his domestic agenda, they’re just as miserable as his crash and burn foreign policies.


Why President Obama’s Concept of the Middle East Will Fail: Just Listen to It

By Barry Rubin

barry-rubin2To put it plainly, the press briefing supposed to indicate how President Barack Obama’s thinks about Israel on the eve of his trip here, is a combination of fantasy and insult. It may well that the Obama Administration did not mean this to be taken seriously, that the statements were made for show, to persuade the Arabic-speaking world that the United States is striving for peace and using its influence to change Israeli policy even as it does nothing of the sort.

Yet the first two premises on which this argument is based can be described as believing that what the Arab public really wants is progress toward peace with Israel and that the United States sees the ball as being in Israel’s–not the Arabs–court. The other is a strange hint that Washington has suddenly realized what Israel has understood since the beginning–that the “Arab Spring” isn’t going well. Now it feels the need to explain to Israeli leaders what they have long known, and give bad advice on what to do about it.

To show how mainstream Israelis who follow these issues closely see these themes, let’s quote how the Ynet reporter who covered the briefing–the respected and nonpartisan Yitzhak Benhorin–summarized what Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said. Here’s his lead:

“U.S. President Barack Obama will not be bringing a peace plan to Israel, but he will try to convince Prime Minister Benjamin and the Israeli public that after the Arab Spring, Israel cannot depend on autocrats holding everything together in the region..”

Here’s a president arriving at a moment when Israelis think the region is falling apart, with old autocrats being replaced by new ones and a more hostile environment, and the message is: You shouldn’t be complacent that everything is great?

Where does this come from? It is the American conception that the “Arab Spring” is a great thing, that old autocrats are falling and will be replaced by more democratic and moderate regimes. That is American; not Israeli thinking.

If that theme is based on fantasy, the second theme is insulting. Here is the second paragraph of Benhorin’s analysis:

“The U.S. believes that Israel must show it is serious about its peace efforts. It must convince the general Arab public, if nothing more than to maintain Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt.”

These are Benhorin’s words, not Rhodes’ exact formulations. But I think Benhorin reads the message properly.

Let’s begin by discussing the idea that Israel must persuade the Arab public:

–The question should be posed as this: When will the Arab public, or Arab governments, show Israel they are serious about peace? In 2009 when Obama sought such assurances and demonstrations he was turned down flat. We know it and he should know it.

–How long a list do you want of the times Israel has shown the Arab public that it wants peace seriously?

–Do you think the Arab public cares or is going to be persuaded by any such behavior?

–Hundreds of Israelis died in the 1993-2000 period in the effort to show the Arab public Israel was serious about peace.

The idea that Israel needs to persuade its neighbors to accept its existence is a line we have heard almost daily since the 1980s or even 1970s. Yet curiously the Arab street pays no attention to the scores of such Israeli gestures and the West soon forgets each one. And indeed Obama has forgotten those that took place during his first term, for example the nine-month-long settlement construction freeze, just as before that the Oslo agreement, Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the 2000 Camp David offer (including the offer to redivide Jerusalem!) and many more. [See Footnote, below]

More here.

2 Responses

  1. Israel HAS shown “it is serious about its peace efforts”. PM Netanyahu frequently invited the Palestinian Arabs (PA) to negotiate a peace settlement. His invitations were frequently refused.

    In the event President O’Bama were to publicly articulate this observation, I think it would help start negotiations.

    That is unlikely the reason for this trip. In my view, the Administration is privately facing up to its diplomatic failures in the region and wishes to establish its solidarity with the one stable government left in the region.

    Public statements may focus on negotiations (or lack of) with the Palestinian Arabs (PA). Private discussions will focus on Iran.

    If the U.S. is really looking at military action against Iran, peace between Israel and the (PA) will be the least anyone has to worry about in the aftermath.

    1. Exactly TINSC, there is nothing on the itinerary except to talk of different issues. It doesn’t help though for statements lumping an imaginary fault on Israel’s doorstep. This will be a two step shuffle then on to other things.

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