On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Municipality announced it is shelving plans to build 1,500 apartments in the Har Homa neighborhood. Officials gave no explanation for its sudden move. But none was needed.
Obviously the construction of apartments for Jews in Jerusalem was blocked in the hopes of appeasing US President Barack Obama.
But is there any reason to believe he can be appeased? Today the White House is issuing condemnations of Israel faster than the UN.
To determine how to handle what is happening, we need to understand the nature of what is happening.
Firstwe need to understand that the administration’s hostility has little to do with Israel’s actions.
As Max Boot explained Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal, the administration’s animosity toward Israel is a function of Obama’s twin strategic aims, both evident since he entered office: realigning US policy in the Middle East toward Iran and away from its traditional allies Israel and the Sunni Arab states, and ending the US’s strategic alliance with Israel.
Over the past six years we have seen how Obama has consistently, but gradually, taken steps to advance these two goals. Toward Iran, he has demonstrated an unflappable determination to accommodate the terrorism supporting, nuclear proliferating, human rights repressing and empire building mullahs.
Beginning last November, as the deadline for nuclear talks between the US and its partners and Tehran approached, Obama’s attempts to accommodate Tehran escalated steeply.
Obama has thrown caution to the winds in a last-ditch effort to convince Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei to sign a deal with him. Last month the administration published a top secret report on Israel’s nuclear installations. Last week, Obama’s director of national intelligence James Clapper published an annual terrorism threat assessment that failed to mention either Iran or Hezbollah as threats.
And this week, the administration accused Israel of spying on its talks with Iran in order to tell members of Congress the details of the nuclear deal that Obama and his advisers have been trying to hide from them.
In the regional context, the administration has had nothing to say in the face of Iran’s takeover of the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and the Gulf of Aden this week. With its Houthi-proxy now in charge of the strategic waterway, and with its own control over the Straits of Hormuz, Iran is poised to exercise naval control over the two choke points of access to Arab oil.
The administration is assisting Iranian Shi’ite proxies in their battle to defeat Islamic State forces in the Iraqi city of Tikrit. It has said nothing about the Shi’ite massacres of Sunnis that come under their control.
Parallel to its endless patience for Tehran, the Obama administration has been treating Israel with bristling and ever-escalating hostility. This hostility has been manifested among other things through strategic leaks of highly classified information, implementing an arms embargo on weapons exports to Israel in time of war, ending a 40-year agreement to provide Israel with fuel in times of emergency, blaming Israel for the absence of peace, expressing tolerance and understanding for Palestinian terrorism, providing indirect support for Europe’s economic war against Israel, and providing indirect support for the BDS movement by constantly accusing Israel of ill intentions and dishonesty.
Then there is the UN. Since he first entered office, Obama has been threatening to withhold support for Israel at the UN. To date, the administration has vetoed one anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council and convinced the Palestinians not to submit another one for a vote.
In the months that preceded these actions, the administration exploited Israel’s vulnerability to extort massive concessions to the Palestinians.
Obama forced Benjamin Netanyahu to announce his support for Palestinian statehood in September 2009. He used the UN threat to coerce Netanyahu to agree to negotiations based on the 1949 armistice lines, to deny Jews their property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to release scores of terrorist murderers from prison.
Following the nationalist camp’s victory in last week’s election, Obama brought to a head the crisis in relations he instigated. He has done so for two reasons.
First, next week is the deadline for signing a nuclear agreement with Iran. Obama views Netanyahu as the prospective deal’s most articulate and effective opponent.
As Obama sees it, Netanyahu threatens his nuclear diplomacy with Iran because he has a unique ability to communicate his concerns about the deal to US lawmakers and the American people, and mobilize them to join him in opposing Obama’s actions. The letters sent by 47 senators to the Iranian regime explaining the constitutional limitations on presidential power to conclude treaties without Senate approval, like the letter to Obama from 367 House members expressing grave and urgent concerns about the substance of the deal he seeks to conclude, are evidence of Netanyahu’s success.
The second reason Obama has gone to war against Israel is because he views the results of last week’s election as an opportunity to market his anti-Israel and pro-Iranian positions to the American public.
If Netanyahu can convince Americans to oppose Obama on Iran, Obama believes that by accusing Netanyahu of destroying chances for peace and calling him a racist, Obama will be able to win sufficient public support for his anti-Israel policies to intimidate pro-Israel Democratic lawmakers into accepting his pro-Iranian policies.
To this end, Obama has announced that the threat that he will abandon Israel at the UN has now become a certainty. There is no peace process, Obama says, because Netanyahu had the temerity to point out that there is no way for Israel to risk the transformation of Judea and Samaria into a new terror base. As a consequence, he has all but made it official that he is abandoning the peace process and joining the anti-Israel bandwagon at the UN.
Given Obama’s decision to abandon support for a negotiated peace between Israel and the Palestinians, modes of appeasement aimed at showing Israel’s good faith, such as Jewish building freezes, are no longer relevant. Scrapping plans to build apartments in Jewish neighborhoods like Har Homa will make no difference.
Obama has reached a point in his presidency where he is prepared to give full expression to his plan to end the US’s strategic alliance with Israel.
He thinks that doing so is both an end to itself and a means of succeeding in his bid to achieve a rapprochement with Iran.
Given this dismal reality, Israel needs to develop ways to minimize the damage Obama can cause.
Israel needs to oppose Obama’s policies while preserving its relations with its US supporters, including its Democratic supporters. Doing so will ensure that it is in a position to renew its alliance with the US immediately after Obama leaves office.
With regards to Iran, such a policy requires Israel to act with the US’s spurned Arab allies to check Iran’s expansionism and nuclear progress. It also requires Israel to galvanize strong opposition to Obama’s goal of replacing Israel with Iran as America’s chief ally in the Middle East and enabling it to develop nuclear weapons.
As for the Palestinians, Israel needs to view Obama’s abandonment of the peace process as an opportunity to improve our diplomatic position by resetting our relations with the Palestinians. Since 1993, Israel has been entrapped by the chimerical promise of a “two-state solution.”
By late 2000, the majority of Israelis had recognized that there is no way to achieve the two-state solution. There is no way to make peace with the PLO. But due to successive governments’ aversion to risking a crisis in relations with Washington, no one dared abandon the failed two-state strategy.
Now, with Obama himself declaring the peace process dead and replacing it with a policy of pure hostility toward Israel, Israel has nothing to gain from upholding a policy that blames it for the absence of peace.
No matter how loudly Netanyahu declares his allegiance to the establishment of a Palestinian state in Israel’s heartland, Obama will keep castigating him and Israel as the destroyer of peace.
The prevailing, 23-year-old view among our leadership posits that if we abandon the two-state model, we will lose American support, particularly liberal American support. But the truth is more complicated.
Inspired by the White House and the Israeli Left, pro-Israel Democrats now have difficulty believing Netanyahu’s statements of support for the establishment of a Palestinians state. But those who truly uphold liberal values of human rights can be convinced of the rightness of Israel’s conviction that peace is currently impossible and as a consequence, the two-state model must be put on the back burner.
We can maintain support among Republicans and Democrats alike if we present an alternative policy that makes sense in the absence of an option for the two-state model.
Such a policy is the Israeli sovereignty model. If the government adopts a policy of applying Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria in whole – as I recommend in my book The Israeli Solution: A One- State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, or in part, in Area C, as Economy Minister Naftali Bennett recommends, our leaders will be able to defend their actions before the American people, including pro-Israel Democrats.
Israel must base its policy of sovereignty on two principles. First, this is a liberal policy that will ensure the civil rights of Palestinians and Israelis alike, and improve the Palestinians’ standard of living.
Second, such a policy is not necessarily a longterm or permanent “solution,” but it is a stable equilibrium for now.
Just as Israel’s decision to apply its laws to united Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the past didn’t prevent it from conducting negotiations regarding the possible transfer of control over the areas to the Palestinians and Syrians, respectively, so an administrative decision to apply Israeli law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria will not block the path for negotiations with the Palestinians when regional and internal Palestinian conditions render them practicable.
The sovereignty policy is both liberal and strategically viable. If the government adopts it, the move will rebuild Israel’s credibility and preserve Israel’s standing on both sides of the aisle in Washington.
Never before has Israel had to deal with such an openly hostile US administration. Indeed, until 2009, the very notion that a day would come when an American president would prefer an alliance with Khamenei’s Iran to its traditional alliances with Israel and the Sunni Arab states was never even considered. But here we are.
Our current situation is unpleasant. But it isn’t the end of the world. We aren’t helpless. If we act wisely, we can stem Iran’s nuclear and regional advance. If we act boldly, we can preserve our alliance with the US while adopting a policy toward the Palestinians that for the first time in decades will advance our interests and our liberal values on the world stage.