US President Barack Obama claims to be a big fan of telling the truth. In media interviews ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and during his big speech in Cairo on Thursday, he claimed that the centerpiece of his Middle East policy is his willingness to tell people hard truths.
Indeed, Obama made three references to the need to tell the truth in his so-called address to the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, for a speech billed as an exercise in truth telling, Obama’s address fell short. Far from reflecting hard truths, Obama’s speech reflected political convenience.
Obama’s so-called hard truths for the Islamic world included statements about the need to fight so-called extremists; give equal rights to women; provide freedom of religion; and foster democracy. Unfortunately, all of his statements on these issues were nothing more than abstract, theoretical declarations devoid of policy prescriptions.
He spoke of the need to fight Islamic terrorists without mentioning that their intellectual, political and monetary foundations and support come from the very mosques, politicians and regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt that Obama extols as moderate and responsible.
He spoke of the need to grant equality to women without making mention of common Islamic practices like so-called honor killings, and female genital mutilation. He ignored the fact that throughout the lands of Islam women are denied basic legal and human rights. And then he qualified his statement by mendaciously claiming that women in the US similarly suffer from an equality deficit. In so discussing this issue, Obama sent the message that he couldn’t care less about the plight of women in the Islamic world.
So, too, Obama spoke about the need for religious freedom but ignored Saudi Arabian religious apartheid. He talked about the blessings of democracy but ignored the problems of tyranny.
In short, Obama’s “straight talk” to the Arab world, which began with his disingenuous claim that like America, Islam is committed to “justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” was consciously and fundamentally fraudulent. And this fraud was advanced to facilitate his goal of placing the Islamic world on equal moral footing with the free world.
In a like manner, Obama’s tough “truths” about Israel were marked by factual and moral dishonesty in the service of political ends.
On the surface, Obama seemed to scold the Muslim world for its all-pervasive Holocaust denial and craven Jew hatred. By asserting that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are wrong, he seemed to be upholding his earlier claim that America’s ties to Israel are “unbreakable.”
Unfortunately, a careful study of his statements shows that Obama was actually accepting the Arab view that Israel is a foreign – and therefore unjustifiable – intruder in the Arab world. Indeed, far from attacking their rejection of Israel, Obama legitimized it.
The basic Arab argument against Israel is that the only reason Israel was established was to sooth the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust. By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.
This argument is completely false. The international community recognized the legal, historic and moral rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel long before anyone had ever heard of Adolf Hitler. In 1922, the League of Nations mandated the “reconstitution” – not the creation – of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel in its historic borders on both sides of the Jordan River.
But in his self-described exercise in truth telling, Obama ignored this basic truth in favor of the Arab lie. He gave credence to this lie by stating wrongly that “the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history.”
He then explicitly tied Israel’s establishment to the Holocaust by moving to a self-serving history lesson about the genocide of European Jewry.
Even worse than his willful blindness to the historic, legal and moral justifications for Israel’s rebirth, was Obama’s characterization of Israel itself. Obama blithely, falsely and obnoxiously compared Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to white American slave owners’ treatment of their black slaves. He similarly cast Palestinian terrorists in the same morally pure category as slaves. Perhaps most repulsively, Obama elevated Palestinian terrorism to the moral heights of slave rebellions and the US civil rights movement by referring to it by its Arab euphemism, “resistance.”
BUT AS disappointing and frankly obscene as Obama’s rhetoric was, the policies he outlined were much worse. While prattling about how Islam and America are two sides of the same coin, Obama managed to spell out two clear policies. First, he announced that he will compel Israel to completely end all building for Jews in Judea, Samaria, and eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem. Second, he said that he will strive to convince Iran to substitute its nuclear weapons program with a nuclear energy program.
Obama argued that the first policy will facilitate peace and the second policy will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Upon reflection, however, it is clear that neither of his policies can possibly achieve his stated aims. Indeed, their inability to accomplish the ends he claims he has adopted them to advance is so obvious, that it is worth considering what his actual rationale for adopting them may be.
The administration’s policy toward Jewish building in Israel’s heartland and capital city expose a massive level of hostility toward Israel. Not only does it fly in the face of explicit US commitments to Israel undertaken by the Bush administration, it contradicts a longstanding agreement between successive Israeli and American governments not to embarrass each other.
Moreover, the fact that the administration cannot stop attacking Israel about Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but has nothing to say about Hizbullah’s projected democratic takeover of Lebanon next week, Hamas’s genocidal political platform, Fatah’s involvement in terrorism, or North Korean ties to Iran and Syria, has egregious consequences for the prospects for peace in the region.
As Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear in his interview last week with The Washington Post, in light of the administration’s hostility toward Israel, the Palestinian Authority no longer feels it is necessary to make any concessions whatsoever to Israel. It needn’t accept Israel’s identity as a Jewish state. It needn’t minimize in any way its demand that Israel commit demographic suicide by accepting millions of foreign, hostile Arabs as full citizens. And it needn’t curtail its territorial demand that Israel contract to within indefensible borders.
In short, by attacking Israel and claiming that Israel is responsible for the absence of peace, the administration is encouraging the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole to continue to reject Israel and to refuse to make peace with the Jewish state.
The Netanyahu government reportedly fears that Obama and his advisers have made such an issue of settlements because they seek to overthrow Israel’s government and replace it with the more pliable Kadima party. Government sources note that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel played a central role in destabilizing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first government in 1999, when he served as an adviser to then president Bill Clinton. They also note that Emmanuel is currently working with leftist Israelis and American Jews associated with Kadima and the Democratic Party to discredit the government.
While there is little reason to doubt that the Obama administration would prefer a leftist government in Jerusalem, it is unlikely that the White House is attacking Israel primarily to advance this aim. This is first of all the case because today there is littl
e danger that Netanyahu’s coalition partners will abandon him.
Moreover, the Americans have no reason to believe that prospects for a peace deal would improve with a leftist government at the helm in Jerusalem. After all, despite its best efforts, the Kadima government was unable to make peace with the Palestinians, as was the Labor government before it. What the Palestinians have shown consistently since the failed 2000 Camp David summit is that there is no deal that Israel can offer them that they are willing to accept.
So if the aim of the administration in attacking Israel is neither to foster peace nor to bring down the Netanyahu government, what can explain its behavior?
The only reasonable explanation is that the administration is baiting Israel because it wishes to abandon the Jewish state as an ally in favor of warmer ties with the Arabs. It has chosen to attack Israel on the issue of Jewish construction because it believes that by concentrating on this issue, it will minimize the political price it will be forced to pay at home for jettisoning America’s alliance with Israel. By claiming that he is only pressuring Israel to enable a peaceful “two-state solution,” Obama assumes that he will be able to maintain his support base among American Jews who will overlook the underlying hostility his “pro-peace” stance papers over.
OBAMA’S POLICY toward Iran is a logical complement of his policy toward Israel. Just as there is no chance that he will bring Middle East peace closer by attacking Israel, so he will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by offering the mullahs nuclear energy. The deal Obama is now proposing has been on the table since 2003, when Iran’s nuclear program was first exposed. Over the past six years, the Iranians have repeatedly rejected it. Indeed, just last week they again announced that they reject it.
Here, too, to understand the president’s actual goal it is necessary to search for the answers closer to home. Since Obama’s policy has no chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is apparent that he has come to terms with the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. In light of this, the most rational explanation for his policy of engagement is that he wishes to avoid being blamed when Iran emerges as a nuclear power in the coming months.
In reckoning with the Obama administration, it is imperative that the Netanyahu government and the public alike understand the true goals of its current policies. Happily, consistent polling data show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis realize that the White House is deeply hostile toward Israel. The data also show that the public approves of Netanyahu’s handling of our relations with Washington.
Moving forward, the government must sustain this public awareness and support. By his words as well as by his deeds, not only has Obama shown that he is not a friend of Israel. He has shown that there is nothing that Israel can do to make him change his mind.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.