Biden’s lost cause

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US Vice President Joseph Biden’s job is about to stop being easy. Indeed, it is about to become impossible.

On Monday Biden will arrive in Israel for a three-day visit. Biden, who will meet with Israel’s leaders, will be the most senior official in the cavalcade of senior US officials that have descended on Israel in recent weeks. Biden will replace Senator John Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who was here this week. Kerry himself replaced Adm. Michael Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was here two weeks ago.

In his press conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Kerry explained the purpose of these visits. As he put it, “…I am here and other people were here and Vice President Biden is coming shortly… to make sure we are all on the same page and that we are all clear about [Iran].”

Although Biden is just the latest senior US official to visit Israel to try to coerce the government not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, his visit is novel in one respect. In addition to his meetings with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the rest of Israel’s senior officials, Biden intends to make a case for the Obama administration’s policies towards Iran, the Palestinians and Israel directly to the Israeli public. During his trip he will give what is being billed as a major policy speech at Tel Aviv University.

In light of the gaping disparity between the Obama administration’s policies and those of the Israeli government, the apparent goal of Biden’s address is to shore up the position of the Israeli Left as an alternative to Netanyahu. Apparently, the picture emerging from all of the senior US officials’ meetings with Netanyahu is that Israel’s leader still feels comfortable defying them. Presumably, they now believe that the only way to force him to toe their line is by making him believe that the price of defiance will be his premiership.

This of course is a difficult task. The Left after all was roundly defeated in last year’s elections. Making it a credible alternative is no mean task.

The Israeli Left for its part is doing its best to tie its own fortunes to the administration. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni placed herself squarely in the Obama camp this week during her confrontation with Netanyahu at the Knesset. Belittling the results of last month’s Gallup poll which showed that Israel enjoys the support of two-thirds of Americans, (and 80 percent of Republicans vs. 53 percent of Democrats), Livni blamed the premier for Israel’s international standing. By not bowing to Obama’s demands and ending all Jewish construction in Jerusalem and accepting the radical peace proposals she and former prime minister Ehud Olmert made to the Palestinians during their tenure in office, Livni claimed that Netanyahu is ruining Israel’s diplomatic position in the US and throughout the world.

There is nothing new or surprising about Livni’s use of the Obama administration’s animosity towards the government as a means of positioning herself as an alternative to the government. And on the surface it makes sense for her to use it. After all, it was by building a partnership with the Clinton administration against Netanyahu the last time he was in power that the Israeli Left was able to bring down his government and win the 1999 elections.

The Left’s hope of forming a coalition with Obama against Netanyahu was given its most explicit expression last July in an op-ed by Ha’aretz‘s editor-at-large Aluf Benn in the New York Times. After expressing his support for Obama’s policies, Benn bemoaned the fact that due to Obama’s low approval ratings among Israeli Jews, (at the time they stood at 6 percent and later plunged to 4 percent), it would be hard for him to convince the Israeli public to abandon its support for Netanyahu in favor of Obama’s – that is the Israeli Left’s – policies. To improve this dismal state of affairs, Benn suggested that Obama simply needs to make his case to the Israeli public, which “will surely listen,” to him.

As far as Benn – and his fellow leftists were concerned – Obama’s credibility problems redounded not to his policies, which the Left supports. Instead they owed to his failure to dazzle the Israeli people with the same rhetorical magic he used on the Arabs and the Europeans. It was Obama’s tone, not his programs that needed to be improved.

In arguing thus, Benn, like Livni and their colleagues on the Left are acting on their memories of their glory days with the Clinton administration. As president, Bill Clinton was able to simultaneously embrace Yassir Arafat, and take down Netanyahu without anyone ever questioning his undying love for Israel and the Jews. And because of this, he became the hero of the Israeli Left which he swept back into power in 1999.

As the Left sees it, Clinton retained his reputation as the greatest friend Israel ever had in the White House, despite the fact that his policies were the most hostile policies the US had ever adopted towards Israel, because he knew how to charm the Israeli electorate. His frequent visits to Israel and his saccharine, lip-biting declarations of love for Rabin and Israel were all it took in their view to convince the public to reject the Right. If Obama would just repeat Clinton’s practices, he too could bring down Netanyahu and convince the Israeli public to trust him.

When Benn’s article was published his recommendation was shrugged off by the administration. So too, the White House rejected repeated requests from the local media for interviews with the President. Now however, with Obama’s approval rates slipping and his Iran policy in tatters, the White House apparently decided that it needs to embark on a charm offensive in Israel to make Netanyahu more vulnerable to coercion.

Biden was selected as the man for the job because he is widely perceived as the most pro-Israel senior member of the administration. The fact that before becoming Vice President Biden had one of the most pro-Iran voting records in the Senate has done nothing to mitigate this perception. Indeed, despite the fact that Biden voted repeatedly against sanctions on Iran, claimed that Iran’s quest for nuclear bombs was understandable and called for the US to sign a non-aggression pact with the mullocracy while threatening to move for George W. Bush’s impeachment if he were to order a military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons programs, Biden continues to be viewed as a solid supporter of Israel.

And indeed, in line with this perception, he can be expected to declare his undying love for the Jewish state several times during his speech. Yet still, and sadly for the Israeli Left and for the Obama administration, his charm offensive will fail to get the girl. The most his visit is likely to yield is a momentary rise in support among Israelis that will quickly recede. And there are four reasons this is the case.

First, Obama himself is far weaker than Clinton was. His obsequious attempts to curry favor with the Arabs and Iran have been even more disturbing to Israelis than his refusal to visit the country. Moreover, unlike Clinton, who was popular with Israelis even before he was elected, Obama has never been popular in Israel. Part of this can perhaps be chalked up to timing. Clinton of course succeeded George H.W. Bush who was deeply unpopular in Israel. Obama replaced his son – who was regarded as a great friend of Israel.

Given Obama’s weakness, it is hard to see how he can convince the Israeli public that he will be capable of protecting the country from a nuclear-armed Iran or that he can force the Palestinians and the Syrians to end their support of terror in the event of an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria or the Golan Heights.

Second, the Netanyahu Obama faces is not the Netanyahu Clinton faced in the 1990s. Today the premier leads a far broader coalition than he did in his previous government. It is also more stable. Labor Party chief Defense Minister Ehud Barak knows he cannot unseat Netanyahu. Indeed, he knows he can’t even trust his party to continue supporting him if he leaves Netanyahu’s government. As for opposition leader Tzipi Livni, the latest polls show her trailing far behind Netanyahu as the people’s choice for prime minister. Her party’s popularity rates are decreasing, Likud’s are growing. 

Third, there is the fact that today the Left does not control public opinion to the degree it did the last time Netanyahu was in power. During his first government, due in large part to the media’s delegitimization of the Right in the wake of Rabin’s assassination, the media was able to market the PLO as a credible peace partner for Israel. Yassir Arafat himself was portrayed by a popular television show as a sweet, peace loving sock puppet who only wanted to make peace with the craven, war mongering Netanyahu. Consequently it became socially unacceptable in polite circles for Israelis to admit that Arafat and the Palestinians were less than devoted to the notion of peaceful coexistence with Israel or that Netanyahu was right not to give up the store. So too, it was socially unacceptable in certain quarters to criticize Clinton who presented himself as Rabin’s greatest friend. Today, people are far less embarrassed to make these claims.

This is the case of course, for the fourth reason that Biden will fail in his mission. In the 11 years since Netanyahu was forced from office, the Left’s political platform has been discredited by events. Since 1999 the Palestinians – as well as the Lebanese – have demonstrated that the Left’s appeasement policies are disastrous. The 1,500 Israelis who have been killed since then by the Palestinians and Hizbullah, the transformation of post-Israeli withdrawal southern Lebanon and Gaza into jihadist enclaves, the rise of Iran, and Fatah’s open rejection of Israel’s right to exist have all made the Left’s policies unacceptable to a wide majority of Israelis.

The public’s rejection of the Left’s policies is so overwhelming that it has even rejected the Left’s current central claim – namely that Israel will lose its Jewish majority if it abstains from surrendering Judea and Samaria. By a 53-28 percent margin, a Ha’aretz poll last month showed that Israelis do not believe that Israel’s continued presence in the areas will lead to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

What all of this shows of course is that it will take much more than a change in tone for the Obama administration to win over the Israeli public. Indeed, Obama’s open hostility towards Netanyahu has probably been a significant factor in shoring up the public’s approval of his performance in office.

The Israeli public is not interested in a change of tone – from Obama or from the Israeli Left. It is interested in a change of policy. Until it gets it, the public will in all likelihood remain loyal to Netanyahu.

Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.





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  • Marc Handelsman, USA 03/05/2010 at 12:40

    If the Obama Administration is trying to be a so-called honest broker, it should pressure the PLO to stop inciting Jew-hatred. As long as the PLO and Hamas Islamists continue to preach hate in their mosques and media outlets, there won’t be any dialog. The blame for the current state of affairs goes to the PLO because it is not a peace partner, but a “Thugocracy.” Vice-President Biden’s trip to Israel is a waste of US prestige because President Obama is perceived as a weak and ineffective leader.

  • Arius 03/05/2010 at 16:25

    Obama is doing a good job of taking down the US. Seems he wants to take down Israel as well.

  • Anonymous 03/05/2010 at 16:43

    Caroline, what I think you don’t address is that this speech has a domestic audience as well as an Israeli one. If Obama and Biden are viewed as going the extra mile to placate Israeli security concerns, but are still rebuffed on the settlements, then they will have an easier time politically getting tougher with Israel here in the U.S. Netanyahu will be unwise if he thinks he can buck this, and outlast Biden and Obama.

  • Bill K. 03/06/2010 at 2:20

    Vice President Biden’s mission to Israel is the ideal opportunity for Netanyahu to lay down the law to the Obama administration concerning the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons: either you attack Iran, and soon, or we will.
    Israel, not the United States, is within range of Iranian missiles and one of these days one them might be armed with a nuclear weapon. The only proper purpose of a government is to protect the rights of its citizens. When there is a clear and present danger to these rights, whether from criminals within the country or from foreign enemies, the government is obliged to remove that threat.
    Ideally the United States and Israel should act in unison to remove the threat that the Iranian nukes pose because we are their primary targets. To do this properly the mullahs must be removed and their Islamic theocracy disbanded. The destruction of Iran’s nuclear capabilities would be a secondary but important consideration.
    Needless to say this prospect is extremely remote. Israel will have to act on its own by just bombing the nuclear facilities and be content with a less than an ideal solution to the threat the Iranians pose in the aftermath.
    Israel must not be dissuaded from this course by the blandishments or threats Biden may bring. The United States cannot and will not protect Israel from a nuclear attack. Unfortunately the United States has shown itself to be an unreliable ally recently. It has sold out its former allies in eastern Europe, Latin America and just today Britain in the Falklands. Make sure Israel is not betrayed next.

  • Steve 03/06/2010 at 9:57

    Bidens’s trip is actually the first leg of the U.S. shuttle diplomacy between Abbas and Netanyahu wherein the U.S. envoys will convey the Palestinian demands to the Judenrat government. Netanyahu will portray himself as the great man of peace and do his level best to be as agreeable as possible to the Palestinian-US envoys. But it won’t be hard for Netanyahu to derail an actual agreement; all he needs is to do is try to add a minor and useless provision related to Israel’s continued existance.

  • beniyyar 03/06/2010 at 13:31

    Actually the Biden visit shows just how low on the scale of priorities the Palestinian Israeli conflict is to the Obama administration. I would mention just the most recent Biden quote to back up that statement, when an accidentally open microphone picked up Biden remarking that being Vice President was a great job since he “didn’t have to do anything.” Ever since Obama himself torpedoed indefinitely the Palestinian Israeli negotiations by his demand for an Israeli building freeze, the only envoys Obama has sent to the region have been either low level ones or senior ones with nothing to say. But more likely is the obvious and simple fact that Barack Obama and his team have far bigger, more important, and certainly more local fish to fry, to wit, massive American unemployment and a health care reform package that looks just about dead on arrival. Israel, the Palestinian, and even Iran have had to take a back seat to those problems, both of which have the potential to completely derail the Obama presidency into four years of irrelevancy. I would mention by the way that the Netanyahu government has handled this crisis perfectly by waiting out the Obama administration until it was so tied up with it’s domestic agenda that any involvement in the Middle East would be frivolous. There is a downside to all this of course, and that is that Iran, barring some sort of Israeli military strike, will almost certainly develop a nuclear missile capability within 18 months.

  • John B 03/06/2010 at 14:40

    Israel is fighting for its life against charm offensives that would seem to be aimed at the destruction of the Jewish state. It is a relief that many have realised this.
    No doubt those who seek to subsume Israel into the Middle East will mount another campaign to somehow outwit common sense. So one can expect a raft of clever tricks to be on their way. May God protect our honest appraisal of facts as events happen. May Israelis see the enemy clearly and never again be stripped of their moral clarity and say pathetically: “We are tired of fighting.” That is, unfortunately, what survival necessitates.

  • Dr. Ya'akov Miller 03/06/2010 at 16:37

    This article is well written and makes a strong argument. I agree with you. Obama and Co. started out on the wrong foot with the Israeli public and now have the impossible job of trying to sell themselves as something else using Clintonese. This bears evidence to the fact that they are desperate to have some sort of influence here but don’t “get it” in terms of winning the Israeli public. The left and Obama need to start thinking harder about protecting Israel from threats like Iran rather than trying to re-sell the rotten candy apple of Israeli withdraws from Israeli territory.

  • Walter 03/06/2010 at 17:34

    Will VP Biden have any influence upon Israel’s leaders???
    I hope not.
    I hope Israel will be wary, and wise.
    Should i hold my breath?
    Are President Obama, and VP Biden, ‘extraordinary’ men?
    What personality characteristics set President Obama, and VP Biden, apart from other men?
    Perhaps in one regard they have ‘excelled’?
    President Obama, and VP Biden, are two persons who have shown themselves extraordinarily adept [above the ‘talent’ of their fellows],
    …at climbing greasy poles?
    “Saudi money” president Carter Center
    “Saudi money” Bush Presidential Library
    “Saudi money” president Clinton Foundation
    “Saudi money” charities around the world
    “Tony Blair” “United Nations” peace job
    ‘The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
    They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
    Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.’
    Isaiah 28:15
    Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:
    Isaiah 28:18
    And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
    A ‘covenant with death’???
    What can these Isaiah verses mean?
    What can this be referring to?
    “….the death of those who are killed for the cause of God gives more impetus to the cause, which continues to thrive on their blood.”
    A direct quote from ISLAMIC ‘scholar’, Sayyid Qutb.
    Google it.
    “We love death. The US loves life. That is the difference between us two.”
    Osama bin Laden, November 2001
    “We are going to win, because they [the Jews] love life and we love death.”
    Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah
    muslim culture “we love death”
    Yet ISLAM is being ‘promoted’ today, by ISLAMIC academics, scholars, and community leaders here in the West, as *the* way to peace.
    ISLAM is even being promoted today as a peaceful religion, by our own community and political leaders!
    If we want peace, we are told that we must be ‘tolerant’ of the moslem community, we are told that we must appease ISLAM, we are told that for the sake of social cohesion, and social harmony, that we the hosts, must appease moslem cultural demands.
    It is a lie, from lying lips.
    ISLAM is a false religion, for a false people.
    ISLAM is a death cult.
    And Mohammed, was a false prophet.
    Choose life.
    Seek your God.
    Read God’s word,
    Daniel 12:10
    Isaiah 48:10
    Revelation 21:7-8

  • Rory 03/06/2010 at 19:49

    Netanyahu certainly has my support, such as it is…I have always felt he was a great leader of Israel after seeing him speak on PBS a long time ago during his first prime ministership…God willing, may the electorate in Israel continue to support his policies and continue to reject the fantasies of the Left…I feel deeply that Israel doesn’t have a partner for peace anywhere in the Arab world and therefore needs to do what will make it stronger till it does have the necessary Arab partners…Islam and the Arab world in general are religiously and philosophically still living in the centuries of its creation and expansion…I believe the Arab street is among the most ignorant of any populace that exists anywhere in the world and when they will get it is anybody’s guess…

  • Ron Grandinetti 03/07/2010 at 8:56

    Caroline, the only ones on the same page are Joe Biden and John Kerry and that page is worthless.
    The VP is a klutz while the other is fraud and wimp who managed to sustain a couple of splinters on his butt to get out of Vietnam
    First of all Israel doesn’t want to be on the same page as the Barak administration with regards to Iran.
    This is a do nothing administration that lacks the leadership necessary to do what it may take to disarm and prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear nightmare.
    Until there is a change in Washington and hopefully it will come after the next election Israel needs to do what Israel feels is necessary to defend and protect her people and the Holy Land from the likes of the rouge nation of Iran and her proxies Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria.
    Israel needs to hang to the Right and take complete control of Judea, Samaria, all of Jerusalem.
    A two state solution is not a solution but a disaster.
    There can be only a one state solution, Israel.

  • How to Use A French Press 03/07/2010 at 13:36

    You need to seriously think about building up this blog into a major player in this niche. You obviously have a solid understanding of the topics all of us are looking for on this site anyways and you could possibly even make a dollar or two off of some advertising. I would look into following recent trends and increasing the amount of blog posts you make and I guarantee you’d begin receiving some easy traffic in the near future. Just a brainstorm, good luck regardless!

  • Bettyann Dibenedetti 03/07/2010 at 15:01

    The hypothesis incessantly was I made too many sloppy mistakes in elementary it reads “Patrick causes too many careless mistakes that could be prevented if he worked more thoroughly”. So I subconsciouly must have taken that advice and went with it….and by the ending of high school I was a detail addict finding each small item some other people would overlook. Nowadays I’m in college and because of that compensation mechanism – being too thorough and detail-oriented (and seeking to really understand the stuff – I just cant get that “flaw” out of my system) I cant proceed up with class w/o “studying” 24-7 (at least my grades are satisfactory..). I’m truly questioning what the point of this rote learning championship is thought to be (memorize insane measures of material as quickly as manageable, but please dont attempt to truly understand it or youre gonna fall behind).

  • jean dean 03/09/2010 at 2:53

    Great article, Caroline. You have done your homework well! Thanks for taking us down memory lane as to how big a “charmer” Billy boy was. Oh, don’t get me started!!!
    Regarding the B O Administration, and I mean that just the way it sounds, they are a tacky and tasteless bunch, indeed.
    Do you remember how B O sat in his presidential office, with his feet propped up on his desk, bottoms of his shoes facing the cameraa, while talking on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu? He purposefully requested that his conversation be photographed and videoed for P.M. Netanyahu to “see.” Why? Well, it seems that in the Muslim practices and beliefs, (of which Obama knows all to well), when the bottom of one’s shoes are directed at another, this is a “sign” of great, great disrespect, even hatred. It is too impolite for me to tell you just what the male muslims say it means. Suffice it to say, it’s incomprehensible that a president of the U.S. would purposefully do something like this to a Prime Minister. But, when we consider the “source,” well, enough said.
    So, how could Israel and America EVER be on the “same” page, as it were, when we have such juvenile leaders supposedly running the most powerful (achem) nation on the earth? The B O Administration is not even on the same page with themselves! Give us a break!!!
    Anyway, the Lord is coming back soon. Wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famine, etc., we all see the signs, and the only “Page” we need to be the “same” on is His, Yahweh, HaShem, Adonai Yeshua, the Holy God of Israel, the only God there is! Amen!
    Blessings Caroline and all.

  • Mark Wessels 03/09/2010 at 22:16

    I don’t know really know what it must be like to get up close and personal with the Islamic Republic of Iran in terms of living in close missile proximity but I do appreciate the fear of living close to that wingnut Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I did read Shirin Ebadi’s book Iran Awakening and how sad that their great and old Persian culture is essentially now run by a cult and that Ahmadinejad was actually a teacher of all things. Despite his title he is a regime spokesperson and no more. The U.S. took out the Saddam threat (real and perceived) but they are definitely going to walk away from the next act. That will fall to Israel and politics from Washington will be saying something along the lines of “well we don’t like it” “but we understand”. I think the U.S. is distancing itself right now and some people’s hope that there is a Republican cavalry coming is really misplaced and dreaming in technicolor.

  • Bruce 03/10/2010 at 6:15

    The Palestinians are a reasonable partner, but they have been radicalized by Israel’s policies. If Israel took down the wall, improved the living standards in Gaza and the West Bank, stopped all Jewish settlement activity and allowed exiled Palestinians the right of return, things would quickly calm down. Israel needs to extend their hand. That’s why Obama is focusing on what Israel needs to do.
    And to the person who suggested advertising revenue, I’m sure the Zionists pay Caroline handsomely for writing her Propaganda.

  • yonason 03/14/2010 at 22:24

    Honestly, I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wouldn’t trust Barack Obama Al-Husseini, Grand Mufti of Washington, or his mouthpiece, Joe Bidet. After all, what’s the worst that could happen if we listen to them? //SARC=OFF//

  • yonason 03/14/2010 at 23:18

    The Palestinians are … MONSTERS, …. If Israel took down the wall, TERRORISM WOULD RISE DRAMATICALLY. IMPROVING the living standards in Gaza and the West Bank IS THE BUSINESS OF ARABS, NOT JEWS. IF THEY CAN’T DO IT, THEY CAN’T RUN A COUNTRY. IF ISRAEL stopped all Jewish settlement activity and allowed exiled Palestinians the right of return, … ISRAEL would quickly … BE DESTROYED. Israel needs to … EXPEL THE ENEMY, AND RE-ESTABLISH JEWISH DOMINION OVER ALL OF OUR LAND. That’s why Obama is … COMPLETELY WRONG ABOUT what Israel needs to do .
    And to the person who suggested advertising revenue, I’m sure … THAT IF SADDAM WERE STILL IN POWER IN IRAQ, HE WOULD EAGERLY SUPPORT “BRUCE’S” Propaganda.
    PS – ”BRUCE,” — KINDLY STFU!!!!

  • AC 03/15/2010 at 5:48

    Bruce, anyone who starts with the assertion that “The Palestinians are a reasonable partner” is clearly not paying attention to at least 40 years of history. You should learn a little about their history and culture before making absurd statements and offering advice that would ultimately be self destructive for Israel. Not that I think you would care about that.


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