The new, improved Obama

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You have to hand it to US President Barack Obama. He is relentless. Just when you thought he was shifting gears – easing up on Israel and turning his attention to Iran’s nuclear weapons program – he pulls out a zinger.


His recent courtship of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu led some Israelis and supporters of Israel in the US to believe the administration had seen the light. After 18 months, we were told Obama finally realized that contrary to what he had thought, Palestinian statehood is not the most urgent issue in the Middle East, Iran’s nuclear weapons program is.


In the past week alone, two prominent commentators – Aluf Benn from Haaretz and Ehud Ya’ari from Channel 2 both wrote articles claiming that Obama’s Middle East policy has undergone a transformation. As Benn put it, “President Barack Obama’s campaign of wooing Israel reflects a fundamental about-face in US policy in the Middle East.”


And in Ya’ari’s words in an article in the Australian, “The foreign policy team of US President Barack Obama is undertaking a reassessment of its policy all over the Middle East, including Israel.”


Both claimed the administration has resolved to cooperate with Israel as an ally rather than attack it as an obstacle to peace, and that Washington has recognized that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.


The basic notion informing both of these nearly identical articles is that the Obama administration’s foreign policy is fundamentally pragmatic rather than ideologically motivated. Both Ya’ari and Benn, like many of their fellow commentators on the Left, argue that Obama’s decision to invite Netanyahu to Washington and treat him like an ally rather than an enemy is proof that when stripped to its essentials, his foreign policy is pragmatic.


After a year and half in office, Obama recognized that his previous view of the Middle East was wrong. And as a pragmatist, he has embarked on a new course.


Yet before the ink on their proclamations had a chance to dry, Obama demonstrated that their enthusiasm was misplaced. Late last week the administration decided – apropos of nothing – to upgrade the diplomatic status of the PLO mission in Washington.


From now on, the PLO will be allowed to fly its flag like a regular embassy.


Its representatives will enjoy diplomatic immunity just like diplomats from states.


Indeed the PLO delegate in Washington Maen Areikat claimed that the administration’s move equates the PLO’s diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and states in Western Europe.


Some in the media have claimed that this is a symbolic act and essentially meaningless.


But this is not true. While this step does not constitute US recognition of a Palestinian state in the absence of a peace treaty between the Palestinians and Israel, it certainly sends a clear signal that this is the direction the US is heading. As such, it represents a dangerous step that will encourage continued Arab hostility.


TO PUT this move in perspective, it is worth comparing the PLO’s new status to that of the US’s firm ally and fellow democracy – Taiwan, the Republic of China. Whereas the PLO now has a “delegation general” in Washington, Taiwan has the “Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.”


When asked to comment on the move, White House spokesman Thomas Vietor said, “This decision reflects our confidence that through direct negotiations, we can help achieve a two-state solution with an independent and viable Palestine living side by side with Israel. We should begin preparing for that outcome now, as we continue to work with the Palestinian people on behalf of a better future.”


Like the decision itself, Vietor’s explanation signals that the Obama administration has not embraced pragmatism over ideology. Vietor could never have made his statement if it had.


Any pragmatic analysis of the situation leads to the clear conclusion that there is little chance of the Palestinians agreeing to a settlement anytime soon. Just this past week Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas escalated still further his already unacceptable preconditions for direct negotiations.


Now in addition to his absurd demand that Israel agree ahead of time to withdraw to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Abbas is demanding that it also agree to withdraw all of its forces to those lines and accept the deployment of foreign forces along its borders with the Palestinian state.


These are demands that no government in its right mind would accept in direct negotiations, let alone as a precondition for them.


And any pragmatic US administration upon hearing these demands would recognize that there is no chance that the Palestinians will agree to any reasonable offer of a peace treaty in the foreseeable future.


Indeed, for any pragmatic US administration, the message to send at this time is that statehood can be achieved only by getting serious about negotiations. That means clarifying that statehood is not inevitable but, rather a potential result of Abbas deciding to abandon his preconditions and get serious about talks.


In line with this, if the US intends to recognize a Palestinian state formed in the framework of a negotiated peace settlement, then it is utterly ridiculous, in the face of Abbas’ latest pronouncements, for it to upgrade the Palestinians’ diplomatic status. The move makes sense only if the US is secretly preparing to help the Palestinians avoid negotiations and obtain a state that is not established in the framework of a peace treaty.


But then, an administration that is willing to recognize a Palestinian state outside the framework of a peace agreement is an administration that is motivated by ideology and not by pragmatism. Moreover, it is motivated by an ideology that is fundamentally opposed to a strong democratic Israel.


This is the case because there is no Palestinian leader – not the US favorites Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad and not their competitors in Hamas – who accepts the legitimacy of the Jewish state. And so any state formed outside the framework of a peace treaty will be in a de facto state of war with Israel. Indeed, its legitimacy with the Palestinian people and other Arabs will be defined by its commitment to the eventual destruction of the Jewish state. And now, by upgrading the PLO’s mission, the Obama administration is actively encouraging just such an outcome.


OBAMA’S DECISION shows that he has not allowed reality to interfere with his perception of the absence of a Palestinian state as the most urgent problem he faces in the Middle East. He has adopted other measures that indicate that he remains fundamentally unconcerned about the threat that Iran poses to both US national security and to regional security in the Middle East.


That threat has been spelled out clearly in recent weeks by top US officials. Last week the outgoing US commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, told reporters that Iran fields three Shi’ite militias in Iraq whose forces are attempting to attack US troops as they withdraw from the country. Iran’s goal is to present the image that the US is withdrawing in defeat.


As for Afghanistan, last March the Sunday Times reported that Iran is training Taliban fighters at camps inside Iran. Last Wednesday the deputy commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps threatened that US commander Gen. David Petraeus will be overwhelmed by terror in Afghanistan.


Brig.-Gen. Massoud Jazayeri told the Iranian media, “The presence of Petraeus in Afghanistan will increase terrorism and seal the expansion of American failures.


The US government has no chance of success as the igniting flames which will engulf America in Afghanistan are already visible.”


Then there is Iran’s nuclear weapons program.


As CIA Director Leon Panetta said last month, sanctions on Iran will “probably not” deter the regime from moving forward.


This understanding would be sufficient to convince a pragmatic administration that force must be used to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. A pragmatic administration, after all, could be expected to understand what a nuclear armed Iran would mean for the US’s strategic interests in the region.


If Iran becomes a nuclear power it will be able to wreak havoc on oil shipments from the Persian Gulf. So too, it will make it all but impossible for the US to safely project is military force in the region. The current threat that Iranian proxies will force US troops to flee Iraq and Afghanistan will likely be realized.


Furthermore, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar can be expected to expel US forces from their territory as the regimes cut deals with the new regional nuclear power.


Obama recently ended his public support for appeasing Iran and seemed to adopt a more confrontational approach as he moved to pass a new round of sanctions at the UN Security Council and when he signed congressional sanctions. But rhetoric aside, as Michael Ledeen reported at Pajamas Media Web site last week, his appeasement policy remains in force.


Since 1979 the Swiss Embassy in Teheran has represented US interests. According to Ledeen, last week the Swiss ambassador submitted a request from US congressmen to meet with their Iranian counterparts. The Iranians rejected their request out of hand.


What this means is that the Obama administration – now working through congressional proxies – is still trying to cut a deal with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei.


All of this makes clear the sort of leader Obama is. He is a pragmatic politician and a radical ideologue all rolled into one. The pragmatic politician understands that going into the congressional elections in November, he has to convince the US public that he is a reliable ally for Israel and that he is credible on Iran. So he invited Netanyahu to Washington for a public hug and he made angry declarations about Iran’s nuclear program.


As an ideologue though, even in the midst of his charm offensive he couldn’t resist the urge to attack the Jewish state, so he signaled that he will recognize a Palestinian state that does not recognize it. And as an ideologue, he can’t stop begging the Iranians to love him.


The desire of commentators like Benn and Ya’ari to believe that the US government is behaving rationally is understandable. But their wish is unsupported by facts. 


We can only hope that Netanyahu has not been similarly fooled.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post. 



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  • anonymous 07/26/2010 at 17:54

    Spot on but why are you hoping Netanyahu has a mind?

  • Marc Handelsman, USA 07/26/2010 at 20:28

    The Obama Administration made another foreign policy blunder by upgrading the diplomatic status of the PLO. Appeasing Iran is foolish, and giving a terrorist entity like the PLO more legitimacy is folly. President Obama mistakenly believes that by allowing the PLO to fly its flag, that it will behave like a civilized country. The PLO is not a peace partner, but an evil terrorist organization that incites Jew-hatred and brainwashes young Arabs with propaganda. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has not been similarly fooled, and will lead at the right time.

  • 07/26/2010 at 22:17

    MRS Glick:
    I respect your analysis greatly.
    I agree with your analysis and concur.
    I would prefer that Israel and the WEST was more honest and not POLITICALLY Correct. The PC issue has been cultivated through many years of brainwashing. We need to expose the TRUTH, but that is a battle that will include combating the very powerful communists that are in the KNESSET, the Congress and Parliament. Words are very powerful. The pen is mightier than the sword. The Muslims have been experts at it and they have tutored the Socialist / Communist / fascist well. Lets put the historic perspective on the issues we face.
    POTUS Obama has been in favor of the Muslim agenda. He has used the Communist and Socialist powers to advance their causes. This is an assault and he will be remembered as he who ushered in the Mufti that the Muslims talk about. If things don’t become more Honest, then the West may be lost to the bloodbath of ISLAM.
    Thank you for being you.

  • Reedy 07/26/2010 at 22:27

    Caroline you said it yourself “hope that Netanyahu won’t be similarly fooled” As an American who worries about what is going to happen to Israel. I can offer this, whatever you do, do not trust obama and his administration in anything they say or do. His (obama’s) track record proves he can’t be trusted with affairs of Israel….or the U.S.A. for that matter. Every time I hear obama or one of his cronies talk I remember this, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
    Thank care, Dave

  • usabruce 07/26/2010 at 23:42

    Obama has no trouble lying to Israel and the American people to achieve a photo-op that will help him with Americas Jewish voters.
    Anyone who hasn’t learned not to listen to his words, but follow his actions, hasn’t been paying attention.
    The Leftist media, in Israel and America, know though, they lie along with him and for him, to further their agenda to undermine Israel and America.
    I hope G-d has reserved a special place in Hell for treasonous journalists.

  • rayturner 07/27/2010 at 2:17

    Your insight and analysis of the positions of this President is absolutely correct. The facts are that this administration is guided by extreme ideaology regardless of the will of the people here, or the potential consequences for regional security in the middle-east.
    It is a very troublesome time for many of us here in the United States. We’re concerned about the extreme radical political and ideaological views of this President. Many of us are also very concerned about the country’s stance toward israel, and the potential compromise of Israel’s security based on these extreme policies.
    I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and for you personally as well. I have always admired your work. I believe that your voice has become the guardian of reason concerning the entire political spectrum in the middle-east as it pertains to Israel. I want you to know that many Americans support Israel regardless of the wreckless policies of this administration. Thank you for your tireless efforts to expose the truth.
    Ray Turner
    Kansas City, Mo.

  • Levi 07/27/2010 at 2:42

    What a great article! How long does it take for people to face reality: Obama is not a friend of Israel.

  • beniyyar 07/27/2010 at 6:10

    The continuing inconsistencies and vacillations in the White House towards the Middle East, are actually characteristic of just about everything the Obama administration involves itself with.
    The problem can be summed up in two words, “Amateur Hour.” Obama and his advisors seem to only know how to campaign for office. No one in the White House has any administrative or managerial experience, and most of them seem entirely ignorant of anything outside the Washington Beltway. Thus it comes as no big surprise that they panic at a moments notice over the most trivial of issues like the Sherrod affair. Obama pressures the Palestinians to enter talks with Israel but at the same time signals them that it doesn’t matter by raising the Palestinians diplomatic status.
    Obama personally insults and humiliates the Israeli Prime Minister and then complains Israelis dislike him because of his middle name.
    It is very likely that Obama is simply incompetent to lead, and has surrounded himself with sycophants too weak and fearful to tell him so.

  • Josh 07/27/2010 at 7:00

    Shimon Peres and his colleagues at the Peres Center for Peace are probably behind this in some way.

  • Benjamin 07/27/2010 at 7:39

    Great column, however,Netanyahu is Obama’s poddle.

  • Ron Grandinetti 07/27/2010 at 8:08

    Caroline, bottom line is Obama is and has always been a liar and his creditability is zero.
    He is for the most part nothing more than a Chicago, community organizing pamphlet distributing far left liberal, anti-Semite incompetent president.
    His whole life is a lie and hopefully the American public, including the 80% liberal American Jews who support him will recognize him for what he is a joke.
    A joke and a figure perpetuated by the liberal left George Soros and company, the secular progressives , liberal left media (Bush haters) .
    He claimed he is a Christian and attended the radical Rev. Wright’s church, the church you need to be see at if you are a black Politian. While he embraces Islam he avoided the use of his middle name Hussein and he associated with characters the likes of Bill Ayers, an anti-American radical.
    Now, do you in your wildest dreams believe you can trust Obama.
    First of all, Israel needs to stop worrying about world opinion and do what Israel needs to do to protect her citizens and the territory of the Holy Land G-d provided for them.
    Forget the two state solution, it’s out of the question. The Palestinians (former Jordanians and other Arab rejects) are no more that an anti-Semitic tool used by Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria all proxies of Iran and including Egyptian and Jordanian governments and we can’t leave out Saudi Arabia, all these so called friends of Obama have the worlds worst human rights violations.
    Besides if you check you will find when G-d led the Jewish people back to the Holy Land there are no Arab radicals listed on the manifest.
    Secondly, avoid any contact or discussions with Obama or any members of his administration.
    Remember, November is only 4 months away and with the help of G-d/God and the sensible, conservative Americans the knuckle heads in both the house and senate will be removed.
    A majority of Americans support Israel and recognize her as not only as a Jewish Sovereign State but likewise our only true and trusted ally in the ME, a democracy.
    The new, improved Obama. Don’t take it to the bank.

  • Geoffrey Britain 07/27/2010 at 19:31

    Any clear eyed observer of Obama realized long ago that he is an ideologue whose only pragmatism lies in advancing his ideological agenda.
    Of course he’s looking to create a de facto two-state ‘solution’, which bypasses any peace treaty and places Israel at even greater risk.
    There is however one fatal flaw in that strategy.
    It relies upon Israel continuing to defer to the US, in its foreign policy.
    Should Israel awaken and tell the Obama administration to “go-pound-sand” however, willingly accepting the cut-off of US military and economic aid…a paradigm change in options available to Israel occurs.
    “any state formed outside the framework of a peace treaty will be in a de facto state of war with Israel. Indeed, its legitimacy with the Palestinian people and other Arabs will be defined by its commitment to the eventual destruction of the Jewish state.”
    That assessment is ‘spot on’ and, counter-intuitively presents a real opportunity… to an Israel that has thrown off the chains of political correctness with its subservience to US policy directives.
    When a newly formed Palestinian state inevitably attacks Israel, a “no more bullshit” Israeli attitude would dictate a new doctrine…annexation of Gaza and the West Bank and expulsion of ALL Muslims from greater Israel.
    Israel would express regret that the experiment in multi-cultural citizenship and living peacefully next to a Palestinian state hasn’t worked out but regrettably a state of war now exists and that, differences have proven to be irreconcilable and therefore a ‘divorce’ is now inescapable. Therefore and in the interests of long-term peace, ALL Muslims will have to leave greater Israel.
    Voluntarily or otherwise with reparations only paid to those who leave voluntarily and peacefully.
    When the world erupts in rage, Israel should announce before the UN that any sanctions placed upon Israel will result in severe financial repercussions for the West.
    Specifically, the closure of the Strait of Hormuz.
    Additionally, any military attack upon Israel by any nation will result in the “Islam Doctrine” being invoked, as well as the targeting of Iran’s and Saudi Arabia’s oil fields by nuclear cruise missile attack.
    A nuclear Iran is not the only nation which can disrupt 40% of the World’s oil from reaching market…

  • Dr Yuval 07/28/2010 at 4:44

    As such, it represents a dangerous step that will encourage continued Arab hostility.
    But that is exactly what Netanyahu needs. If Arabs stop appearing hostile then the pressure to give in and give up for peace becomes inexorable. Ergo, in order to maintain effective control over the heartland, the Arabs need to be kept in a state of hostility. That end is acheived by showing seeming weakness, seeming acquiescence, seeming willingness to give up, seeming appeasement. Fanning Arab hopes of eradicating Israel is the only preventive measure against the far more insidious and dangerous course Arabs can take, which is declaring peace and one man one vote.
    As for obama, he is a Muslim, and so he relies on lies. There is nothing that will precipitate a war with the final result of Arab flight from the Holy Land faster than an Arab state “protected” by foreign troops. The former such occurrence was called the British Mandate, and we all know how that ended: Arab flight. So let Obama encourage the Arabs to loie to themselves the end is near. it only serves jewish interests.

  • naomir 07/28/2010 at 8:46

    Caroline, Any benefit of doubt I might have had about Obama’s true feelings toward Israel vanished with the upgrade of PLO status in the US. There has certainly been “change we can believe in”, but at what price. The US has lost it’s credibility with many nations and is the laughingstock of others. Can Netanyahu still be entertaining the vision that the US will come to Israel’s defense? For the sake of the future of the Jewish state I sincerely hope not because otherwise all might be lost.

  • Anonymous 07/28/2010 at 9:24

    Geoffrey a nation with self-respect would do as you suggest. With Israel it’s not going to happen.

  • Ofanoan 07/29/2010 at 0:34

    Dear Ms Glick, Though we’ve not met I’ve been your neighbor on and off over the years during long stints in En Kerem– Walter Zanger’s my cousin; Elihu Richter, a close friend. Hoping to make aliya but the academic market’s tough so I’m at Harvard for the time being as chair of Armenian, going to Israel as often as I can. An interesting subject these days! Anyhow your writing is absolutely fantastic & spot on. Posted this piece on Obama & the PLO mission on Facebook for pupils of mine entranced by this snake in the White House. Keep up the good work, and I hope I get to invite you for coffee in October (will be coming for the Irano-Judaica meeting)? God bless you and Shalom ‘al Yisrael!

  • Anonymous 07/30/2010 at 0:16

    Anyone who thought Obama saw the light after that election year dog-and-pony show would have to be an idiot. Obama hates Jews. There’s a long history to prove it. Jews better wake up to that reality, and fast.

  • Chuck Simpson 07/30/2010 at 6:51

    The Jews in Israel are the last bastion of civilization on this planet. If Israel does not survive as a free Jewish state, the world civilization is doomed to eternal damnation. Remember, Mother Israel, Americans are your friends but the American President is your worst enemy.

  • Phoebe 08/01/2010 at 10:19

    I think some of the problem goes even beyond Obama’s “pragmatism” and “ideology.” Regardless of the technicalities about his physical birthplace, the fact remains that he spent his early formative years, including elementary school, being subjected to the same anti-American and anti-Jewish propaganda that his Indonesian and Kenyan classmates, playmates, and neighbors were subjected to. He’s on record as saying that he remembers the Muslim call to prayer as being “one of the prettiest sounds on earth in the evening.” In other words, he has an emotional and romantic attachment to Islam, to anti-Americanism (which he also got from his mother), and to anti-Judaism, an attachment rooted in his childhood memories. This is serious stuff.
    So in a way, it almost doesn’t matter whether he’s “really” American-born or “really” a believing, practicing Muslim. (Notice that I say “in a way” and “almost”). The childhood-programmed emotional pull to hate America, Jews, and Christians – and to long for the “prettiest sound on earth” to be heard all over the land again – is strong enough to be dangerous.
    I just wonder how Michelle will take to having to cover her arms once Shari’a is established here.

  • Sashland 08/01/2010 at 19:41

    If the O plan is to accept a unilateral declaration of statehood by the PLO, Israel should put O on notice that any such declaration, absent a formal peace treaty, would be considered an act of belligerence and a declaration of war with full hostilities to commence immediately. Maybe it should be added that Israel will assert its rights under UN resolutions that mandate a joint resolution of the disputed territories and that any declaration of PLO statehood without mutual approval will be seen as a refutation of the UN guidelines and lead to immediate annexation of gaza and the west bank.
    Either the PLO should play by the established rules, or Israel will play by the old rules of France, England, Russia, China, Spain, the US, and all the rest that ‘might makes right’.
    Put O on notice that he is not the king of the world and there are consequences to unilateral declarations.
    I think it is well past time that ISRAEL start making demands…

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