In the midst of celebrating Pesach we watch the storm clouds gathering against Israel. On this festival when we commemorate the liberation of the Jewish people from bondage we must remind ourselves that with the help of the Almighty, for over 3000 years we prevailed over all those who sought to destroy us whilst our enemies were destroyed..
Since the birth of Israel we have overcome greater challenges than those confronting us today and emerged stronger every time.
Chag sameach v’kasher.
We send our Christian friends and supporters best wishes for a happy Easter.
Seemingly intoxicated by Congress’s endorsement of his health care legislation, President Barack Obama appears to have been overcome by a Messiah complex. His actions relating to the Middle East during recent weeks oblige us to face realities about our “unshakable” alliance with the United States.
Over the past year, Israel has made major concessions to the Palestinians with zero reciprocity. Yet the US president, who seeks to engage and appease tyrants like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Syrian President Bashar Assad, exploited a bureaucratic bungle over a building zoning permit (for which Israel immediately apologized) as a pretext to ignite a massive crisis. He publicly and repeatedly humiliated the head of the only democratic state in the Middle East.
Obama demonstrated that, far from being an honest broker, he is forsaking Israel and adopting the most extreme Palestinian demands. Obama not only demanded that Israelis be denied building in their capital, but tried to impose a prohibition on construction in the exclusively Jewish suburbs of east Jerusalem which former US administrations had unequivocally agreed would remain in Israel. Obama was effectively demanding that Netanyahu agree to a division of Jerusalem even before final status talks with the Palestinians were initiated.
Beyond that, Obama sought to intimidate Netanyahu into signing additional undertakings instantly without even consulting his cabinet. These included: indefinite extension of the settlement freeze; release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists; transfer of additional territory to Palestinian control; commitment to withdraw to the 1967 “Auschwitz borders”; undertaking to discuss all core issues in the indirect negotiations; and easing the blockade against Hamas.
Obama’s objective was to demonstrate to the Arab League meeting this week in Libya that the US could bludgeon Israel into acquiescing to whatever it demanded. If Israel acceded to these demands, that would represent the opening benchmark for further concessions which Israel would be expected to grant to the Palestinians in the course of the proximity talks. In such circumstances, the Palestinians have every incentive to reject direct negotiations while the US extracts more concessions from Israel on their behalf.
NO US ally has been treated in such a contemptible manner by an American president. Obama even responds to representatives of rogue states like Libya’s Gaddafi and Venezuela’s Chavez more courteously. US administration press leaks to Israeli media alleging that Netanyahu froze and “panicked” were a cynical ploy to undermine his government. Yet despite the blunders committed by their government, Israelis will rally behind their leaders as they internalize the humiliation to which their prime minister was subjected.
It now appears that the current crisis was a calculated strategy to orchestrate a public confrontation with Israel.
Obama recognized that Palestinian intransigence would lead to a breakdown in the proximity talks and that the US public would blame the Palestinians. However, by confronting Netanyahu with outrageous demands which no Israeli government would accept, Obama’s ambition to become more popular in the Muslim world would be realized and Israel would be held responsible for the failure in negotiations.
This would be used to justify the US weakening support for Israel at the UN and other international bodies, thereby encouraging the Islamic Council and their acolytes, including the Europeans, to intensify their efforts to delegitimize and transform the Jewish state into a pariah.
Obama would then be in a position to intervene and demand that Israel accept a US-imposed settlement based on the so-called Saudi peace plan, which he has already enthusiastically endorsed.
Beneath the hypocritical facade of concern for Israel’s security, Obama’s brutal anti-Israel onslaught has unleashed dark forces which will embolden the jihadists and other enemies of Israel and fuel the growing waves of anti-Israel hysteria and global anti-Semitism.
Fortunately, the United States is a democracy whose leaders are expected to conduct foreign policies based on morality, and the majority of Americans remain overwhelmingly supportive of Israel. This was exemplified by the exceptionally warm bipartisan welcome extended to Netanyahu by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and House Republican leader John Boehner. It was reinforced by the letter urging the president to end the dispute signed by over three quarters of the members of Congress.
But the struggle for the hearts and minds of the American people is not over and this is a battle we must win because ultimately people power will determine US policy.
TO SUCCEED in communicating our position in this complex labyrinth requires more effective direction and better diplomacy than Israel has hitherto displayed. To start, the prime minister must stop equivocating and rally the nation. While seeking consensus, he must also lead and cease reciting false mantras suggesting that the alliance between Israel and the Obama administration remains in place. This only emboldens the White House to intensify its pressure on Israel.
Netanyahu must act decisively in the diplomatic arena. While avoiding direct or personal confrontations with the president, he must demonstrate that his government policies reflect the consensus of the nation and are morally justified; that the Palestinians are intransigent, refuse to accept a Jewish state in the framework of a two-state solution and continue to promote a culture of death, martyrdom and incitement; that Israel is a democracy and is entitled to some respect from its senior partner and not be treated as a vassal; that behaving shabbily to a long-standing friend like Israel will undermine the standing of the US with all its allies.
Netanyahu must call on mainstream opposition parties, in particular Kadima, to suspend internecine politics and establish a consensus over issues such as building in Jerusalem and defensible borders.
He must create a strategic planning committee to communicate the morality of our case and the reciprocal benefits of the alliance to friends of Israel – committed Jews, evangelicals and others.
The commitment to Israel by American Jews, Obama’s greatest supporters, will now be tested. Disregard the marginal Jew. It was always committed Jews who determined policy and led the way. Now for the first time American Jews face a president who radiates hostility towards Israel. Will they have the courage to stand up?
Abe Foxman of the ADL responded immediately and courageously criticized the policy of the administration. The AIPAC meeting showed that activist mainstream Jews remain supportive of Israel irrespective of their political orientation. The standing ovation for Hillary Clinton was somewhat bizarre. Especially so in light of some of her remarks and the commitments extended by her and her president at the previous AIPAC meeting which have now been cynically repudiated.
The stand taken by the Presidents Conference, the umbrella body dealing with Israel affairs on behalf of the Jewish community which includes many who supported Obama at the elections, will be an important indicator. American Jews are a small but influential minority. If they speak up courageously and the American people retain their support for Israel, Obama may still be diverted from his present destructive path. There is every likelihood that they will do so if our government gets its act together.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post