It is ironic that whereas President Obama portrays himself as a friend of Israel whilst soliciting funds from Jewish donors, two senior members of his team were providing chilling insights to what Israel may expect should the current administration be returned to office.
After reaffirming that the US retains “an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security”, Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, crudely told a Brookings Institution forum, that it was high time for Israel to “get to the damn negotiating table”. He ignored the fact that even after a 10 month settlement freeze, the Palestinians had refused to engage in direct negotiations with Israelis. He went on to repeat the mindless mantra that Israel is “partly” responsible for its diplomatic isolation. He demanded that Israel take further bold action to overcome the conflict with the Palestinians by making additional unilateral concessions which the Arabs would no doubt take on board in the context of their long-term strategy to dismantle the Jewish State in stages.
He demanded that Israel “reach out to mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability”, specifically mentioning Turkey and Egypt. Here, he also he failed to take account of Israel’s extraordinary efforts to retain good relations with Egypt which is currently in the process of being taken over by Jihadist groups and disregarded the fact that Erdogan’s Turkey is now openly allied with the genocidal Hamas. For a US Secretary of Defense to implicitly blame Israel for the erosion of relations with these countries is simply inexplicable.
In the same speech, he warned Israel that if it acted alone in relation to Iran, it would place America in an unenviable position, cost many lives and lead to global economic chaos. As former deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams observed, Panetta eased Iranian concerns by effectively nullifying long-standing American statements that “all options are on the table” to curb the nuclear threat.
A Secretary of Defense does not make such statements unless he has the backing of his President.
Panetta’s provocative address was followed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who pontificated on Israel as a democratic state and harshly criticized proposed legislation restricting the foreign funding of non-governmental organizations. Whereas this has generated considerable controversy in Israel, it is unprecedented for an American Secretary of State to become involved in such a debate and publicly criticize the government of a purportedly close ally. Especially when one considers that Clinton has hardly been forthright in condemning human rights violations and vile anti-Semitic outbursts displayed in Moslem countries or by groups who are emerging as the new dominant forces in such countries.
Even more disconcerting were Clinton’s remarks concerning a marginal number of misguided Israeli soldiers who sought to boycott events in which women singers participated. This issue and the clumsy manner in which it was handled by the IDF, has admittedly distressed many Israelis. But what justifies an American Secretary of State who says nothing about women’s rights in Saudi Arabia or other Arab countries, becoming involved in this? And to make an analogy of this episode with the segregation of African-Americans in the 1950s does not merely reflect ignorance, but is downright offensive. Clinton even said that this Israeli behavior reminded her of the way Iranians treated women.
Finally, the Jewish US ambassador in Belgium, Howard Gutman, appointed to the role because he was a major fundraiser for Obama, tells European Jewish leaders and lawyers that “a distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned, and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians”. The clear innuendo was that-Muslim anti-Semitism is a byproduct of Israeli intransigence in the Middle East, and therefore, can be understood and implicitly justified. These sickening remarks were made by a US Ambassador to Belgium, one of the most anti-Israeli countries in Europe.
These outbursts signal that despite favorable public opinion and congressional support, Israel continues to face hostility and difficulties from the US administration.
The timing of these provocative outbursts makes them especially reprehensible. They occurred concurrently with the election results from Egypt which confirmed that the Moslem Brotherhood combined with the even more extreme Salafis emerged with 60% of the vote, reflecting the radical Islamist tide sweeping throughout all the North African Arab states.
In fact, our worst fears have been realized and Israel is now surrounded by a ring of fanatically hostile Islamic states. The Moslem Brotherhood, creator of Hamas, is an outright jihadist organization whose charter unequivocally calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews.
In this context, it is exasperating and sickening to continue to be subject to delusionary spins by Western politicians and liberal media suggesting that the Moslem Brotherhood has turned a new page, is now tolerant and, to quote some US administration officials, is even in the process of becoming “secular”.
In addition the only issue over which Sunnis and Shiites have been able to overcome their passionate differences is their frenzied shared hatred of Israel and dissemination of anti-Semitic propaganda indistinguishable from the vilest Nazi propaganda.
Yet, in the Islamic grand order, Israel and the Jews are merely the “canary in the mine” and represent a minor component of their global ambitions. Were Israel to disappear from the map or succumb to Islamic aggression, far from easing tensions, it would merely embolden Islamists towards their goal of conquering Europe and ultimately global domination.
Israel can do little to influence the course of events in the Arab countries and its leaders have wisely stood aside.
But it is surely now time for the Obama Administration to recognize that its policies of appeasement have led to disastrous consequences. Instead of trying to mollify Islamists by distancing themselves and making one sided criticisms against Israel, they should gird themselves for a long-term struggle against fanatical Islamists who have been conditioned into believing that they can best achieve their global objectives through intransigence and intensification of violence.
American Jews can make an important contribution in this area. Yet alas, most of their leaders remained silent despite the reprehensible remarks directed against Israel by leading Obama Administration officials. Whilst not surprisingly, the ZOA, Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Jewish Republicans protested, as of now, of the Jewish establishment leaders only Abe Foxman of the ADL actually condemned Leon Panetta’s remarks. The other principal American Jewish agencies responded with deafening silence. One is even tempted to enquire whether they have in fact collectively decided not to rock the boat and to eliminate Israeli related issues from political discourse. How else can one explain the absence of response to such provocations? Which leads us to ask, will Jews at the grassroots level remain satisfied that their principal spokesmen remain silent on such issues?
This column was originally published in Israel Hayom