President Barack Obama’s determination to downgrade U.S. international power has generated massive global instability and chaos with especially ominous implications for Israel.
The Obama policies have undermined longstanding alliances within the Western bloc. By supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and allying with terrorist and rogue states like Iran, the U.S. has alienated Arab states such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which consider themselves abandoned and betrayed.
The wooing and groveling toward Iran has empowered the world’s leading Islamic terrorist state, enabled it to become a threshold nuclear power and exacerbated the conflict between the Shiites and Sunnis, which has led to the emergence of new Islamic barbarian groups like ISIS. The Islamic fundamentalists have reintroduced the Dark Ages to the region in which mass murder, rape and beheadings of civilians have become rampant.
Obama’s vacillating policies have resulted in the weakening of Arab states like Syria and Libya with consequent horrendous casualties and the displacement of millions. When controlled by the despotic Moammar Gadhafi, Libya had voluntarily abrogated its nuclear ambitions and undertaken to eschew terrorism. Obama’s enthusiasm to “democratize” the country led to the overthrow of the dictatorship, the assassination of the American ambassador and the transformation of Libya into a major terrorist launching pad which may ultimately necessitate military intervention.
The mayhem and terror in the region has created a severe refugee crisis which could accelerate the demise of the European Union and permanently alter the demographic base of Europe even leading to the erosion of European civilization.
The downgraded U.S. influence enabled President Vladimir Putin to reassert Russia as a major global power and achieve greater influence in the Middle East than the Soviets ever attained. Most Arab states today regard Russia as a more reliable ally than the U.S.
On top of all this, Obama’s domestic political legacy has led to widespread alienation against the entire political establishment and the emergence of populist candidates, such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, who are supported merely because they challenge the existing order. At the same time, it is extraordinary that according to surveys, the leading candidates of both the Republican and Democratic parties, Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively, are detested by half of their own party constituencies.
The Obama policies have led to uniquely Jewish negative repercussions:
The hostility to the Israeli government by its principal ally has provided enormous impetus to its adversaries. The double standards employed by the administration and classification of Israel as morally equivalent to the terrorists and the failure to directly reprimand Palestinian leaders engaged in incitement to murder Jews and sanctification of the killers as national “martyrs” — reflect morally outrageous behavior. At a time when almost half a million Syrians were butchered and 4 million displaced from their homes, the focus of U.S. ire was against Israeli construction of homes even in the Jewish neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. This blatant hostility by the Obama administration provided global encouragement to anti-Israeli forces and gave the green light to the Europeans to pressure Israel to make further unilateral concessions and recognize the indefensible 1949 armistice lines as the basis for permanent borders. In Europe, it is widely believed that Israelis behave like Nazis with genocidal intentions toward the Arabs and represent a greater threat to peace than rogue states like North Korea or Iran.
Only a few decades ago, many considered anti-Semites an extinct species. Today, a coalition of Islamists, a substantial proportion of the Left, the radical Right, and dormant indigenous anti-Semites have coalesced into a witches’ brew, making anti-Semitism into one of the greatest global political growth industries. Obama’s anti-Israelism and diplomatic onslaughts over the past eight years have been a major contributing factor in creating the climate for this incredible upsurge of anti-Semitism.
The Obama administration has virtually succeeded in undermining the broad bipartisan support for Israel which both Democrats and Republicans had hitherto maintained. In the Democratic Party, there is now a substantial and growing leftist bloc which has adopted the anti-Israeli approach prevalent in most of the European leftist political parties. Obama’s loathing of the Israeli leadership has strengthened and emboldened this bloc, whose influence will expand if the incoming president continues to pander to them.
Obama has directly impacted Jewish community attitudes toward Israel. Over the past decade, assimilation and intermarriage have made massive inroads and dramatically weakened the Jewish community. Most Jews, other than the Orthodox, receive no Jewish education and the young generation are increasingly classifying themselves as “secular,” which implies nominal Jewish affiliation. On top of this, memories of the Holocaust and the heroic struggle for Jewish nationhood after a 2,000 year interregnum are fading. The centrality of Israel in Jewish life was downgraded and a growing number of Reform and Conservative rabbis now identify their Judaism with universal concepts beyond “nationalism,” such as liberalism and “tikkun olam” – repairing the world. These trends received an enormous boost from Obama, who, with the support of anti-Zionists (for example, George Soros and others), systematically promoted far-left-wing Jewish organizations like J Street, whose principal objective was to undermine AIPAC and the pro-Israeli Jewish establishment. As an African-American president, Obama mesmerized American Jews for whom liberalism and affiliation with the Democratic Party had become a critical element in their DNA, often surpassing their Jewish loyalties. Many, bombarded by an increasingly anti-Israeli press, joined the anti-Zionist chic, distancing themselves from Israel. This was especially notable on university campuses.
Regrettably, when Obama made outrageous remarks concerning Israeli policies, the traditionally robust Jewish leadership was intimidated and responded with a deafening silence. Beyond small Jewish groups like the Zionist Organization of America, the principal voices defending Israel were not Jews but Republicans and evangelical Christians. This impacted negatively on Jews throughout the entire Diaspora.
Yet, without disputing the disastrous impact of Obama’s policies on Israel and the Jewish people, we should not pander to gloom and doom but turn our focus to positive developments.
Despite the tensions, the bonds between Israel and America based on shared values and popular public support have never been greater. Notwithstanding Obama’s loathing of the present Israeli leadership, he has felt obliged to strengthen rather than reduce American military aid, although that is now under threat as the latest security package is conditional on Israel forgoing the right to lobby Congress for additional aid in times of need. Yet there are grounds for hope that the newly elected president will seek to repair the relationship with Israel.
Israel has had extraordinary success in developing relations with powerful emerging countries such as India and China and re-engaging with the African nations.
The understandings achieved with the Russians, despite their involvement in Syria, are nothing short of amazing. Alongside his tactical intervention ensuring the survival of Assad in Syria, Putin has simultaneously developed an unprecedented positive relationship with Israel. His Bolshevik antecedents would turn in their graves if they were aware of the almost surreal scenario in which this former KGB officer expresses philo-Semitic sentiments and even praises former Soviet citizens now resident in Israel.
Although it is still premature, Israel’s relationship with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, much of which is currently clandestine, has the potential of ultimately obliging the Palestinians to reach an accommodation with us.
Israel has never been as powerful as it is today. Without dismissing the Iranian threat, the Israel Defense Forces are today able to defeat the combined forces of all our adversaries.
Despite the fact that anti-Semitism, assimilation and intermarriage will continue to erode the vitality of Diaspora Jewish communities, increasing numbers of committed Jews will make aliya, either by choice or to enable their children to grow up in a society in which they wear their Jewishness as a badge of honor.
Despite the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, we can rejoice in the knowledge that our future remains assured with Israel. Over the past half century, the Jewish state has made extraordinary progress, is self-sufficient and is proud of our achievements as the startup nation.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom