The gloves are off. The White House has now unequivocally designated Israel as the scapegoat and is meting out punishment for the disastrous outcome of the peace negotiations it initiated. The process began in March when President Obama publicly lambasted Prime Minister Netanyahu in a brutal and offensive manner the day before their scheduled meeting in Washington. It climaxed last week when the White House reneged on its commitment to Israel, announcing that it would continue business as usual with the new PA government after the merger with the genocidal Hamas, the terrorist organization which remains utterly committed to the destruction of Israel.
Prior to this, administration spokesmen had been campaigning behind the scenes to undermine the standing of Israel with the American public. That Israel had frozen settlement construction for nine months and conceded to an abhorrent release of bloody Palestinian terrorists were facts they simply ignored. Conversely, the Palestinian refusal to make a single concession or agree under any circumstances to an end of conflict was rarely mentioned.
Even following the announcement of the PA-Hamas union, Secretary of State John Kerry continued blaming Israel, making bizarre predictions about it becoming an “apartheid state”, which followed his earlier warnings of an impending “third intifada” and “international boycotts” – all of which he subsequently retracted.
Kerry’s views were echoed by his envoy, Martin Indyk, whose feral hatred of Netanyahu should have disqualified him from assuming any mediating role. When Netanyahu agreed to the wretched terrorist release, he made it clear to both the US and the PA that construction in the settlements would resume. Yet, in a series of “background” and open briefings, Indyk laid the primary blame for the collapse of the peace negotiations on Israel for having announced building tenders for 700 homes, not in some obscure or isolated settlement, but in Gilo, a suburb existing for over 40 years in the heart of Jewish East Jerusalem. And so it was that this “provocative action”, the “poof” which scuttled negotiations, became the basis for condemning Israel by the administration.
To make matters worse, unsubstantiated allegations were circulated that Israel was engaging in massive espionage activity against the United States. Despite angry disclaimers from Netanyahu and leading government officials, the Administration failed to refute the charges which were even used to justify denying Israel eligibility for the US Visa Waiver Program.
However, with Obama’s current catastrophic ratings and the impending congressional elections, it was assumed – mistakenly – that at least in the short term, the White House would avoid a frontal confrontation and merely give Europeans the wink to intensify the pressure and avoid a frontal confrontation.
But the Administration shocked Israel by accepting the new PA-Hamas government even before the consummation of the union. This was in flagrant breach of former undertakings, betraying its long-standing ally by announcing disingenuously that it would work with the new PA- Hamas government, as long as it “abides by the principles mandated by the US”. Yet, far from renouncing terror, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal boasted that “the reconciliation will actually consolidate the resistance… from one of intifada to another until the liberation of Palestine”.
The US initiative was clearly designed to pave the way for Israel’s further global isolation. It was immediately endorsed by the European Union, the United Nations, the UK and France and of course China, Russia and India all of whom praised the union as an important step towards “Palestinian reconciliation”.
AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and other Jewish agencies immediately condemned the “charade” stressing that “US law expressly prohibits funding to a Palestinian government in which Hamas participates”. They urged Congress to conduct a review of assistance to the PA and ensure implementation of the law denying support to the PA if it cooperated or bonded with Hamas.
There were senior lawmakers – Democrats as well as Republicans – who also condemned the move and insisted that the Palestinian anti-terror act passed in 2006 specifically precludes the US government from funding any government in which Hamas is involved or exercises influence.
Although there is no certainty that Congress will, in the short term, force the White House to back down, public opinion unquestionably opposes the Obama policy. Despite the hostility generated by the anti-Israeli liberal media, opinion polls all indicate record levels of support for Israel amongst the American people. The most recent, conducted last month by Paragon Insights on behalf of the Israel Project, showed that a 2-1 majority blame the Palestinians for the breakdown in negotiations and agrees that Israel cannot be expected to deal with a PA which merges with genocidal Hamas terrorists.
Over recent months, Congress has also displayed a lack of confidence in the Obama administration’s lack of accountability and transparency in foreign relations. This has created major tensions, particularly amongst Democrats who do not wish to be obliged to choose between abandoning their President or supporting Israel.
That is the reason why Democrat Senator Robert Menendez, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a powerful supporter of Israel, temporarily withdrew the US Israel Strategic Partnership Act from the agenda. He did so out of concern that an amendment, introduced by Republican Bob Corker reflecting congressional distrust of the president’s handling of nuclear talks with Iran and demanding greater accountability, could create major splits in the ranks of the Democrats. The bill, which designated Israel as a “strategic partner” and had already been passed in the House of Representatives by 410 to 1 majority, was designed to expand US weapons stockpiles in Israel and extend areas of joint US Israel collaboration in areas such as energy, water and homeland security.
Ultimately a compromise will be found, but this behavior reflects the turmoil – even amongst President Obama’s Democratic supporters – concerning the administration’s appeasement of the Iranians and pressure against Israel.
In the meantime, the House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act which included major boosts for Israel’s missile-defense programs as well as sections highlighting concern about negotiations with the Iranians and was carried on a bipartisan majority of 325 to 98.
It is indicative of the direction in which the wind is blowing when potential presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, in her new memoir, signals her disapproval of President Obama’s policies when referring to the “tactical error” in trying to “enforce a hardline on settlements”. She also criticized Obama’ Iranian policy, telling a gathering of the American Jewish Committee: “I personally am skeptical that the Iranians will follow through and deliver… No deal is better than a bad deal”.
After the November midterm elections, the president will increasingly become a lame-duck and with the onset of primaries and campaigning for the next presidential election, there is every probability that the Senate and Congress will act against Obama if he makes further excessive demands on Israel or totally capitulated to the Iranians. However, it should be noted that, despite the Obama administration’s harsh political behavior towards Israel, it has in fact strengthened the crucial US-Israel defense relationship.
Israel must weather the remainder of Obama’s presidential term, diplomatically balancing resistance to the negative pressures without severing its crucial relationship with the US. It should simultaneously seek to further strengthen the public support it currently enjoys amongst the American people and throughout Congress.
This column was originally published in the Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom