Thursday, May 19, 2011

Does Obama hate Israel?

Here are some quotes from Obama's speech that pertain to Israel.
"Antagonism towards Israel became the only acceptable outlet for political expression [in repressive Middle Eastern nations]."

This is implicitly a defense of Israel. There is no doubt that in general the people in the Middle East don't like Israel. The question is why. Pro-Israeli people believe that is because Israel has been used relentlessly as a scapegoat by autocratic dictators to focus their peoples' anger elsewhere. Anti-Israeli people believe it is Israeli policies that create the resentment among its neighbors. Obviously there is an element of truth to both, but extremists tend to believe one or the other. I believe it is primarily the former, and apparently so does Obama, which is implicitly a pro-Israeli stance.

"Standing up for Israel's security...we will continue to do these things."

That doesn't sound very anti-Semitic to me.

"Efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure."

Opponents of Israel are pursuing a strategy that results in the destruction of Israel not by military means, but by political and economic means. This is what Obama means by "delegitimize". The strategy in a nutshell is to isolate Israel in the same way that South Africa was isolated because of apartheid. Obama is aware of this strategy, which means he no doubt thinks like I do: that Israel shouldn't play right into the hands of the people who are using it. This means striking a balance between deterrence and use of force, and it means not deliberately provoking Muslims for no reason (IE expanding settlements).

"Symbolic actions in September won't create an independent state."

In September, the PA is going to submit to the UN assembly a vote that would create a Palestinian state. I'm not sure how the rules of the UN work so I'm not sure if they can legally do this or not. I'm not sure if the US can even veto this. We couldn't stop the PRC from taking the ROC's seat in the security council in the 1970's so we may not be able to stop this. It would be a major blow to Israel if it happens. It is a part of the delegitimization strategy that anti-Israeli activists have been pursuing.

"Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of violence and rejection...Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying Israel's right to exist."

Obama reaffirms that Hamas must renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist, and honor previous agreements. This is all very standard stuff.

"Our committment to Israel's security is unshakable, and we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums."

In other words, the US has and will veto UN resolutions that condemn Israel for this or that while allowing other nations to perpetrate far worse crimes with no mention.

"Israel must be able to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."

IE the US will continue to support the Israeli military.

"[Palestine should be a] sovereign, non-militarized state."

One of the sticky parts of establishing a Palestinian state is whether or not it gets to develop a military. Obviously the Israelis might be uncomfortable with that. Obama here is coming down squarely on Israel's side of the issue.


There is lots of room for criticism over how Obama approached the Israeli-Palestinian question. The speech was decidedly unambitious and did not budge the status quo even a single iota. Everything in the speech was very standard, widely accepted stuff. Everyone* agrees that peace will come with a two-state solution. Everyone* agrees that the 1967 boundaries are the basis for the future borders. Everyone* agrees that Israel isn't going to take down their West Bank settlements, and so land-swaps are necessary. On the issues that people aren't sure about, such as over the status of Jerusalem or right-of-return for Palestinians, Obama just punted.

What there isn't any room for is criticism that Obama is anti-Israeli. And yet, the only thing I see plastered all over the front page of Fox News is precisely that. This is being echoed all over the conservative blogosphere. And you know what? I get it. I get why the Republicans are jumping all over this big lie. Their attempt at following through to the promises they made in the 2010 elections have been absolutely pathetic. They have been outfoxed by Obama and the Democrats at every turn. Boehner's 38 billion in "cuts" actually ended up increasing the deficit by 3 billion. Paul Ryan has been thrown under the bus by half of his party. The GOP will vote for the debt ceiling increase, but they will only get token cuts for it IF Obama is feeling generous. The GOP presidential candidates are all awful, save one or two who probably can't win a primary.

So like I said, I get it. We're going to hear over the next few weeks how Obama is a vicious anti-Semite, which fits in perfectly with accusation that Obama is also a secret anti-colonialist Muslim America-hater. Netanyahu is of course going to play along, just as a spoiled child will manipulate their divorced parents, and will cement himself in history as one of the most short-sighted Israeli leaders ever. But yea, anything to distract from the train wreck that has been the GOP agenda; I can't say I blame them for wanting something else to talk about. Whether or not there is any truth to what they are saying is irrelevant.

*When I say "everyone", what I mean is "reasonable people who we might listen to". There are lots of people who don't agree on a two-state solution, 1967 boundaries as a basis for that, and land swaps. These people are unreasonable, and should all be ignored. This includes, but is not limited to: Hamas and Islamic extremists, the international far-left extremists, ultra-right wing orthodox Jewish settlers in Israel, ultra-right wing evangelical Christians in the US. To name a few. None of these groups think there should be a compromise, just endless war until their side wins and the other side is dead.

No comments: