Washington Post Bashes Obama’s “Quickness to Bludgeon” Israel
Wednesday, March 17, 2010 2:57 AM
From: “Stephen Sniegoski”
Let’s see, Israel is continually building illegal (by the standards of international law) settlements on the West Bank on property seized from Palestinians. Israel’s construction in East Jerusalem essentially prevents a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians, who expect to control that territory. The Obama administration essentially overlooked these actions until Israel publicly announced plans for new construction in East Jerusalem at the very time when Vice President Biden was visiting Israel. And, after all of this, who does the Washington Post criticize for belligerency—Obama! The “American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders,” the Post pontificates.
No, we certainly wouldn’t want the Palestinians to make such “elevated demands” as the right to land that Israel has taken from them!
The Post is very much disturbed about “Mr. Obama’s quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government.” Yes, certainly criticism, when Israel is the one criticized, must be equated with bullying and beating. And the Post goes on to claim that “He is not the first president to do so.” Presumably, in the convoluted imagination of the Washington Post’s editorialist, American presidents have been walloping poor little Israel for years. But the Post is not about to cry over allegedly victimized Israel but points out that “tough tactics don’t always work.” Yes, a few critical words—when directed at Israel–certainly represent inappropriate “tough tactics!” One would think, however, that in any real effort to get tough with Israel, the United States would go beyond strong words, and actually threaten to reduce its physical support for the Jewish state. But such a tough tactic presumably transcends the limits of the Post’s imagination—or is just not allowed to be considered. Of course, where Israel’s Middle East enemies are concerned, the Post has not been loath to support economic sanctions, bombing, and invasions.
As a result of his purportedly belligerent stance last year, “Mr. Obama’s poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits.” The Post continues: “The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders.” Obama certainly wouldn’t want to lose the support of the Israeli people. But exactly what country does Obama represent? And what country does the Washington Post think that he should represent? Interestingly, while the Post expresses concern about the Israelis unhappiness with Obama, it conversely is upset about the US actually seeming to appeal to the interests of the Palestinians and Arabs, which might cause them to make “elevated demands.”
Let me point out the overriding significance of what the Washington Post has written. These words did not come from the Christian Right, the neoconservatives, AIPAC, or some other entity known to be biased in favor of the Jewish state. Rather, they came from the most influential newspaper in the United States (along with the New York Times), which trumpets its objectivity. This is the authoritative voice of the media establishment. This is what people in the know are expected to believe.
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Washington Post (Editorial)
The U.S. quarrel with Israel
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; A18
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S Middle East diplomacy failed in his first year in part because he chose to engage in an unnecessary and unwinnable public confrontation with Israel over Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Over the past six months Mr. Obama’s envoys gingerly retreated from that fight and worked to build better relations with the government of Binyamin Netanyahu. Last week the administration finally managed to strike a deal for the launching of indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks. So it has been startling — and a little puzzling — to see Mr. Obama deliberately plunge into another public brawl with the Jewish state.
True, this U.S.-Israel crisis began with a provocation from Jerusalem: the announcement by the Interior Ministry of plans for 1,600 more Jewish homes beyond Israel’s 1967 border. Vice President Biden, who was visiting when the news broke, was embarrassed; he quickly responded with a statement of condemnation. He then appeared to accept the public apology of Mr. Netanyahu, who said he, too, had been surprised by the announcement.
The dispute’s dramatic escalation since then seems to have come at the direct impetus of Mr. Obama. Officials said he outlined points for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to make in a searing, 45-minute phone call to Mr. Netanyahu on Friday. On Sunday senior Obama adviser David Axelrod heaped on more vitriol, saying in a television appearance that the settlement announcement had been an “affront” and an “insult” that had “undermined this very fragile effort to bring peace to that region.”
Mr. Obama and his advisers appear determined to prove that they will not be pushed around by Israel. The public scoldings also send a message to Palestinian and Arab leaders who have been demanding assurances that the United States will use its leverage in the new peace negotiations. And the administration hopes to extract immediate concessions from Mr. Netanyahu: It has demanded that he reverse the Jerusalem settlement decision, release Palestinian prisoners, agree to cover sensitive “final status” issues in the indirect talks and investigate the errant settlement announcement.
Mr. Netanyahu already has conceded the last point and may give way on others; he is facing harsh domestic criticism. But Mr. Obama risks repeating his previous error. American chastising of Israel invariably prompts still harsher rhetoric, and elevated demands, from Palestinian and other Arab leaders. Rather than join peace talks, Palestinians will now wait to see what unilateral Israeli steps Washington forces. Mr. Netanyahu already has made a couple of concessions in the past year, including declaring a partial moratorium on settlements. But on the question of Jerusalem, he is likely to dig in his heels — as would any other Israeli government. If the White House insists on a reversal of the settlement decision, or allows Palestinians to do so, it might land in the same corner from which it just extricated itself.
A larger question concerns Mr. Obama’s quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government. He is not the first president to do so; in fact, he is not even the first to be hard on Mr. Netanyahu. But tough tactics don’t always work: Last year Israelis rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Obama’s poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits. The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.