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If He Believes It, It Must Be So

Obama's scary interview.

11:35 AM, Mar 3, 2014 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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If they would also prefer freedom of the press and of speech, and free elections, and an independent court system, and a government that does not steal their money, well, that isn’t of much interest to Mr. Obama. It isn’t even worth mentioning. So he would give the Palestinians the “dignity” that led to oppression and uprisings elsewhere in the Arab world, and seems to have no interest in the actual conditions of political life in the state he would create.

The burden of making peace is put entirely on Israeli shoulders. PA president Abbas (whose term ended five years ago, and who is surrounded by growing corruption) is portrayed as a lovely man ready for peace—no mention that he refused it when it was offered by then-prime minister Olmert in 2008. Is Abbas really ready, now, to sign what he would not back then: an agreement that ends the conflict entirely and finally tells Palestinian “refugees” that they have no right to go to Israel? An agreement that acknowledges Israel as a Jewish state? These doubts are never acknowledged by Obama, who assumes that the only problems are on the Israeli side.

Then comes the kind of vague threat that Secretary Kerry has also made, in his case perhaps without meaning to:

“What we also know is that Israel has become more isolated internationally. We had to stand up in the Security Council in ways that 20 years ago would have involved far more European support, far more support from other parts of the world when it comes to Israel’s position.”

Now in truth the Obama administration has stood up in the Security Council with great reluctance, trying desperately at times to avoid vetoes of anti-Israel resolutions that deserved a quick and easy refusal. And that American reluctance to side clearly and early on with Israel in the Security Council has encouraged the Europeans to draw back as well, so the Obama account has it backwards. But the message remains clear: if Israel refuses the terms we give it, life will become tougher.

The difference between an American prediction of greater international isolation and an American promise that it will come is not very great.  

OBAMA: “if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction -- and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time -- if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited.

GOLDBERG: Willingness, or ability?

OBAMA: Not necessarily willingness, but ability to manage international fallout is going to be limited. And that has consequences.

As to that “aggressive settlement construction,” it is worth noting that at Obama’s request Netanyahu suspended construction in settlements for ten months in 2009. Apparently that gesture, its political cost for Netanyahu, and the fact that it gained Netanyahu and Israeli absolutely nothing from the Palestinians or the Europeans, is now forgotten.

Israelis remember, as perhaps Mr. Obama does not, that getting out of Gaza required Ariel Sharon to fight a two-year political battle that caused him to lose his party: he had to leave Likud and found a new party, Kadima. And that was about Gaza, where only 7,500 Jews lived in a small number of settlements in an area of no religious significance. The political battle over the West Bank would be far greater, so Obama is telling Netanyahu he must risk his own and his party’s future—on faith in both Abbas’s reliability and Mr. Obama’s own. In the Sharon case, he took the risks only when he had secured an absolute promise of support from George W. Bush, whom he viewed as a reliable partner. Mr. Obama did not help his cause when, upon coming to office, he disregarded all the pledges Bush made to Sharon in 2004. In Kerry’s negotiations, any real peace deal would be reached next year or in 2016, when Obama will be a lame duck. Who knows what American pledges will be worth, when after all Obama disregarded all of the ones his own predecessor made.

When it comes to Iran, Obama shows an attitude that can only be described as solipsistic: what’s in his mind is reality. And any other reality is just plain silly. Here is the key exchange:

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