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Joining the Jackals

The Obama administration abandons Israel.

7:55 AM, Jun 2, 2010 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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So why did we agree to the presidential statement?  The White House did not wish to stand with Israel against this mob because it does not have a policy of solidarity with Israel.  Rather, its policy is one of distancing and pressure.  This was evident last week at the NPT conference as well, where a final statement that singled out Israel while ignoring Iran—precisely what the Bush administration blocked in 2005—was permitted by the United States.  From this perspective, it is just as well that Prime Minister Netanyahu did not make it to Washington this week, where a phony love fest would have pictured him in the Obama embrace.  The entire purpose of the invitation was to “change the atmosphere” and reverse the damage done during his last visit, where photos of Netanyahu with Obama were not permitted. There were no doubt many rabbis, Jewish leaders, and Democratic party pols prepared to beam and conclude that all the troubles are behind us.

But the events at the UN this week showed that they are not, because Obama policy has not changed.  This reality is sinking in fast in Jerusalem, where the UN is understood as an excellent barometer of the White House—in any administration.  Does the White House accept, indeed relish, the need to defend Israel against all comers—Pakistan, Turkey, the Arabs, weak-kneed Euro-dips, UN bureaucrats?  Is this understood as a chance to show what America really stands for in the world? Or is Israel seen by the president as a burden, an albatross, a complication in his grand struggle to re-position the United States as a more “progressive” power?  

We got the answer, again, this past week, and so did Israelis.  

In Israel, the press reporting on the Gaza flotilla is straightforward: there were probably intelligence and operational failures; why did we not know how many armed men there were on board, and come prepared; the Ministry of Defense and the IDF must investigate; but the moral equation is clear. This flotilla was an act of solidarity and support for terrorism, and thirty or forty armed men lay in wait for Israeli commandos.  Had the commandos not fired to save themselves, this would have been Israel’s very own “Blackhawk Down” incident.

Israelis see clearly the problems they face when the United States is calling for another international investigation and will not defend Israel.  They understand that no one is going to investigate Turkey and its role, nor investigate the pro-terror groups on board those ships—not if the United States fails to insist on it.  They realize that, thanks to the Obama policies, it is now open season on Israel in Europe and at the UN.  They speak candidly (Israelis of the left, center, and right, not just Likud supporters) in private about all these problems, but they cannot speak openly about them, not when they may have the Obama administration to deal with for six and a half more years. They wonder most about whether their friends see their predicament, and will speak up for them even when they must—to retain a working relationship with the White House—remain silent or speak very carefully. So this crisis is not only a test for Israel, which faces difficult weeks ahead, and for the Obama administration, which in fact has already failed. It is a test for Israel’s supporters, facing the combined onslaught of the news media (from BBC coverage to New York Times editorials), scores of governments, UN bureaucrats, and a White House that views excessive solidarity with Israel as a diplomatic inconvenience.  The United States abandoned Israel in the United Nations and in the NPT Conference in the course of one week.  Israel’s friends in the United States should say so, say it was shameful, and gear up for a long fight. 

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

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