Have pro-Israel liberals—at least some of the intelligent ones—finally had enough of President Obama's incompetence and dithering with respect to Israel and the Middle East?
Apparently. First, there was the extraordinary column by well-known journalist Ari Shavit, a man of the left, in Israel's newspaper of the left, Haaretz, last Thursday. Here are the highlights (but by all means read the whole thing here):
President Barack Obama is a cool-headed leader. For the past 40 months he has known that history will judge him by his actions and failures vis-a-vis Iran....
And yet, the man sitting in the Oval Office is ignoring the possibility that his inaction will make the Middle East go nuclear and undermine the world order. He doesn't care that he might be responsible for losing the United States' superpower status and turning the 21st century into a century of nuclear chaos....
The president sees how the Iranians mock him - and does nothing. He sees radical Islam approaching the nuclear brink - and does not budge....
He is staging a deceptive show of a deal with the Iranians, which will seem to dull the Natanz threat. He is trying to make a fool of Jerusalem as Tehran is making a fool of him. The president is pushing Israel into a corner, but is hoping that Israel will accept its fate submissively....
But the extremely thrifty commander-in-chief is not prepared to pay any price for stopping the 8,000 Shi'ite centrifuges. That's why Obama didn't stand by the Iranian Spring of 2009 as he stood by the Arab Spring of 2011. That's why Obama didn't act firmly against the underground facility near Qom, which was discovered three years ago. That's why Obama has not touched, to this day, Iran's central bank, nor has he stopped the flow of oil distillates to the country's ports.
The cautious president sees not the catastrophic price the West will pay for Iran's nuclearization, but the political price he will pay if oil prices rise. Never in its history has the United States had such a thrifty leader as its 44th president.
The international community and international public opinion are preoccupied with King Netanyahu these days - will he or won't he attack? But instead of focusing on a statesman who isn't supposed to save the world from Iran's nuclear program, it would be better to focus on the leader whose historic role is just that. In the past 40 months Barack Obama has been betraying his office. Will he wake up in the next four months, come to his senses and change his ways?
Then, on Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth featured an interview with Martin Indyk, former top Clinton administration Middle East aide and ambassador to Israel, by Nahum Barnea. Here are highlights of Barnea's account (read the whole thing here):
There are no wounds as bad as those inflicted by one who loves you: their hurt is accurate. Their pain burns. In the midst of the election campaign in the US, a comprehensive book on the achievements and failures of the administration’s foreign policy was published this month (Bending History: Barack Obama's Foreign Policy). The Middle Eastern chapters were written by Martin Indyk, who served twice as US ambassador to Israel and was one of the senior members of the peace process team. Four years ago, he supported Hillary Clinton. After she lost the Democratic Party’s primary elections, he enlisted in Obama’s election campaign. He praised him highly before audiences of Jewish Americans and Israelis.
Not this time. The chapter he wrote presents a long series of colossal mistakes by the US president, partly due to inexperience, mostly due to misunderstanding of the Israeli-Arab arena, unsuitable temperament and erroneous conceptions. Obama did not show any particular interest in regime change and democracy in the Arab world. Ironically, it’s the only area which has changed during his term in office....
“Obama was a president of epic proportions from day one,” Indyk began. "You cannot expect less from a first African-American president. From his first day in the White House, he put the Middle East at the top of his political agenda. Unfortunately for him, his personal involvement only made things worse.”
“The vision he presented was great, the promise huge. But his cold, analytical and aloof attitude didn’t suit the Middle Eastern climate. Middle Eastern leaders, Israelis and Arabs alike, rely on the personal relations they develop with the president. Obama doesn’t develop personal relationships. It’s his character.”
There is no argument that regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict, Obama’s first term of office has been a complete failure, I said. He promised to bring peace, but couldn’t renew the negotiations that took place on a regular basis during the Bush era. The Arab world didn’t believe him. The Israelis didn’t trust him......
The turning point was Obama’s speech at Cairo University in June 2009. I was there. After the speech, I spoke to Obama’s close advisers, Ram Emanuel and David Axelrod. I told them that the Israelis took the speech badly. The comparison between the Holocaust and Palestinian suffering infuriated them. The fact that Obama chose to speak in Cairo but not visit Jerusalem hurt their honor.
The two looked at each other in silence, as if to say, we knew it would happen, we warned him but he refused to listen. As time passed, the fact that Obama wrote the speech himself, against the advice of all his advisers, was made public.
“The demand to freeze the settlements was not new: previous presidents had made it and in certain times the Israelis complied. Obama demanded that natural growth not be taken into consideration. It was a new demand. Then he gave George Mitchell plenipotentiary authority to negotiate a compromise [that would produce less than a complete settlement freeze]. In doing so, he put Abu Mazen in an impossible position: he couldn’t have agreed for less than what Obama had demanded. Obama, Abu Mazen complained, put me on a high horse. I have no way to get off it.”
“That is how Obama operates. First, he sets a far-reaching goal. Then he looks for a compromise. At the end, no side is pleased.”
One imagines the president's apologists aren't pleased, either, by these high-profile defections from the Obama camp to the truth-telling camp.