Obama a friend of Is­rael? Re­ally?

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Pres­i­dent Obama has claimed many times to be a stead­fast friend of the state of Is­rael. He cer­tainly found bold words to con­vey that im­pres­sion when he ad­dressed the AIPAC con­fer­ence in 2008.

“(W)e know that we can­not re­lent, we can­not yield, and, as pres­i­dent, I will never com­pro­mise when it comes to Is­rael’s se­cu­rity . . . not when there are still voices that deny the Holo­caust, not when there are ter­ror­ist groups and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers com­mit­ted to Is­rael’s de­struc­tion, not when there are maps across the Mid­dle East that don’t even ac­knowl­edge Is­rael’s ex­is­tence, and gov­ern­ment-funded text­books filled with ha­tred to­wards Jews, not when there are rock­ets rain­ing down on Sderot, and Is­raeli chil­dren have to take a deep breath and sum­mon un­com­mon courage ev­ery time they board a bus or walk to school.”

The as­pir­ing pres­i­dent went fur­ther. In the same speech, he pro­claimed that “there is no room at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble for ter­ror- ist or­ga­ni­za­tions.” The pres­i­dent didn’t touch on the mat­ter of borders, but he did pledge that “Jerusalem will re­main the cap­i­tal of Is­rael, and it must re­main un­di­vided.”

But since tak­ing of­fice, the pres­i­dent’s ac­tions have been any­thing but friendly. By pub­licly de­mand­ing in 2009 that Is­rael halt all set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity, he stepped into the role of ne­go­tia­tor for Mah­moud Ab­bas, who had not, be­fore then, made par­tic­i­pat­ing in talks con­tin­gent on such a mora­to­rium. (Af­ter­ward, he could do noth­ing else.)

By an­nounc­ing Amer­i­can de­mands on Is­rael at the United Na­tions, seat of vir­u­lent, Is­rael-de­spis­ing despots, the pres­i­dent be­trayed his prom­ise to stand by the lonely democ­racy in the Mid­dle East and, in fact, con­trib­uted to the at­mos­phere of men­ace to­ward Is­rael.

The pres­i­dent’s con­cept of friend­ship to­ward Is­rael was ca­pa­cious enough to per­mit him to in­sult the nation’s prime min­is­ter dur­ing a Wash­ing­ton visit be­cause Ne­tanyahu had not agreed to stop build­ing apart­ments for Jews in Jerusalem, and to in­struct his sec­re­tary of state to en­gage in a 40-minute dress­ing down of the PM for the same of­fense.

Now Obama claims to have found a new ex­pres­sion of friend­ship, the de­mand that ne­go­ti­a­tions over a fu­ture Pales­tinian state be­gin with the as­sump­tion that Is­rael will re­lin­quish all of the dis­puted ter­ri­to­ries ac­quired in a de­fen­sive war 44 years ago. Is the pres­i­dent again serv­ing as chief ne­go­tia­tor for the Pales­tini­ans?

The pres­i­dent claims a war­rant for his un­prece­dented de­mands on Is­rael, pres­sure to with­draw to what Abba Eban called “Auschwitz borders”, from the Arab spring and what he per­ceives to be the dan­gers of “pro­cras­ti­na­tion.” It’s an in­ter­est­ing word choice, sug­gest­ing that Is­rael has been re­luc­tant to make peace.

An ac­tual friend of the Jewish state might look at things dif­fer­ently. Did Obama no­tice that Mubarak’s exit, how­ever well de- served, has thrown into the doubt the most im­por­tant peace treaty Is­rael was ever able to sign with an Arab neigh­bor? Egypt, which had been, at best, an in­ter­mit­tent ally in thwart­ing Ira­nian arms ship­ments to Ha­mas, has now be­come much more cor­dial with Tehran, with un­known con­se­quences for the sen­si­tive bor­der be­tween Egypt and Gaza.

The pres­i­dent has been slow to com­ment upon it, but surely he has no­ticed that Syria is in flames, and that Bashar al-As­sad has al­ready at­tempted to di­vert anger away from him­self and to­ward Is­rael by send­ing hun­dreds of Pales­tini­ans to breach the bor­der on Is­raeli In­de­pen­dence Day. Tur­key, for­merly Is­rael’s best Mus­lim ally, has slid into hos­til­ity un­der the lead­er­ship of an Is­lamist party.

At the U.N., the Gen­eral Assem­bly will vote in Septem­ber on declar­ing the state­hood of “Pales­tine.” What then? Will Is­rael’s ef­forts to dis­arm the Pales­tini­ans in Gaza be con­sid­ered an act of war against a sov­er­eign state?

And what of the Pales­tini­ans, with whom Is­rael would pre­sum­ably be ne­go­ti­at­ing these “land swaps”? The pres­i­dent ac­knowl­edged that “Is­rael can­not be ex­pected to ne­go­ti­ate with” those “who do not rec­og­nize its right to ex­ist.” How to ac­count then for Obama’s tim­ing?

The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity and Ha­mas have just inked a unity ac­cord. Af­ter the cer­e­mony in Cairo, Mah­moud Ab­bas made clear that Ha­mas had sur­ren­dered none of its ex­trem­ism to get the deal: “It is not re­quired of Ha­mas to rec­og­nize Is­rael. We will form a gov­ern­ment of tech­nocrats and we will not ask Ha­mas to rec­og­nize Is­rael.”

Yet at this, of all mo­ments, Obama chose to is­sue a pub­lic de­mand that Is­rael pre-emp­tively sur­ren­der its es­sen­tial se­cu­rity buf­fer of land. It’s noth­ing less than a re­ward for Ha­mas and for the Pales­tini­ans’ unswerv­ing ded­i­ca­tion to Is­rael’s de­struc­tion.

A false friend can do more dam­age than an open en­emy.

Mona Charen is a na­tion­ally syn­di­cated colum­nist.

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