In an interview with Bloomberg published yesterday, President Obama took to lecturing and threatening Israel, implying that he, and not the Israeli leadership, knows what’s best for the country and warning that if peace talks fail it would be difficult for the U.S. “to manage the international fallout.”
Sounds almost like a line from a gangster flick.
There’ll be consequences see? I might not be able to stop some bad things from happening, see what I mean?
At a time when Israel is dealing with a mortal threat from Iran, Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have embarked on a mission to forge a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians, putting the Israelis in a position of possibly having to hand over security-diminishing concessions to the Palestinians in order to ensure Obama’s backing against the Iranian nuclear program.
Nobody was particularly pushing for a peace deal right now except Kerry, who stands to win a Nobel Prize should the effort succeed and go down in history, along with Obama, as having eclipsed their predecessors by achieving a thorough Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
In the interview, Obama averred that the United States maintains a “rock-solid commitment” to Israel. But we might not be able to prevent certain bad things from happening, okay?
But what I do believe is that 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.
Obama added it was not necessarily that the United States would be unwilling to stop the “fallout,” an odd way to phrase it.
What’s more, Obama suggests, the international community has a point.
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. And that’s a reflection of a genuine sense on the part of a lot of countries out there that this issue continues to fester, is not getting resolved, and that nobody is willing to take the leap to bring it to closure.
They have genuine concerns about you, Mr. Prime Minister.
And, in a sign of why he has such a bad relationship with Netanyahu – and hasn’t made many friends anywhere on the world stage – Obama demanded that Netanyahu come up with an alternative if he doesn’t like Obama’s approach:
If he does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.
Israel, Obama all but suggested, would become a kind of South Africa of the Holy Land:
Do you resign yourself to what amounts to a permanent occupation of the West Bank? Is that the character of Israel as a state for a long period of time? Do you perpetuate, over the course of a decade or two decades, more and more restrictive policies in terms of Palestinian movement? Do you place restrictions on Arab-Israelis in ways that run counter to Israel’s traditions?
Incredibly, Obama contradicted his own logic without seeing it, getting at the Israeli fear that a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is no more than a deal with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and will be cast aside by future radicals:
Abbas is getting older, and I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue. We do not know what a successor to Abbas will look like.
Indeed, we don’t.
Netanyahu meets at the White House with Obama today. The White House, presumably, hopes the Israeli leader will listen and learn something.