As of now, I am in control here, in the White House

Tag Archives: Middle East

Late Again

Everything in the Obama White House starts late, including Obama.

The White House announced today that it is open to completing the deal with Iran at least a day late. Because that’s how we roll around here.

Tardiness actually has the unfortunate effect of revealing underlying unseriousness, inattentiveness, a lack of discipline, and a penchant for screwing things up.

Obama on counter

It says something about the place that the above is actually an official White House photograph, released to showcase your president’s behavior.

Everything in the Bush White House started on time. You knew they meant business and would stick to commitments. Even if you disagreed with their business and commitments.

Whether it is President Obama’s failure to enforce his red lines, his post-passage changes to Obamacare, his failure to remove Bashar Assad as promised, his claim that Yemen was a success case before it fell apart, his Obamacare website fiasco, and so on, and now, his willingness to breach the March 31 deadline for a nuclear deal, Iran has surely noticed it is dealing with amateurs. It knows it can get away with a lot, both before and after a deal is finally signed. And it will.

While being late ostensibly allows “vital matters” to be concluded before showtime, tardiness actually has no use. Someone who is late will tarry whether they have to get to an appointment 20 miles away or across the street. They’ll be the same 15 minutes late, no matter their point of disembarkment or their destination.

The daily White House briefing rarely starts less than 20-25 minutes after its appointed hour, for example. On March 19, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest was an hour later than the original announced time, without apology. They’d announced a half hour delay in the morning and then came out another half hour late.

Last Wednesday, Earnest was 45 minutes late: “I apologize for the delay in getting started this morning. A lot going on,” he said. See my point?

And have a look at this. Start the video at about 18:50. Who knows what to make of it?

Never saw anything like that at the White House, even with Bill Clinton, who was also late for everything.

The leaders of Iran and the rest of the Middle East live in a deadly serious neighborhood. They all sense that they are not dealing with a reliable entity in the Obama White House and are taking matters into their own hands.

The Arabs are creating an Arab fighting force, which will no doubt prove feckless and require cleaning up after by the United States. Israel will, with respect to Iran, be forced to go it alone and do a far less efficient job with the “military option” than we would. And the Iranians will attempt to dodge and weave their way to a nuclear weapon while spreading their malign influence into areas of the Middle East where we have withdrawn.

Because there does not seem to be a grand vision coming out of the White House. No systemic policy. No reliable commitments. Actually, under whatever the Obama Mideast doctrine is, the whole damn place is has become an utter mess, one that will soon be littered with atom bombs.

Because lateness is not a disease. Lateness is a symptom.

Obama’s Deplorable Stance on Hamas

Much of the criticism of President Obama’s remarks last week on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has centered on his call for negotiations to start with the assumption that Israel will return to the 1967 borders, granting the Palestinians a key concession before talks even begin.

But even worse for the Israelis are Obama’s faulty and irresponsible assumptions about Hamas. He thinks Hamas, in the space of a few months, can reform itself from a terrorist outfit into a legitimate and trustworthy negotiating partner for the Israelis. Here’s what he said in a press conference today with British Prime Minister Cameron.

I believe that Hamas, in its own description of its agenda, has not renounced violence and has not recognized the state of Israel. And until they do, it is very difficult to expect Israelis to have a serious conversation, because ultimately they have to have confidence that a Palestinian state is one that is going to stick to its — to whatever bargain is struck.

The clear presumption here is that once Hamas starts saying the right things, Israel should negotiate with it. The suggestion that there might be good somewhere inside the beast that is Hamas, of evil that can be changed with a few words or a piece of paper, has an obvious historic precedent.

Speaking before the British Parliament today, Obama referenced Winston Churchill several times. But Obama’s own outlook is that of Neville Chamberlain.

Obama must state that there can be no peace process until Hamas is out of the Palestinian government. To do otherwise is to try to negotiate the Sudetenland with Hitler.

The Israelis, of course, know better than to ever, ever trust the word of a group that sends missiles into its territory to kill innocent people and that foments terrorism within its borders.

Or that makes statements like these, as compiled by the Anti-Defamation League.

“We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood…We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior. We ask God to offer him mercy with the true believers and the martyrs.”

– Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip commenting on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, May 2, 2011

“The lie of the Zionist Holocaust crumbles with countless holocausts committed by the Zionists in Beit Hanoun, al-Fakhoura school and other places in Palestine.”

– Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar, speaking at a memorial service for Palestinians killed during the 2008 Israeli war in Gaza, January 6, 2011

“Palestine is Islamic, and not an Islamic emirate, from the river to the sea, that unites the Palestinians. Jews have no right in it, with the exception of those who lived on the land of Palestine before World War I.”

– Hamas official Halil Al-Hayya, Al-Hayat newspaper, November 11, 2010

It’s not as if Hamas is trying to hide what it is.

The assumption that an entity so evil can become something else is not innocence or wishful thinking. It is negligence and opportunism, committed by a president whose greatest sympathy is with the Palestinians, who has low regard for Israel’s leader, and who maintains only a perfunctory commitment to Israel’s safety.

Video || Carney Declines to Affirm 2004 U.S. Mideast Policy

Here’s an exchange between me and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney that I thought you might like to see.

In discussing President Obama’s decision to say Thursday that Mideast peace negotiations should begin with the assumption that Israel will return to the 1967 borders – give or take some land swaps – Carney yesterday sought to portray Obama’s statement as consistent with existing U.S. policy as outlined in a 2004 letter from George W. Bush to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Now, this letter wasn’t a “hey, my grandkids are great, how are yours?” type of note. It was official U.S. policy, stating that a return to the 1967 lines was not realistic and that the Palestinian’s “right of return” to Israel proper was null and void. In addition to apparently new policy on the borders, Obama said the right of return issue should be negotiated.

Here’s what Carney said early in the briefing;

I think, again, there is nothing that the President said yesterday that contradicts the 2004 letters that were exchanged between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, or what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today in the Oval Office.  We — the President said in his speech that a starting point for resolving the territorial issue is the 1967 lines, with mutually agreed swaps and security for both nations.

Carney was using careful language – “nothing that . . contradicts the 2004 letters.” What I wanted to figure out was whether, in fact, the United States is now breaking with existing policy. So in the video below, I asked Carney if he would affirm previous U.S. policy. As you will see, he would not.


Binyamin Netanyahu, Pillar of Israeli Strength

Several of you in your comments yesterday noted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s boffo, no-nonsense performance during his appearance with President Obama.

These Israelis are tough. They have to be. One of our readers, Brett, noted that Netanyahu was a former Israeli special forces operative.

This got me thinking about something I saw on TV twenty years ago, and never forgot. It was during the first Gulf War, and Netanyahu was Israel’s ambassador to the United States. As you may remember, Saddam Hussein startied lobbing scud missiles into Israel, and there was grave concern that some would contain chemical weapons. The Israelis had disseminated gas masks to their people.

Netanyahu was in Israel and being interviewed on some live news show I was watching in the United States. Suddenly, the air raid sirens went off. The U.S. correspondent there talking with him became visibly nervous and said, “Okay, now it’s time for us to put on our gas masks. I’m taking the gas mask now, this strap goes over here . . . ”

He noticed Netanyahu was just sitting there, staring at him.

“Mr. Ambassador, where is your gas mask?” he asked.

Calmly, without expression, Netanyahu responded.

“I think it’s in the car.”

Dennis Ross, Israel’s Lonely Friend in the White House

Just wanted to make sure you saw this story by Helene Cooper of the New York Times today, a great piece of reporting that shows essentially one man in the White House standing with Israel. Helene is not shy about pointing out Obama’s tilt toward the Palestinians, unusual in the mainstream media.

One hopeful sign is that George Mitchell is described here as in the Palestinian camp, and of course he felt he had to resign.

But just imagine the pressure that will be put on Israel if Obama wins reelection and no longer has to worry about Jewish votes or Jewish money.

Jeremiah Wright for chief Mideast negotiator?

Netanyahu Rejects Obama Plan in Front of Obama

Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu today rejected the key proposal in President Obama’s Thursday address on the Middle East, stating unequivocally that Israel will not return to the 1967 borders.

Netanyahu, in deeply personal remarks made in the Oval Office after the two leaders met, called the borders indefensible and said they had created the temptation for past attacks.

While Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace, it cannot go back to the 1967 lines — because these lines are indefensible; because they don’t take into account certain changes that have taken place on the ground, demographic changes that have taken place over the last 44 years.

Remember that, before 1967, Israel was all of nine miles wide.  It was half the width of the Washington Beltway.

While saying he planned to continue to try to find a peace deal, Netanyahu ruled out negotiating with Hamas and said the Palestinians could forget about the right of return, a key demand that would allow those who left after the 1948 war of Israeli independence to repopulate Israel and effectively end the Jewish character of the state.

Leaning forward as the two men sat in adjoining chairs, Netanyahu seemed to be almost pleading with a physically recoiling Obama to understand that Jewish history had passed the task of safeguarding his people onto him in his role as prime minister.

And now it falls on my shoulders as the Prime Minister of Israel, at a time of extraordinary instability and uncertainty in the Middle East, to work with you to fashion a peace that will ensure Israel’s security and will not jeopardize its survival.  I take this responsibility with pride but with great humility, because, as I told you in our conversation, we don’t have a lot of margin for error.  And because, Mr. President, history will not give the Jewish people another chance.

Obama in his remarks did not mention his proposal of yesterday to start negotiations with the assumption of a return to the 1967 borders. He sought to minimize differences that occurred during the 90 minutes of one on one meetings between the two leaders.

Obviously there are some differences between us in the precise formulations and language, and that’s going to happen between friends.  But what we are in complete accord about is that a true peace can only occur if the ultimate resolution allows Israel to defend itself against threats, and that Israel’s security will remain paramount in U.S. evaluations of any prospective peace deal.

Ninety minutes of meetings between world leaders without the crutch of aides is a remarkable testament to the knowledge and confidence of both men. And if the two leaders didn’t know whether to like or dislike each other before, they know now. And judging by Obama’s body language during the session, it doesn’t seem like they suddenly became buddies.

Obama Insists Israel Withdraw to Fantasyland

Sometimes I get the impression with President Obama that his wishes and plans steam forward in one lane, while reality marches along in another altogether separate one.

We see this, for example, on the budget deficit, where the president notes the peril it poses, and then goes right ahead and throws around billions in “emergency” stimulus money that take years to dole out. Or adds a trillion dollars in new spending to make his health care dream a reality.

And we saw it again today, in Obama’s latest Middle East Big Think speech.

Despite the coming new regime in the Palestinian Authority, which will include Hamas, Obama has gone along his merry way and made a key concession to the Palestinians, as if Israel’s peril had some how lessened rather than grown.

By making it U.S. policy that the 1967 borders are the STARTING POINT for negotiations, Obama put Israel on the defensive in its fight for security and for its cultural – and the Christian cultural – heritage in Jerusalem.

The statement overturns assurances by George W. Bush to Israel in a 2004 letter that stated a return to the 1967 borders was in fact NOT the policy of the United States. This assurance was made in return for a concrete step, the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza. The concrete step cannot be reversed. The assurance could be reversed by an unreliable ally. Today, it was.

It was a DEAL. A deal is a deal, right? Wrong.

Obama today said the status of Jerusalem is up for grabs. But by declaring as the starting point the 1967 border – under which the Old City portion of Jerusalem and its holy sites were in Arab hands – Israel now has to give concessions to keep Jerusalem whole, not get concessions in return for giving it away. And as a practical matter, putting Old City Jerusalem in the hands of the Palestinians at the start of the negotiations means they will never relinquish it.

How well the Arabs will protect Jewish and Christian holy sites there is anyone’s guess.

And by the way, go to Google and take a look at a map of the 1967 borders. It doesn’t take some kind of Napoleonic military genius to figure out that the borders are completely indefensible. Israel, again, will have to bargain from a position of weakness – the ’67 borders – to “swap,” as Obama put it, enough of its land for West Bank land to find a marginally secure arrangement of territory.

Look at what the Gaza giveaway has gotten Israel. Missiles regularly lobbed deep into its territory and a funnel for terrorists and arms. What will happen when it releases the West Bank?

The Palestinians don’t want the West Bank. They want it all. They want Tel Aviv. The West Bank will be a ballast used for pushing the Jews into the sea.

Sure, Obama says the Palestinians will have to find a way to reassure Israel with Hamas now at the table. And he promises Israel secure borders. But these are nebulous words, negotiable stuff. The 1967 borders line he read today is policy.

Hamas, if it is smart, will head over to Men’s Warehouse, pick up a few suits, and act civilized for a few months. That should be enough to convince the president – who came into office thinking he could negotiate with various barbarians around the globe – that they are reasonable people.

But Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu knows his enemies better. He’s already rejecting Obama’s new policy, issuing a statement as he prepared to meet with Obama Friday

Prime Minister Netanyahu expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both Houses of Congress . . . Among other things, those commitments relate to Israel not having to withdraw to the 1967 lines which are both indefensible and which would leave major Israeli population centers [settlements] in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] beyond those lines.

Hamas is headed into the Palestinian government. Palestinians over the weekend stormed Israel’s borders. But Obama keeps rolling along own path. Reality travels a separate road.

Obama’s Mideast Peace Push

The president has done a smart and a good thing by bringing the leaders of the Palestinians and the Israelis together at the White House. It’s good both for the “peace process” and for himself politically. History shows that one of the best ways  to get close to peace in the Middle East is to… Continue Reading