In mid-July, the President gave his first interview with Israel’s Channel 2 news, and he was asked to explain why he thinks he has only a single digit approval rating in Israel. He suggested that much of the animosity towards him was because his middle name is “Hussein” inferring some anti-Muslim bigotry on the part of the Israelis and he downplayed his policies and his behavior. Truth is, he was initially quite popular in Israel prior to his election (as July 2008 polls indicate) so the issue of Israeli religious bias against him because of his name is a non-starter.
Could it possibly be that the Israelis have serious disagreements with his policies, or are we to believe that they suddenly woke up one morning, discovered his middle name was Hussein, and decided to distrust him? If the man is polling in the single digits in Israel, could it be because other issues are bothering them?
Perhaps it’s because as candidate Obama, he stated unequivocally that Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of the Jewish state, yet almost from the get-go, he has demanded that east Jerusalem be the capital of a new Palestinian state.
Or perhaps, it's his close association with anti-Semites like Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Rashid Khalidi and with anti-Zionists like Robert Malley, Samantha Power, John Brennan, Susan Rice and Zbigniew Brzezinsky.
Or perhaps it's his awarding the Medal of Freedom to Mary Robinson, the prime mover behind the infamous anti-Israel Durban Conference.
Or perhaps it’s because the Israelis perceive that he has a fundamentally different view of the world and world affairs including the Arab narrative than previous U.S. presidents, and is determined to change U.S. foreign policy in ways detrimental to Israel’s security.
Or, perhaps it’s because his first interview as President was with Al-Arabiya TV, and his first phone call was to Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
Or perhaps it’s because he called Mahmoud Abbas in early July and thanked him for his "strong support" and his "commitment to peace" after Abbas had told an Arab League Summit in Libya (in Arabic): "If you want war, and if all of you will fight Israel, we are in favor”, and stated directly to the President on his June visit to the White House: “I say in front of you, Mr. President, we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that” ... this from a man who not only refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist, demands a return to the unacceptable pre-1967 borders, insists that international forces be placed on the West Bank (no doubt recognizing that UNIFIL has singularly failed to prevent the rearming of Hezbollah in southern Lebanon while European monitors fled from the Rafiah crossing between Gaza and Egypt in 2005 when they were threatened by Hamas), continues to support “armed resistance” against and the destruction of Israel (which was confirmed at the 6th Fatah General Conference in Bethlehem last August*), and allows his Palestinian Authority (despite its undertakings made in the Oslo Accord and its 1995 interim agreement) to spew anti-Semitic blood-libels through its controlled media, glorify terrorism by honoring murderers as martyrs in Palestinian schools, mosques and public squares, create children's television programs that praise the religious war for Allah (ribat) against Israel, use Palestinian text books to teach Palestinian children that Tel Aviv and Haifa are part of Palestine, and design maps that do not show an entity called Israel as documented in detail by www.MEMRI.org and www.pmw.org. So far as Israelis are concerned, and the President must recognize this, the key test of the Palestinian commitment to peace is not what Abbas and his colleagues say to Americans in English, but what they say to the Palestinians in Arabic - about Israel, about terrorism and about desiring a real peace.
*It should be noted that the English version of this Conference has been removed from Fatah’s website while the Arabic version remains!
Or perhaps, despite another hollow promise that the PA would cease incitement against Israel and in another concession to Abbas, he gave PA diplomats in Washington diplomatic immunity like diplomats from other states, and the right to fly the PLO flag at the entrance to it's Washington office like a regular embassy. The PA now has a higher diplomatic status in Washington, with a “delegation general”, than Taiwan, a democratic ally, has with an “economic and cultural representative office”.
Or perhaps it’s because he pledged to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh on June 3rd, 2009 that the United States would force Israel to withdraw from east Jerusalem and the entire West Bank by 2012 in exchange for Abdullah's help in arranging an end to the war in Afghanistan – this undertaking having been made despite the April 2004 letter of commitment and principles between President Bush and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and approved by both houses of Congress stating that the issue of secure, recognized and defensible borders, major Jewish population centers on the West Bank, a possible token return of some Palestinian refugees, and perhaps even ceding east Jerusalem would be subject to end-of-conflict negotiations and an agreement with the Palestinian Authority pursuant to the parameters set by UN Security Council Resolution 242 (passed after the 1967 War) and the Roadmap - as opposed to being dictated by the U.S. – all of which implies that concessions made by Israel are to be considered permanent, but concessions made to Israel by the U.S. can be withdrawn at any time.
Or perhaps it’s because in his Cairo speech, delivered the day after he met with King Abdullah, he failed to mention the four-thousand year Jewish connection to the Land suggesting instead that Israel was a consolation prize given by the Europeans because of Holocaust guilt (confirming the myth pervading the Arab world that Israelis are merely colonial invaders with no history in the Land), focused on his plan to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and empathized with Palestinian suffering (which he compared to Jewish suffering under the Nazis) without making one reference to the suffering of the Israelis who have endured years of Palestinian missile attacks, and buried more than a thousand men, women and children who died as a result of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Or perhaps it’s because he supports the so-called 2002 ‘Arab Peace Initiative’, which demands that Israel return to the 1949 armistice lines (what Abba Eban once termed “Auschwitz borders”), give up half of Jerusalem and permit Arab refugees and their millions of descendants to move to Israel effectively making Jews a minority in their own country – in return for Arab promises of “normalization” - whatever that means.
Or perhaps it’s because (despite pledges to the contrary) he has rejected virtually every Israeli request for U.S. weapons platforms, delayed decisions by the former Bush administration to deliver attack helicopters, air transports, and Hellfire air-to-ground missiles, imposed an embargo on equipment needed in Israel’s Dimona nuclear reactor, and diverted promised bunker-buster bombs from Israel to a military base in Diego Garcia to insure that Israel wouldn’t attack Iran’s nuclear facilities without his blessing – something unlikely to be given.1
Or perhaps it’s because he’s spent the past year-and-a-half dithering with Israel’s arch-enemy Iran over inspection procedures for its nuclear weapons program, while allowing critical deadlines to pass without serious consequences – this, to a regime that threatens to annihilate Israel, establish a Middle East Shiite caliphate, is absolutely committed to replacing the U.S. as the new hegemon in the Middle East, and is on the brink of achieving a nuclear bomb.
Or perhaps it’s because he resisted Congressional efforts to pass unilateral economic sanctions against Iran for over a year, before ultimately giving in to Congressional pressure.
Or perhaps, it’s because the Israelis view his overtures to Iran’s messianic, apocalyptic regime as not only na?ve but dangerous (since it has created the perception of American weakness in the minds our enemies as well as our friends), a betrayal of the Iranian people’s struggle for freedom, and as signaling Washington's diminishing resolve to confront terrorism by rewarding groups and countries that sponsor it.
Or perhaps it’s because of his constant coddling of Syria by appointing a new U.S. ambassador to a country that not only arms Hezbollah, trains and exports terrorists to Iraq, allows foreign terrorist organizations to set up shop in Damascus, snuffs out Lebanon’s embryonic democratic revolution, assassinates its pro-democracy leaders, establishes a military alliance with Iran, suppresses criticism by filling its prisons with political prisoners, journalists, and human rights activists, and has massacred hundreds of Syrian Kurds with Turkish and Hezbollah help while the U.S. administration has remained silent.
Or perhaps it’s because it took three visits to the White House by Israel’s PM before he condescended (under pressure from Democratic Congressmen and Senators who fear being decimated in the upcoming November elections) to “make nice” to Netanyahu after humiliating the man on his previous visits.
Or perhaps it’s because, in the immediate aftermath of the Gaza flotilla incident (according to the Globes News Service), Netanyahu was instructed by his officials not to come to Washington for his scheduled visit because he didn’t want Netanyahu to use the White House as a stage upon which to present Israel’s side of the flotilla story lest it interfere with his engagement efforts with the Muslim world.
Or perhaps, it’s because his Administration is resisting attempts by the Senate to investigate the Turkish terrorist front, the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (I.H.H.) - and possibly classify it as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO) – an organization that is known to have extensive ties both to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AK) party and with Hamas, and was responsible for the deadly May 31st violence against Israeli Navy commandos on the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship that, upon investigation, happens to have been carrying no humanitarian aid at all.
Or perhaps it’s because the Israelis simply don’t trust a man who is so concerned about political correctness that, rather than trying to delegitimize Islamic extremism by empowering moderate Islamic voices and contesting extremist narratives, he hedges or ignores the problem by issuing an internal gag order directing his Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano to refer to it as “man-caused disasters” and directs his Attorney General, Eric Holder to skirt around the words "radical Islam" or “jihad” at a House Judiciary Committee hearing (when referring to the Fort Hood massacre, and the Christmas Day and Time Square bombing attempts) for fear of offending Muslim sensitivities.
Or perhaps it’s because both in the Feb. 1, 2010 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review and the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the words “terrorism” and “violent extremism” are mentioned, but no mention is made in any context of radical Islam as a motivating factor.
Or perhaps, it’s because when the Department of Homeland Security Domestic Extremist Lexicon listed Jewish extremism and various forms of Christian extremism as threats, it made not one mention of any form of Muslim extremism, leaving the Israelis to ponder how the U.S. intends to defeat an enemy it’s afraid to identify.
Or perhaps, they question the wisdom of an Administration determined to make terrorism a law enforcement issue, and try enemy combatants like 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in civilian courts as opposed to military tribunals for crimes relating to the jihadist war against the West.
Or perhaps it’s because they’re concerned when the President sends U.S. generals to train and build a Palestinian army, which may very well turn their weapons against Israeli soldiers... and civilians.
Or perhaps it’s because he has travelled to Riyadh, Amman, Istanbul, Ankara and Cairo, but has yet to visit Israel as President, and hesitates to do so until after November though having been invited by Prime Minister Netanyahu on July 6th.
Or perhaps it’s because he ended the U.S. boycott of the UN Human Rights Council (that has spent 90% of its time vilifying Israel) in the na?ve belief that he can moderate it’s positions – a pipedream given that the Council is controlled by dictators, despots and tyrants whose interests are diametrically opposed to those of the U.S. and Israel. As Anne Bayefsky writes: “American engagement with the Council is not simply an exercise in futility. The Council is a place where non-democracies have the run of the place, while Israel is forced to operate at a disadvantage. With its active participation in meetings that deliberately exclude only Israelis, the Obama administration is promoting human wrongs, not protecting human rights.”
Or perhaps it’s because of his apparent abandonment of a 40-year understanding between the U.S. and Israel over maintaining Israel’s ambiguity about its reported nuclear arsenal by failing to veto an Egyptian proposal last May during the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NTP) review conference in New York – a proposal calling for a General Conference in September on a “nuclear-free Middle East” that’s expected to single-out Israel so its nuclear facilities can be exposed - regardless of the fact that NPT signatories like Iran, North Korea and Syria have reneged on their own obligations and, in the case of North Korea, proliferated nuclear technology around the Middle East.
Or perhaps it’s because of Israeli fears that he will force Israel into making nuclear concessions as part of any deal the U.S. might strike with Iran on its nuclear program, or worse, will blame Israel for rejecting such a deal when Iran goes nuclear.
Or perhaps it’s because he bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia last spring – viewed in the Arab world as an act of fealty to the king of a nation that treats women like chattels, forbids the public practice of any religion other than Islam, permits floggings, amputations, and executions by beheading and stoning, imposes imprisonment or death on homosexuals in accordance with strict Islamic law, and has spent an estimated $100B of our petro-dollars over the past 25 years spreading radical Islamic doctrine globally– not to mention having educated 15 of the 19 September 11th terrorists at Saudi-funded Islamist universities and madrasses in Saudi Arabia and around the world.
Or perhaps it’s because he constantly blames Israel for the lack of progress in bringing peace to the Middle East despite the fact that the Palestinians have been offered statehood many times and have rejected each offer; have failed to keep one single promise they made since the Oslo Accords, and have rejected every compromise that would have required them to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
Or perhaps it’s because senior Administration officials have commented that American soldiers in the Middle East were being targeted because of the failure to end the Arab-Israeli conflict - comments implying that Israel may be more of a strategic liability to the U.S. than a strategic asset.
Or perhaps it’s because Israelis are frustrated by senior Administration officials who continue to equate the IRA with Hamas without recognizing that the latter is a jihadist organization seeking to create an Islamic state in place of Israel, while it was never the desire of the IRA to deny Britain’s right to exist, to conquer it, and to force its population to submit to Catholicism.
Or perhaps, in line with the above thinking, it’s because his chief national security advisor for counter-terrorism, John Brennan (no doubt motivated by the belief that Hamas’s Islamist zeal can be moderated through dialogue and more concessions) is holding not-so-secret meetings with Hamas and Hezbollah to lay the foundations for a new U.S. policy the President is expected to initiate after the November elections (of course) that would remove both terrorist organizations from the Foreign Terrorist Organization list opening the door to an Iranian base of operations on Israel’s borders.
Or perhaps it’s because of his endless series of demands for more and more concessions from Israel while there are never consequences for the Palestinians who continually break their commitments such as ending the incitement of hatred against Jews and Israel or promoting terrorism. Though Abbas has shaken hands all around in Washington, D.C., the incitement at home continues.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because of the President’s $400M pledge in aid, a significant amount of which will be used in Hamas-controlled Gaza – the effect of which will be to empower Hamas, legitimize its position, assist in its recruitment and fundraising efforts, facilitate its takeover of the West Bank, and solidify its control over Gaza without regard to the fact that it’s a genocidal Islamist terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction and serves as Iran’s proxy in the Middle East.
The President may think that his single-digit approval ratings in Israel are simply because his middle name is “Hussein”, but he’s wrong. The Israelis have plenty of reasons to distrust the man and his promise of an “unbreakable bond” between our two countries. When Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Obama says (as he did in May) "We screwed up", he’s right. From the Israeli perspective, Obama's been doing everything possible to break that bond for the past year and a half. In reality, his middle name could have been “Smith” and the Israelis would still distrust him because his actions have spoken louder than his words, and no charm offensive or eloquence can change that perception. It’s the substance and the results of his policies that count for them not his name, and by that standard, he’s come up short on the issue of trust.
1. In July, successfully conducted a test of the new Iron Dome mobile missile-defense shield designed to protect Israeli towns and cities from incoming short and medium-range enemy missile attacks. Half the cost of the system (which is extremely expensive to produce and (unfortunately) will not be deployed until November at the earliest) is being borne by the U.S. The U.S. also provides 50% of the funding for two other Israeli missile-defense systems - Arrow and David's Sling.
The apparent contradiction suggests that while the U.S. Administration may be supportive of Israel’s critical need to defend itself from enemy missile attacks, it is seeking to restrict Israel’s access to offensive weapons and weapons systems that would enable it to strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities preemptively.
Mark Silverberg is a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, a past Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (Western Office) based in Vancouver, and served as a Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada.
Why have former U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Lawrence Korb (who served under Caspar Weinberger), former U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dennis DeConcini, Ronald Reagan's National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former Deputy Attorney-General Philip Heymann, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, 39 U.S. Congressmen, 18 U.S. ex-Senators and even the European Parliament (on September 16th, 1993) repeatedly called for Pollard’s sentence to be commuted. The answer, quite simply, is because Pollard’s punishment did not fit his crime.
When Samuel Huntington wrote his 1996 book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, many in the Western political arena considered it unnecessarily provocative - that is, until a beautiful Tuesday morning in New York City on September 11, 2001. The tragedy of 9/11 should have mandated a fundamental re-assessment of Western policies towards the Arab world. Instead, we continue to base our policies on delusions of our own making rather than on the dangerous evolving realities that confront us in that region.
While fear of reprisal is both psychologically understandable and perhaps even morally defensible, Europe's turning the other cheek on Hezbollah will not deter this terrorist organization from conducting future terrorist attacks on its soil. So long as it remains blind to Hezbollah's conducting business as usual throughout the continent, it is guilty not just of hypocrisy, but of passive complicity in it's attacks on innocent civilians. Inaction on the part of the EU will transform Europe into a free-fire zone, and Europeans will not be exempt from the slaughters that will ensue regardless of how long they continue to bury their heads in the sand.
Abbas may have opened Pandora's Box by claiming a pyrrhic victory on “statehood” without understanding the consequences of his actions. Should Hamas (and its Iranian benefactor) seize control of the PA on the West Bank and begin arming itself with missiles as occurred in Gaza, the result will be war. Israel will never permit the establishment of a genocidal Islamic regime entrenched a mere eight miles from its major population centers. Given the existential nature of this threat, the issue will no longer be the extension of Israeli sovereignty over the cities and towns of Area C, but the formal abrogation of the Oslo Accords, a massive IDF invasion of the West Bank, the overthrow of the Hamas-led PA regime, and the return of the West Bank to pre-Oslo Israeli military control.