Friday, March 22, 2013

With a strong arm...

The visit of Pres. Obama to Israel got off to a fine start. Amid all the paegentry and effusive welcome there was some very significant symbolism.  First, the fact that he chose to visit Israel as the first foreign visit of his second term indicates strong support for Israel during the current crisis of the development by Iran of nuclear weapons and the instability and chaos in the Arab world, including Egypt and Syria, two of Israel's major Arab neighbors.  Such a visit and his statements of support must carry weight with Iranians and Muslim Brothers and other Islamists who think once they have taken over, or are intending to, that they can then turn their sights on Israel.  The strong arm of American power has been visibly extended to Israel.
The fact that immediately after arriving Obama chose to visit with the crew of an American-supported Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system was crucial to the symbolism of America's commitment to Israel's defense.  Israel is the first country on earth to be defended against missiles by an effective anti-missile system.  This played a crucial role in the 2011 Operation Pillar of Defense against the terrorist threat from Gaza and renders impotent most missile attacks against the Jewish State.  Obama stated categorically that Israel has the right to defend itself against any threat and PM Netanyahu emphasized that Israel will use this right alone if necessary, even without its best friend the USA.
Obama also visited the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Shrine of the Book in the Israel Museum that document the indissoluble link between the Jewish people and this land, where they exercised sovereignty over 3,000 years ago, a fact unique in history and certainly long before the Arabs came on the scene in ca. 700 ce.  Most commentators agree that in doing this Obama is trying to make up for the incredible mis-statement in his Cairo speech of 2001 when he attributed Israel's independence solely to the response to the Holocaust (Shoah).  By drawing attention to the linkage between Israel's ancient history and today he is undermining the current delegitimization campaign that is being conducted in the West mostly by misguided liberals. 
While Iran is undoubtedly the primary subject of the discussions between Obama and PM Netanyahu, with Syria a close second, Obama also spoke about the need for a "two state solution."  While some of us are highly sceptical of any Palestinian intention or capability to engage in meangingful negotiations, nevertheless, both Pres. Peres and PM Netanyahu committed Israel to a peaceful two state solution.  Pres. Obama visited Ramallah where he met with Pres. Abbas and engaged in discussions regarding future negotiations.  He spoke out against any precondisitons to talks, yet he himself was responsible in his first term for the Palestinian leader using a building moratorium on the West Bank as an excuse and precondition to avoid actual negotiations.  Now is their opportunity, if the Palestinains don't take it, then the new Government of Israel, with Bayit Yehudi a major Coalition partner, will undoubtledly expand settlement building in the West Bank.
In his speech to the students at the Jerusalem Convention Center, Obama was characteristically articulate and spoke of America's unrelenting committment to supporting Israel.  No Israeli could have expected more effusive support.  But, then he broke into his typcial liberal's wishful thinking of equating the two sides in his paean to the "two-state solution."  He obviously thinks that is the only viable solution and he regards the Palestinians as being roughty the same as Israel, and they are not.  This is not a symmetrical conflict, Israel is a viable thriving democracy and the Palestinians are a divided autocratic violent society.  He was naieve in touting Pres. Abbas and PM Fayyad as "partners for peace" and he still considers all Israeli settlements as impediments to peace, while in fact Israel's presence in the West Bank is not an "occupation" but it is in fact our right to be in that land.
Hopefully the two democracies will coordinate their plans for potential action against Iran, depending on its progress towards nuclearization.  Even if there were "frosty" relations between the two leaders before, hopefully that phase is now over and they will act together in the mutual interests of the two allies.  It seems that Obama's first term was his "Muslim phase" when he tried to curry favor with the Muslim world and bypassed Israel on his visit to the Middle East then. Perhaps he has learnt something since then, that the Muslim world is unstable and cannot be trusted, and his second term is now his "Israel phase" in which the alliance between the USA, the greatest power in the world, and Israel, the greatest power in the Middle East, is the fulcrum of his foreign policy.


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