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Obama’s Timid Engagement Policy Endangers Israel

Published in The Kansas City Jewish Chronicle

In the tradition of the failed Jimmy Carter administration, Obama’s world travels during which he has apologized, bowed to, and applauded tyrants, kings and emperors have given Obama an appearance of weakness both to America’s allies and foes. The world and especially the Middle East is a dangerous neighborhood housing many of the world most brutal tyrants and regimes. Eventually, Obama own weakness will be perceived as America’s weakness. A perceived weak and timid US is not good for Israel or the world in general.

After ten months in office , several presumptions seem to emerge as guiding Obama’s foreign policy. The first is that the reason there is no peace in the Middle East is that US under President Bush has failed to become “ engaged” enough in Middle East diplomacy and was too pro- Israel and not an even handed mediator. Secondly, Obama believes that the U.S.’s arrogance,, cowboy diplomacy, and lack of engagement , humility and respect are to blame for the anti US hatred and terror in the Muslim and Arab world. Therefore, Obama has set out to improve America’s image in the world by being more liked than feared. Thirdly, like President Carter during his term, Obama believes that U.S. power is on the decline and therefore the U.S. should abrogate its moral leadership role in the world and resign itself to containing and appeasing evil regimes and tyrants rather than confronting or defeating them.

Immediately after his inauguration, Obama and his senior officials have repeatedly announced that bringing peace to the Arab- Israeli conflict and reaching out to the Arab and Moslem world are the keystones of US policy. As the newly elected leader of the free world, the first international leader Obama contacted was PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, a man who in 1982 wrote his PHD dissertation denying the holocaust and was no 2 to Arafat for 37 years as the leader of PLO, the worlds most notorious terrorist organization.. He then proceeded to embark on his “apology” tour of the Middle East. He first visited Turkey as the showcase of a Pro- Western , moderate Moslem country , and later on in another trip he visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia while, purposely skipping Israel. In Turkey and Egypt he gave two speeches , apologizing to the Moslem world for all the wrongs the US has committed against them , forgetting to mention the thousands of American soldiers whose lives have been lost protecting the Moslem people in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. He then bowed in front of King Abdullah applauding his “great wisdom”, a man who is the leader of a country in which women are not allowed to vote, drive, or go outside without a male relative.

During his second speech in Egypt, Obama began his public confrontation with Israel over his obsession with the mostly mythical controversy of “ settlement freeze” , characterizing settlements as “an obstacle to peace” , while ignoring the fact that Mahmoud Abbas rejected Olmert ‘s previous offer of peace and never even gave a counteroffer. In December 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas , in the presence of President Bush, an unprecedented peace proposal , in which the Palestinians would get a state in an area equivalent to 100% of the West Bank and a capital in the demographically Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

In response to Obama’s speech and to salvage the Israeli- US Relations, Prime Minister Nethanyahu, accepted in a public speech , the two state solution. Even though , no past Israeli Prime Minster of any party, including Rabin and Peres was willing to accept a complete freeze, Nethanyahu accepted a temporary settlement freeze in the major settlement block in the

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West Bank, following completion of new units in various stages of construction. In response , Obama became more irrationally hostile to Israel.

In the same week in which Obama bowed to the emperor of Japan, and applauded the Chinese tyrants , he treated the democratically elected Israeli Prime Minster with disrespect and humiliation. Since Nethanyahu was already coming to the US to give a speech to the UJC Assembly in Washington, DC, he asked the White House for a meeting to speak with Obama . But Obama, who advocates engaging with enemies, left the leader of an ally twisting in the wind for a few weeks before deciding to grant him an audience. Only when Nethanyahu boarded the airplane to the US was he informed that the meeting would happen. According to the Israeli newspapers, Netanyahu was brought to the White House in the middle of the night in unmarked van instead of a limousine ,and was ushered through a side door, rather than the front door, hardly befitting his status as the leader of an important ally. Moreover, Netanyahu was forbidden to have his picture taken with the President and was ordered to keep the contents of his meeting with the president a secret. Later , he was forced to leave alone through a side exit.

A week later , Obama publicly condemned an Israeli plan to expand Jerusalem’s Gilo neighborhood calling it “a settlement”, and causing an outraged response from such peacenicks as Israeli President Peres who began the Oslo Agreement and Israeli opposition leader Livni. It seems that Obama did not do his homework again. There is a consensus in Israel that Gilo is not a settlement ,since it is not in East Jerusalem , Arabs never lived there , and its houses weren’t built on private Arab land.

It seems that Obama’s cold policy toward Israel and warm engagement policies toward the Arab and Moslem world has not only reduced the excellent relations with Israel to levels unmatched since the days of James Baker in 1991 but has also failed to get any actual results or concessions from the Moslem or Arab world in return.

US efforts at restarting negotiations with the Palestinians, were set back by Obama’s exaggerated & unrealistic demand for a settlement freeze. As a result, Mahmoud Abbas who readily and frequently met with Olmert and six other Israeli prime ministers during the last 16 years without a settlement freeze, is playing hard to get and rejecting talks with Nethanyahu, expecting Obama to deliver a broken Israel.. While Abbas met Nethanyahu only once during Obama’s term, in 2008 under Bush, the Palestinian negotiators met 288 times with their Israelis counterparts ,and numerous meetings occurred between Abbas and Olmert. Abbas under Obama has become more radical, inciting against Israel over Jerusalem ,and working to maximize Israel bashing .

Moreover, a request that Obama himself delivered to King Abduallah and other Arab moderates during his Middle East encouraging them to, to reach out to Israel , by allowing over flights of their territories by Israeli planes, or opening trade offices , was rejected immediately and repeatedly.

It seems also that Obama engagement policy has failed in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran.

While the Bush administration regarded the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005 as one of its biggest success in the Middle East, the new Obama administration has been less than aggressive in its backing of the pro- US Lebanese government while it tries to appease Syria. Therefore, even though the Pro Western forces won the elections on June 7, they were forced to have a unity government with Hezbolah and give up their decisive majority in the government.

In order to coax Syria away from Iran, Obama reversed Bush policy and ended the policy of Syria’s isolation, despite their military support for Hamas , Hezbolah ,and militants in Iraq. Despite the many visits to Syria by US senior officials as well as Saudis and Europeans, the US’s policy so far is failing .The Syrian president demonstratively visited Iran after the rigged presidential elections and just on Nov 3rd, Israel captured an Iranian vessel with 3000 rockets , heading to Syria with weapons destined to be transferred to Hezbolah. This is because Syria sees that the U.S. is failing in its Iran policy and ignoring Syria’s transgressions.

After the rigged June Iranian presidential elections, Obama was willing to ignore the brutal human rights violations the Iranian regime inflicted against their own people, while waiting for months for them to agree to start talks aimed at getting them to stop their nuclear weapons program. Now after almost two months of negotiations between Iran and the so- called P-5+1 group of U.S. , Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China which produced no results, Iran again has rejected the group’s recent offer to ship most of its low enriched uranium out of the country to be enriched and converted to fuel rods by Russia and France and returned back to Iran after one year to be used peacefully. Further more, on Sunday the Iranian government announced publicly its plan to build 10 new uranium enrichment reactors.

Obama has warned that he intends to seek tougher sanctions early next year if Iran does not compromise, but it seems that Russia and China will not play along. According to German and Israeli Military Intelligence, Iran will have the fuel and knowledge to build two nuclear bombs in early 2010, and the International Energy Atomic Agency recently claimed that Iran has the technology to build nuclear warheads.

Obama must abandon his weak engagement policy and act now or help Israel to act before the nightmare of a nuclear Iran becomes a reality.