American Elephants

Obama’s Pursuit of the “Peace Process” Ends Predictably. by The Elephant's Child

Walter Russell Mead writing in the American Interest on May 25, said that President Obama has three times taken on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and three times he has failed miserably.

Where [Obama] has failed so dramatically is in the arena he himself has so frequently identified as vital: the search for peace between Palestinians and Israelis. His  record of grotesque, humiliating and total diplomatic failure in his dealings with Prime Minister Netanyahu has few parallels in American history. Three times he has gone up against Netanyahu; three times he has ingloriously failed. This last defeat—Netanyahu’s deadly, devastating speech to Congress in which he eviscerated President Obama’s foreign policy to prolonged and repeated standing ovations by members of both parties—may have been the single most stunning and effective public rebuke to an American President a foreign leader has ever delivered.

Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla—or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.

Mead, I should add, is a Democrat who voted for Obama.  Obama’s policies have been rooted in the idea that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the primary reason for unrest and problems in the Middle East. He is wrong. President Obama has made no secret of his attitude towards Mr. Netanyahu and Israel, and many in the administration are known for their opposition to Israel. Scholar Stanley Kurtz has documented President Obama’s extensive Palestinian ties. The faculty lounge is not the place to develop foreign policy.

The “Arab spring” is unrelated to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Young educated middle class Arabs who communicate through Twitter and Facebook want democracy and liberty. Canadian journalist David Warren pointed out several years ago, that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the pictures of Iraqis, and Iraqi women, voting in free elections was like an earthquake in the Middle East. Iraq is a model, and Arabs want that freedom.  But there is a long way between protests in the street and a new form of government.  The Muslim Brotherhood is influential and organized.

What will come of the protests in the Middle East, no one knows. The administration has misunderstood the dynamics there, but Arab nations are a puzzle to Americans. We don’t understand dictators.

The protests in Tunisia began with a man who self-immolated after the government repeatedly refused to allow him to sell vegetables from his cart, his only way of making a living.  The Middle East is a place of conspiracy, suspicion, authoritarianism, deceit and guile and absolute brutality.

The administration had Syria’s Assad pegged as a potential reformer, and sent Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Nancy Pelosi off, separately, to visit. Who knew Assad would have his army shooting citizens in funeral procession as they carried the bodies of their executed friends to the cemetery. The malevolence of  a despot who intends to remain in power is beyond our understanding.

The administration does not grasp the relationship between the people of United States and Israel. Walter Russell Mead captures that as well. The ideas of the faculty lounge don’t translate well into foreign policy. Mead said:

As the stunning and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Congress showed, Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth.  Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul.  The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism.  The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America. …Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith.  Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ God,

These juxtaposed images of a young Bibi Netanyahu and a young Barack Obama demonstrate the life experiences and outlook of the two men. Bibi Netanyahu did not, as some say,”lecture” to the American president. He explained, with deep passion, the position of Israel. Obama seemed not enlightened, but angry.

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