A new Knesset was sworn in this past week, after which Arab Members of Knesset walked out before the singing of HaTikva. Another Iron Dome anti-missile battery was set up in my neck-of-the-woods (the north now has 3 out of the 5 that exist) and orders were given to clear Haifa’s airport of aircraft. And, as if we didn’t have enough to deal with, guess who is coming for a visit.
President Obama’s tactical visit to Israel
It’s official: U.S. President Barack Hussein Obama is planning a visit to Israel and other places in the Middle East next month. Some here are happy, some are worried. But mostly, Israelis are skeptical. The last time Obama visited our region, in 2009, he chose to bypass Israel and ended up bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a “gesture” that generated much criticism in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Does President Obama’s visit here indicate a change of his policy towards Israel, or a means of furthering his first-term policy with different players from the U.S., namely Secretary of State, John Kerry, Pentagon chief, Chuck Hagel and CIA head, John Brennan? The earlier visit to this region reflected a worldview that focused on the “Palestinian” issue as being the cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict and of all of the literally explosive problems associated with that conflict. At best, Israel was considered as an ally, but not a primary one. At worst, Israel was viewed as an on-going nuisance that needed to be tolerated, at least for the then immediately foreseeable future. Now, four years later, it is clear that none of Mr. Obama’s Middle East perspectives have panned out. And, if he was paying attention, he would have come to the realization that, despite all the talk and Arab propaganda, the primary concern of leaders in the few relatively “stable” Arab countries in this area is the Iranian nuclear threat and not the “Palestinian” issue. Most of them well understand the mentality of the players in this region and recognize that the sand is about to run out on the Iranian time clock. This, coupled with the added reality of the fading Arab Spring and steadily increasing Islamic Winter, must lead the U.S. to the conclusion that the only genuine, democratic, military, economic and industrial ally of the U.S. in the Middle East is Israel. The only “win-win” scenario for both the U.S. and Israel is a recognition that mutual regional, as well as global, threats should unite both countries in strategic cooperation. The U.S. should also see Israel as a friend and primary ally, who, from a worldly point of view, has the knowledge, experience and ability to deal with threats and intimidation from the likes of Iran, Hamas and the Hizb’allah, as well as other growing power sources in the Middle East – a reality that should facilitate a desire on the part of the U.S. for closer, mutually-beneficial strategic cooperation with Israel. Such cooperation would also act as somewhat of a deterrent, however slight it might be, to Iran’s fanatical desire to bring about Islamic world domination through nuclear threat and military might.
So, the question of the day is whether Mr. Obama will continue with his failed perception and perspective of the Middle East, or whether he will embark on a new endeavor to strengthen the ties between our two countries. Both Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were both successful in the recent elections held in their respective countries. If Netanyahu succeeds in putting together a coalition government, both men will be stuck with each other for the next four years, a sobering reality that should lead them to strengthen their relationship with one another.
From theory to reality
It is much easier to believe what politicians do than what they say. Campaign promises do not always find fulfillment in legislative enactments. Gestures of strengthening friendships could turn into veiled intimidation and blatant efforts to exert pressure on one’s friends, to accomplish a one-sided objective. This is a reality of politics and power. Much depends on who has it and desires to exercise it.
In view of the efforts if various U.S. administrations, including the one just concluded, there is a realistic concern on the part of the Israeli “Right” that the real purpose of this visit is to pressure Israel to stop building settlements and to get derailed “peace talks back on track. If, in fact, their understanding is correct, then part of that pressure would be demand, as opposed to request, that P.M. Netanyahu agree to the pre-conditions for a resumption of talks laid down by the “Palestinians”, namely that Israel stop building over the Green Line, at least while “peace talks” are going on. This is not a new demand on the part of the “Palestinians”. It will be recalled that Netanyahu had agreed to a 10-month construction freeze, but that gesture did not result in the “Palestinian Authority” agreeing to renew negotiations and Netanyahu rightfully refused to agree to another construction freeze in areas of Judea and Samaria that the P.A. wants for an independent state. An article in leftist Israeli daily this week hinted that there might be a change in Israel’s policy regarding settlement construction, but the government denied that there was any change in its policy, which it has maintained for the last two years.