Israel to Kerry: Back Off
Obama utterly disdains the Israelis.
By Jed Babbin
January 20, 2014
April is the deadline John Kerry has set for himself. By then he aims to negotiate a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians. He’s been at it for six months, to the dismay of pretty much everyone, especially the Israelis.
Last week, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon blew his stack at Kerry. Yaalon said, in conversations with American and Israeli officials, that Kerry “operates from an incomprehensible obsession and a sense of messianism — can’t teach me anything about the conflict with the Palestinians.” He added, “The American plan for security arrangements that was shown to us isn’t worth the paper it was written on.”
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney responded, saying “The remarks of the Israeli defense minister, if accurate, are offensive and inappropriate especially in light of everything that the United States is doing to support Israeli’s security needs.” You can read that two ways. What Yaalon said in characterizing Kerry and his actions is entirely accurate.
Yaalon’s remarks — for which he later apologized unnecessarily — are a clear indication that, contrary to Obama’s insistence, the gap between Israel and America is very wide and is getting wider. To fully understand that gap — and why Kerry and Obama are making the situation vastly worse — we need to give it some context.
The context begins and ends with Obama and his utter disdain for the Israelis and everything that has to do with what had been, until Obama, the one ally we had in the Middle East. Obama’s mindset, expectedly shared by his cabinet and other representatives, is that it’s always the Israelis who are the obstacle to peace, whether it’s peace with the Palestinians or peace with Iran.
Obama’s Islamocentric foreign policy has been evident since before his election. Obama has always regarded Israel with disdain, a fact that has been evidenced repeatedly by his — and his cabinet members’ — actions. The disdain is not just his personal dislike for Prime Minister Netanyahu: it’s much deeper.
For example, Bob Gates, in his memoir Duty, recounts a January 2010 memo he sent to National Security Advisor Jim Jones proposing a meeting with Obama on a possible Israeli attack on Iran and whether we’d help Israel, hinder it, or do nothing. Obama closed the resulting meeting, saying he was making no decision.
In March 2010, when Joe Biden visited Israel, the Israelis announced the construction of new housing in Jerusalem, angering Obama enormously. At the time, the White House evidently believed it was more dangerous for the Israelis to build a few apartments in the West Bank than for the Palestinians and Hezbollah to fire missiles at Israeli civilians. In a White House meeting later that month, Obama presented Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands to reduce American anger with Israel and then abruptly left the meeting to have dinner elsewhere in the White House, telling Netanyahu, “I’m still around. Let me know if there’s anything new.”
Never before or since has the prime minister of any nation been treated so harshly in the White House.
In December 2011, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians had to be solved by Israel getting back to the “damn [negotiating] table.” And now we have an unprecedented scolding of John Kerry by one of Israel’s top ministers.
The Israelis have to tolerate Obama’s preaching and Kerry’s lectures, but only up to a point. That point has been reached.
Consider Yaalon’s remark that the American plan for security arrangements isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. But what is the plan? We already know it in detail.
In May 2011, the day before Netanyahu came to Washington to confer on precisely those points, Obama gave a speech in which he declared that Israel should go back to its pre-1967 war borders, adjusted for land swaps to meet their needs and the Palestinians’. This is the plan that Kerry presented to Yaalon.
And there is certainly no difference in Israel’s position, announced immediately after Obama’s 2011 speech, that the pre-1967 borders were indefensible. Not that they were questionable, not that they could be the basis for compromise: they are indefensible. Yaalon’s rejection of Obama’s plan is not new, nor should it be controversial.
The lack of controversy should result from the facts on the map. The pre-1967 borders would leave the terrorist Assad regime (or whichever jihadist group is running Syria if and when Assad falls) control of the Golan Heights and pretty much the entire West Bank area up through Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Israelis would have to get Palestinian government permission to go to their capital city.
There should be no controversy about Yaalon’s other remarks. Yaalon implied that he and other Israeli leaders are being lectured by Kerry who — by background and experience — is unequipped to lecture them on anything, much less their nearly seven decades of enduring attacks from Palestinian terrorists (such as Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip) and all its neighboring Arab states.
If Yaalon had the inclination, it should be he lecturing Kerry on the realities of those wars. I can understand his reluctance to do so. As Bill Buckley once said, you can’t argue with the invincibly ignorant.
This brings us to the intolerable lie of the week. Ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has been assuring us that he is a strong supporter of Israel, that our relationship with Israel is as solid as ever and that he will not do anything to weaken it. That is a lie, or at least three lies strung together in a ball of spin.
I keep going back to the Gates book because I just finished it and it’s fresh in my mind. The January 2010 Gates memo and meeting in which Obama memorably insisted on not deciding whether we’d support or oppose Israel in the event they attacked Iran presaged a series of events.
First is the campaign of hard pressure Obama has placed relentlessly on Israel to not attack Iran. Next was Obama’s refusal to sell Israel the penetrator bombs they’d need for an attack on some of Iran’s hardened nuclear sites. Third is one of the necessary effects of Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran which no one beyond this column has been willing to raise.
For the duration of the agreement — six months from January 21, to be renewed for as long as Obama is willing to let Iran do what it wishes — Israel’s hands are tied. They cannot attack Iran because to do so would pit them against the United States. Israel would become an outlaw nation, would find itself sanctioned by the UN and denied American aid which would be tied up or cut off entirely. It would be in danger of losing its last friend in the world.
Time is what the Iranians have needed, and time is what American presidents have been eager to give them. We know that the Iranians’ top nuclear negotiator says that they’d be able to reverse the effects of the Obama agreement in one day: that is, they’d be able to resume enriching uranium to 20% almost instantaneously. And we know that it is much easier — and much faster — to further enrich the 20% enriched uranium. It’s faster and easier to get from 20% to 50% and from 50% to 90% — weapons grade — than it was to get it to 20%.
George W. Bush gave Iran eight years to enrich uranium and develop and test the other technologies you need to build a nuclear weapon. Barack Obama has given them another five. And now he’s prevented the Israelis from denying them any more time.
The only difference between the threat Iran poses to Israel and the threat it poses to us is the geographic fact that Israel is closer. We are still, to Iran, the Great Satan, and they are as much at war with us now as they have been since they seized our Tehran embassy in 1979.
Israel is now more isolated and alone than it has ever been. We’ve gone from the time in 1973 when U.S. Air Force fighters were being armed and fueled to fly into the fight the Israelis seemed to be losing to this time, when we’re tying the Israelis hands. And it’s all based on the intolerable lie Obama is spinning, to wit that we’re still Israel’s best ally. Regarding Iran, we’re not pursuing our own interests, far less those of our allies.
Jed Babbin served as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense under George H.W. Bush. He is the author of several bestselling books including Inside the Asylum and In the Words of Our Enemies. You can follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin.