There are ominous vibes emanating from Washington signaling impending confrontations between the Obama administration and the incoming Netanyahu government.
Over recent weeks the administration has appointed to senior government postings, personnel with track records of hostility towards Israel such James Jones and Samantha Power.
But what utterly shocked friends of Israel was the selection of former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Chas Freeman, to head the National Intelligence Council. Freeman, who will determine what intelligence is to be presented to the president and personally attend his intelligence briefings, is a bitter foe of Israel. Until now he actually headed the Saudi-funded Middle East Policy Council where he justified Palestinian terror against Israel and even tried to rationalize Hamas behavior. Last year he accused the Bush administration of “supporting right wing Israeli governments to undo the Oslo Accords and to pacify the Palestinians rather than make peace with them”. He also dismissed the two state solution as too little and too late “because what is on offer looks to Palestinians more like an Indian reservation than a country”.
There were also disconcerting statements from George Mitchell, Obama’s Middle East envoy. Some Israelis recollect that in the course of his involvement in the region during the Clinton era, his obsessive even-handedness resulted in an inability to distinguish between terrorists and victims. His failed 2001 plan was a classic manifesto of moral equivalency, repeating mantras about cycles of violence and condemning both sides equally for lacking restraint.
Hitherto, the US administration and Israel agreed not to negotiate with Hamas unless it unequivocally reneged on its objective to destroy the Jewish state. Mitchell has now planted the seeds for a confrontation with the incoming Netanyahu government by asserting that the divisions between the two Palestinian factions represent a major obstacle towards achieving a settlement and urged Hamas and Fatah to unite. He failed to explain the benefits of submerging the weaker Fatah into the more powerful Iranian proxy whose extremism matches that of the Taliban.
THERE ARE other troubling signals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is providing Gaza with close to a billion-dollar bailout to be transferred through tainted bodies like UNWRA which will unquestionably strengthen Hamas. Clinton also angrily insists that Israel open border crossings, dismissing the fact that Gilad Schalit remains incarcerated and that Hamas continues launching missiles and shooting at Israelis.
Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman John Kerry ominously suggested that while ultimately Israel must decide, the US would try to steer its ally in a direction that was good for Israel and the international community. Congressman Gary Ackerman, chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, until now a strong supporter of Israel, made bizarre remarks bracketing “the same destructive dynamic which creates terrorism and the march of settlements and outposts” and “leads to the firing of rockets and perpetration of settler pogroms.” Democrat Congressman Robin Baird urged the administration to reassess aid to Israel to pressure the new government.
Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurzer, a long-standing Obama Middle East adviser, warned that “a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu which included Avigdor Lieberman would be a bad combination for American interests” which would be loath to “embrace a government that included a politician who was defined as a racist.”
BUT THE GREATEST shock was the initial decision by the administration to participate “for the time being” in the preparatory committee for the Durban II conference, scheduled in Geneva on April 20. The original Durban “anti racism” conference in 2001 was a vile anti-Semitic hate fest boycotted by the Bush Administration. The Durban II Preparatory Committee is under the auspices of the Orwellian named UN Human Rights Commission, an evil body dominated by a coven of Moslem states and tyrannical regimes creating an obscene parody of human rights.
The committee is currently chaired by Libya, whose president accused Israel of responsibility for the genocide in Darfur and also recently recommended that Israeli Jews be resettled in Alaska. Iran and Cuba are deputy chairs. The drafts for Durban II reaffirm the call to delegitimize Israel, the only country singled out for human rights violations. The Jewish state is defined as a “foreign occupation founded on settlements, and operated by laws based on racist discrimination… a contemporary form of apartheid and a security threat to international peace”.
The Canadians last year announced that they would boycott Durban. The US may have done likewise had our confused Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni not prevaricated and naively hinted that Israel might yet participate if the organizers changed course.
It was thus disgraceful that after seven years of the US treating this vile body as a pariah, aware that global anti-Semitism was at an all time high, the Obama administration dispatched a delegation to the preparatory committee. They did so under no illusions that the organizers could be persuaded to alter their disgusting program.
Anne Bayefsky, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, detailed on her Web site (www.EyeontheUN.org) the utterly demeaning and groveling manner in which the US delegation did raise concerns about efforts to muzzle freedom of speech (such as the use of allegations of Islamophobia to block all criticism of Islam), about demands to criminalize profiling, and about discrimination based on sexual orientation. But inexplicably, they remained absolutely silent concerning the vile references to Israel in the drafts and even failed to respond when invited to comment about Iranian objections against a European proposal to condemn Holocaust denial.
The passive participation of the United States at a gathering dominated by anti-Semites whose objective is to “reaffirm the Durban Declaration” was shameful and legitimized the resurrection of the hate fest by this wretched group. Bayefsky was justified in accusing the Obama administration of abandoning and betraying Israel as well as sacrificing basic American values in order to conform to the new policy of reaching out to Iranians and other extremist bodies.
Confronted by an eruption of public indignation, the administration subsequently withdrew from this despicable forum. But enormous damage has already been incurred, and some European countries who initially intended absenting themselves may still participate.
Although the jury is still out, we face difficult times. If in order to obtain accolades from the Arab world, the Obama Administration is planning to distance itself from Israel or pressure her into making concessions which undermine her basic security needs, we must maintain a united front and stand firm.
Our American Jewish allies and friends of Israel must gird themselves for new challenges. In contrast to the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush eras when support of Israel was synonymous with US policy, they may now find themselves conflicting with a powerful administration intent on distancing itself from Israel. They are also being undermined by a minority of noisy renegade Jews who shamelessly lobby the administration to employ what they describe as “tough love,” a code message for threatening Israel with sanctions if it does not obey their demands for further unilateral concessions. American Jewish leaders now face the challenge of convincing a hopefully pragmatic President Obama – whom they overwhelmingly supported in the election – that appeasing an Iranian terrorist proxy and prematurely creating a Palestinian state controlled by Jihadists can only undermine prospects for peace and harm US interests.
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