“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is t bring them the real facts.” –Abraham Lincoln
By Barry Rubin
President Barack Obama is campaigning on the claim that he is Israel’s great friend despite the fact that this is obviously untrue. Most recently he hasn’t responded to the new coalition government between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, a genocidally oriented terrorist group that is openly antisemitic and rejects all of the agreements with Israel made in the last 20 years.
In fact, it is only the extremism of the region’s radical regimes and movements in refusing to accept the deals he offers them that has prevented Obama from being a disaster for Israel. Meanwhile, great damage is done to U.S. and Western interests.
Nobody wants to say this, and no one in any Israeli government should do so, but they know Israel cannot depend on the Obama Administration for real support.
Still, a strategy in which Israeli leaders say nice things about Obama, try to be as cooperative as possible, and are patient—while doing what needs to be done directly—has worked out precisely because the Obama Administration’s policies were wrong.
For example, the U.S. effort to engage with Iran failed due to Iranian behavior. The same applies to the White House’s pro-Syrian policy. And the administration’s ham-handed effort to push forward the Israel-Palestinian peace process also became a mess that Obama had to abandon.
Eventually the same thing will happen with the Muslim Brotherhood when sufficient evidence of its radicalism and anti-Americanism accumulates that even the White House can no longer ignore.
Consider this example of how the pattern works.
In 2010 the Palestinian Authority (PA) made it clear that it would go to the UN to demand unilateral independence. The Obama Administration should have leaped into action and made it clear that the PA would P-A-Y in financial and strategic terms unless it stopped an action violating every agreement it ever signed and would permanently destroy the peace process permanently. (As if its three-year-long unpunished refusal to negotiate with Israel wasn’t sufficient.)
Instead, the administration did nothing. Only at the last moment did opposition by key European states stop the UN recognition process and saved Obama from having to cast a veto. This is now supposed to be counted as a great achievement for Obama in supporting Israel. There is still, however, a parallel issue that also began to be manifested in more than a year ago: the PA (Fatah)-Hamas alliance. Again, month after month the Obama Administration did nothing as another peace-killing, commitment-breaking PA strategy unfolded.
Almost a year ago, we were assured that funding would be cut off to the PA if this continued. Yet moves toward a coalition went on with no Western action. Now we have entered a new phase with an agreement for an interim unity government being made in Qatar. Hamas, of course, rejects Israel’s existence and both favors and continues to practice (if only through smaller groups it allows to do so in the Gaza Strip) terrorism.
What was the reaction of the Obama Administration to this deal? The State Department called it an “internal matter for the Palestinians.” The fact is that it is U.S. aid and political clout that keeps the PA an international factor just as covert Israeli protection largely saves it from being overthrown by Hamas.
The State Department statement continues:
“Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence. It must recognize the state of Israel and it must accept the previous agreements and obligations between the parties, including the road map.”
European governments took a similar stance.
But Hamas hasn’t does this and won’t do it, despite the nonsense dredged up by various writers about Hamas or its leaders being or becoming moderate.
Indeed, even the current PA government doesn’t accept ‘previous agreements and obligations” because it has sought unilateral independence without negotiations, repeatedly rejected talks, continued to spread official incitement to violence against Israelis, and made a government coalition with Hamas. Indeed, Fatah’s brand-new official Facebook page shows all of Israel as Palestine and glorifies terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians. Despite all of its shortcomings, Israel must work with the PA on avoiding war and minimizing conflict. But a peace agreement and a resolution of the conflict? Forget it. That was true in 2000 and a dozen years later it should be–though for many, isn’t–incredibly obvious.
All of this, then, will be ignored. Will this stance lead to disaster? Probably not. Ironically, we are repeatedly saved by the “honesty’ of our enemies or, more accurately, their passion of their ideology; extremism of their views; their over-confidence; strategic shortsightedness; internal quarrels; and need to tell their own people precisely what they think in order to mobilize support.
In this case, the truth is that Hamas and Fatah are fundamentally incompatible if only because each wants total power for itself. The agreement will probably fall apart and no new elections will be held. And once again we will be told that the policy succeeded. And in a sense it will be true, albeit only if one can depend on one’s enemies to mess up the opportunities they have been given.
But at what cost?
Why does the PA want a deal with Hamas so badly? The PA (and its Fatah rulers) prefers unity with the Islamists to peace with Israel and needs a single government to continue pursuing unilateral independence. In addition, however, it recognizes that the Islamists are the rising force in the region. If the U.S. government is appeasing the Muslim Brotherhood, the PA needs to be on the side of its own local Brotherhood branch.
Of course, all this means that peace is further away; that the Islamists and radical forces become more powerful; anti-Americanism, ironically funded by the Americans, soars; tens of million of people–often due to their own choice–are ruled by even worse tyrannies; U.S. and Western interests in the Middle East are weakened; while violence and instability are more likely.
Obama’s pyrrhic “victories” are welcomed by all the pyromaniacs in the Middle East. Here’s how one of the greatest books ever written about politics and international affairs explains the situation: “On every side the wicked roam when vileness is exalted.” (Psalm 12)
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com