By Barry  Rubin
It is remarkable how supporters of Obama’s Middle East policy are forced back onto wishful thinking and total projection based on new evidence. For example, in response to my critique of Obama’s strategy one reader writes:

I have a feeling that Obama will get an acknowledgement from PA to recognize right of Israel to exists and a cease violence so the 2 state solution can go forward.

Note the expression, “I have a feeling.” In other words, a subjective emotion rather than anything that has been observed in the actual world.

The PA, of course, recognized Israel’s right to exist (well, actually the PLO as the framework for creating the PA) 18 years ago in the Oslo agreement of 1993. So getting that wouldn’t be much of an achievement. BUT Fatah leaders have repeatedly stated that their group has not recognized and will never recognize Israel’s right to exist based on the excuse that the PA is the body to do so. But we all know what that means. Moreover, Hamas will never do so and it is now part (perhaps temporarily) of the PA.

Finally, the hope that the PA will agree to “cease violence.” Again, that was the basis of the Oslo agreement and the PA has not implemented it. There was a five-year-long intifada and a series of riots and terrorist attacks promoted by the PA with every means at its disposal.

The problem is not to get the PA to make promises — and it even often refuses to do that — but to implement the promises. Israel’s dilemma is that if it gives a lot of territory and returns close to the 1967 border, Palestine is then a state and can do what it wants. Israel would then be dependent on Obama’s support — a thin reed — and its own military. It would not be better off than it is now and would arguably be worse off.

Another reader writes:

Obama has already been twisting Europe to get up to plate thru NATO…He has given the PA ultimatums about taking their proposal to the UN. He knows Israel is AR only ally in the Mideast.

Let’s consider this:

A. Britain, France, Italy, and Germany all announced they would vote against unilateral independence before Obama did anything. He didn’t twist their arms; they took the lead.

B. There is no evidence that Obama has tried to twist anyone’s arm in Europe on this issue. Quite the opposite, he’s tried to get them to endorse his program of: We’ll get Palestine independence real fast so they don’t need to go to the UN. In other words, it is an appeasement strategy.

C. No, he has not given “ultimatums”; he’s just said he’s against it and will vote against it. In saying that, he’s assuming that it will go to the UN. An ultimatum is when you threaten someone with serious consequences unless they give in. He has not done so.

D. “He knows Israel is [our] only ally in the Mideast.” This is the most interesting sentence of all. No public action Obama has taken demonstrates that in any way. We only have the ritual pro-Israel statements. And such things as continued good military relations are not expressions of Obama’s personal views, but of Defense Department policies and sheer inertia.

In a sense, Obama’s strategy is like that of French President Charles de Gaulle in 1967, turning from a strong bilateral alliance with Israel to a policy of distancing oneself from Israel in a bid to win support from Arabs and Muslims. Of course, Obama cannot go so far as de Gaulle did, but that’s more due to American public opinion and Congress than to anything in Obama’s own psyche.

What fascinates me is that on the rare occasions when Obama supporters defend his policy against real and informed criticism, they cannot come up with anything good. Only by forgetting history, distorting it, or leaving out huge chunks of reality can they make a case.

The only way they can “win” arguments is in media, where the other side is basically not permitted to speak at all.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are 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 His PajamaMedia columns are teased and other articles are available at  
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