It’s an old tradition, when a politician is being attacked they find a way to change the subject. On Wednesday, President Obama may have attempted to deflect bad press with attacks on Israel.
Face it; the Obama administration has had a truly awful week and his friends in the media are on the attack.
Even worse, while the mainstream media has spent much of the past five and a half years protecting this President, there is something mainstream reporters value more than loyalty to their progressive ideals, a genuine piranha-like political feeding frenzy. One drop of blood in the political pool and they rush to take a bite and lately normally adoring liberal media joined in on the attack.
On “60 Minutes” Sunday evening President Obama blamed the intelligence community for the failure to predict the growth of ISIS, a claim that was met with almost universal disbelief by the media. That was followed by a related report that during his term while ISIS was building up President, Obama skipped 56% of his national security briefings. Then the Secret Service scandal that was not the fault of the President but it added to the perception of Obama being a bad manager and reports that the midterm elections were shifting toward the GOP in a big way.
Feeling the attacks President Obama may have gone on the attack against one of his favorite whipping boys, Israel.
On Wednesday hours before Secret Service Director Julia Pierson was to announce her resignation, Bibi Netanyahu went to the White House for a scheduled meeting to discuss ISIS and the Iran nuclear talks, but in the traditional pre-meeting words to the press Obama expanded the public scope of the meeting taking the opportunity to reprimand Israel
I think we also recognize that we have to find ways to change the status quo so that both Israeli citizens are safe in their own homes and schoolchildren in their schools from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don’t have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well. And so we’ll discuss extensively both the situation of rebuilding Gaza but also how can we find a more sustainable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
The issues raised in the paragraph above are not new concerns of the President, but his mention of civilian casualties seemed a bit strange as it came the day after “Yahoo News “reported that at least for the Iraq and Syria bombing campaigns, Obama was loosening the rules meant to prevent US forces from harming civilians.
The White House has acknowledged for the first time that strict standards President Obama imposed last year to prevent civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes will not apply to U.S. military operations in Syria and Iraq.
The Yahoo report incited criticism from both left wing and right wing commentators (Washington Post and National Review for example) who saw the move as disingenuous coming only a few weeks after the Administration used terms like “appalled” and “disgraceful” in reacting to civilian deaths during Israel’s recent Operation Protective Edge.
One would expect the President would avoid the topic of civilian casualties especially as it was only a few hours after the criticism directed at his cancelling of his own rule, but he went there anyway. Was he being tone deaf to the charges of hypocrisy or was he trying to deflect from the other issues dominating the headlines by attacking Israel?
A few hours after the meeting with Netanyahu ended, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest launched a scathing attack on Israel for new construction activity in East Jerusalem. While criticism of Israeli building in East Jerusalem was nothing new (unlike the previous administration Obama has made stopping the “settlements” a priority) the ferocity of the attack was unusual even for the Obama administration. At the same briefing where he announced the resignation of Julia Pierson Earnest spoke about the new housing units:
This development will only draw condemnation from the international community. It also would call into question Israel’s ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
Earnest also condemned the recent move of Israeli Jews into seven homes in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, a primarily Arab neighborhood.
The US condemns the recent occupation of residential buildings in the neighborhood of Silwan by people whose agenda provokes tensions. It only serves to escalate tensions.
The Press Secretary called it occupation but it was public knowledge those seven buildings were a private business transaction; Israeli Jews purchased those seven homes from Arabs.
As to that charge Netanyahu shot back:
Arabs in Jerusalem are free to purchase apartments in the western [part of the] city and no one is arguing against it. I have no intention of telling Jews they can’t buy apartments in East Jerusalem. This is private property and an individual right. There cannot be discrimination – not against Jews and not against Arabs. This goes against values that the United States also believes in.
Was the President trying to restrict the right of Jews to purchase property in other countries or was he trying to deflect from other problems by manufacturing a new issue?
Perhaps the President was extra hard on Israel to deflect from other issues; on the other hand maybe the harshness was caused by President’s anti-Israel bias. The only thing we can say for sure is behind the pre-conference handshake on Wednesday there was much duplicitousness the words Obama said:
This gives us an opportunity once again to reaffirm the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel, and our ironclad commitment to making sure that Israel is secure.
Wednesday’s Administration dealings with Israel were not a reaffirmation; they were closer to a public flogging, with words that “close allies” usually reserve only for private meetings. But in the end it really doesn’t matter, because no matter what you hear, the supposed peace process is over until a new president takes office in 2017. Obama has very little capital left and he is not going to use it on the Israel/Palestinian negotiations.