By Barry Rubin
You know that President Barack Obama understands he’s got problems with Israel (and, more importantly for him, with its supporters in the United States) when he trots out Rahm Emanuel to write an op-ed in defense of the president’s alleged love for Israel.
Rahm Emanuel may have been born an Israeli citizen and had his son bar-mitzvahed in Jerusalem but to have Emanuel attest to Obama’s credentials on Israel is like having Mel Gibson as spokesman for Australia; or Arnold Schwarzenegger as Austria’s booster; or Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the poster boy for France’s tourism board (“Hi, I’m Dominique Strauss-Kahn, come to France and stay in our wonderful hotels!)
In other words, it is totally meaningless and even—for those who know something about the individuals involved—even counterproductive.
There are, however, two important things it tells us about Obama and his administration:
First, they are detached from reality enough to think that this is a clever idea. Rather than going to someone actually recognized as being pro-Israel or active in Jewish affairs who supports Obama (I could give him a list of far better people) he turned to a political crony who is disliked by both communities. Despite the near-fanatical support for Obama by the majority of American Jews, he is totally deaf to their concerns and feelings.
Second, it shows that Obama always prefers a cheap public relations’ gesture to a substantive policy action.
Just because Emanuel was born an Israeli citizen, however, doesn’t mean he knows much about the country. I was struck by the total idiocy of his big argument:
“President Obama, like every student of the Middle East, understands that the shifting sands of demography in that volatile region are working against the two-state solution needed to end generations of bloodshed.”
If Obama is a student of the Middle East, he gets an “F” on his report card.
I’m a student of the Middle East and I think that’s total nonsense. Why is the “demography” in the region against the two-state solution? Because there are more Palestinians? Who cares? That has absolutely zero political impact as such.
Israel does not rule the Gaza Strip. Hamas does.
Israel does not rule the people of the West Bank (as opposed to territory there without any people living in it) Fatah does, through the Palestinian Authority.
Hello? That’s been the basic situation now for 17 years. (Not the Hamas part, the Palestinian Authority aspect.)
So what if the Palestinian population doubles, triples, quadruples, that has no effect at all on Israel’s status as a democratic state of its citizens. And as the past has shown, Israel can win against much larger countries because of a list of factors I won’t bother listing here.)
Notice something interesting here. Unlike the peace process rhetoric of the 1993-2000 period, nobody dares to talk about how wonderful life for Israel would be if it turned over all of the territory captured in 1967 and accepted a Palestinian state. They can only say that things will be worse if it doesn’t.
People in Israel don’t believe this, and for good reason.
Let me be clear here. For one of Obama’s closest advisors and cronies to write something like this in a major newspaper–with the text approved, no doubt, by the White House -shows these people are totally out of touch with the facts and situation.
It is the equivalent of someone in similar circumstances writing about Russia as if it is still the Soviet Union, thinking Britain still rules a worldwide empire, or that creatures from the distant planet Beldron-5 have landed on earth and taken over Luxemburg.
It is delusional.
What are the “shifting sands…working against the two state solution” and leading potentially to more “generations of bloodshed” is the rising tide (the mixed metaphor is deliberate) of revolutionary Islamism that this administration does not try to dam up—indeed, it keeps punching holes in the dam!
It is the Obama support for revolution in Egypt and opposition to it in Syria. It is the refusal to recognize that the Palestinian leadership is the cause of failure for every peace effort since 1947 (partition into two states), no, I should say 1939 (the British effort to give the whole thing to the Arabs after ten years).
It is the Obama Administration inability to understand that the failure to achieve peace is not based on borders or Jerusalem but on the continued refusal of Arabs and Muslims generally to cease trying to wipe Israel off the map. Indeed, partly thanks to Obama’s policies, they are more confident of doing so than they were ten or twenty years ago. (They’re wrong but they are—literally—going to die trying.)
That Emanuel can write such nonsense and not be laughed at is a sign of how out of kilter is the whole American—indeed, Western—debate on the Middle East.
Finally, consider the logical fallacy of arguing that things are becoming much worse, so Israel must rush into peace now. But if things are going to be worse why make concessions in exchange for a piece of paper that will be torn up and that is guaranteed by those who cannot be trusted.
Here, Mr. Emanuel, are the tests that Obama will fail:
1. Will the United States government call for the overthrow of the anti-American Syrian dictatorship?
2. Will the U.S. government take strong action as Egypt moves to become a radical state and stop observing the U.S.-guaranteed peace treaty with Israel?
3. Will the U.S. government take strong action to stop helping the Fatah-Hamas government, incorporating terrorist and genocidal forces?
4. Will the U.S. government take strong action to stop the fundamental transformation of Turkey into a semi-Islamist, anti-democratic, antisemitic, anti-American regime allied with Iran and Syria?
5. Will the U.S. government reverse its policies so that once again America is a world leader that will protect its allies in Latin America (against radical regimes in Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Cuba); Central Europe and the south Caucasus (against Russia); and elsewhere?
Since the answer to all of those questions is “no,” why the Hell should Israel risk its existence on your (bad) ideas and your (worthless) promises?
Indeed, Israel is not going to commit suicide because you say to do so. On the contrary, Israel and the half of your own people who have woken up to your mismanagement and the dangerous situation are trying to stop you from committing suicide and taking them with you.
[PS: I hate to use the most over-used analogy in the world but arguing that Israel should make a deal right away because of the “shifting sands” is like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arguing in 1938 that the Czechs better give up the Sudetenland fast before the real radicals take over in Germany or, at least, the current chancellor there gets impatient.]
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 http://pajamasmedia.com/barryrubin/ 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 http://www.gloria-center.org. His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com/.