Israel: The pushback against Obama

According to pollsters, 6 percent of Israelis consider Obama “pro-Israel,” while 50 percent consider him “pro-Palestinian.”

Israelis are deeply suspicious of Barack Obama, said Israeli newspaper editor Aluf Benn in The New York Times. Obama has traveled to other parts of the globe to speak directly with Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Russians, Europeans, and Africans, “but he hasn’t bothered to speak directly to Israelis.” Instead, he’s demanded that Israel make unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, including a settlement freeze in the occupied territories. As a result, only 6 percent of Israelis told pollsters they consider Obama “pro-Israel,” while 50 percent consider him “pro-Palestinian.” According to one report, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even accused White House advisors David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel of being “self-hating Jews.”

Obama’s Israeli problem stems from a misperception, said Elliott Abrams in The Wall Street Journal. He views the Israeli-Palestinian dispute as the root of “every problem” in the Middle East, and has concluded that if Israel just stopped its settlements, Arab nations would reciprocate with improved relations. But after “four wars and a constant battle against terrorism,” Israelis know better. They view the threat posed by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as the paramount issue in the region—a threat to Israel’s very existence. Obama has already accepted an Iranian nuke as an inevitability, while naïvely focusing on “engagement with the Muslim world.”

Would you people stop whining? said Larry Derfner in The Jerusalem Post. Obama is putting pressure on Israel because we deserve it. For years, Israeli governments have promised to halt settlements if the Palestinians reined in terrorism. Well, the Palestinian Authority is cracking down on Hamas terrorists, and even kept the West Bank “miraculously quiet” during Israel’s recent bombardment of Gaza. The formula here has always been “land for peace.” So if Palestinians are giving us peace, why haven’t we given “an inch of land”? For one reason: George W. Bush didn’t demand it, said Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Obama is merely holding Israel’s leaders to past promises. He hopes that an Israeli moratorium on settlement building will be a first step in persuading Arab states to normalize relations with Israel and restarting the peace process. Obama does, however, need to find a way to connect with Israelis “on a gut level,” partly by acknowledging that they have real enemies—including Iran. Lecturing them isn’t enough. If he fails to win the Israelis’ trust, this process will be just another in a long series of dead ends.

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