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Much has been said about the supposed damage done to U.S.-Israel relations by Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. But what about the damage done by President Obama to America’s relationship with the people of Israel?
In 2010, a poll commissioned by The Jerusalem Post showed that only 9 percent of Jewish Israelis believed that the Obama administration was more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
In February 2014, the Israeli weekly Sof HaShavuah published a poll that showed 70 percent of Israelis did not trust President Obama to safeguard Israel’s vital security interests. At the same time, only one in five Israelis was confident that Obama would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
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But that was one year ago before the administration blamed Israel for the failed negotiations with the Palestinians and before Obama decided to sign a framework agreement with Iran on its nuclear program.
The best word that describes the overall feeling of Israelis towards the policies of the U.S. government in the Middle East today is shock. Even seasoned journalists are not able to hide their disbelief and shock anymore in light of the actions and statements of the U.S. President.
Last weekend, Channel 10’s News Show broadcasted a report about Obama’s emphatic statement on Putin’s decision to sell the S-300 missile system to Iran. The Times of Israel reported that diplomatic commentator Ben Caspit had said “Jaws dropped” around the studio when the news broke about Obama’s remarks.
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“Obama is something else,” Caspit added. “He’s decided to take America out of the wars…”
The station’s news anchor, Alon Ben-David, chipped in: “He’s amazed that the Russians honored an agreement with him (for this long)? That’s what is astonishing.”
Caspit responded: “This is the new America. We had better get used to it.”
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On Saturday, Channel 2 broadcasted a report about Obama while an on-screen ID tag described him as the president of Iran. The Times of Israel thought it was a typo, but it’s hard to believe that the editor of Channel 2 News would make such a mistake since Iran and the United States are two totally different words in Hebrew.
Even star-reporter Ari Shavit of the leftist paper Ha’aretz has ridiculed Obama’s policies on Iran.
Here’s what Shavit wrote in the Hebrew version of Ha’aretz:
The dispassionate man from Chicago is proving every day what rare stuff he’s made of. The president sees how the Iranians mock him – and does nothing. He sees radical Islam approaching the nuclear brink and does not budge. With amazing courage, Barack Obama watches the tsunami rolling toward America’s shores and smiles.
He is staging a deceptive show of a deal with the Iranians, which will seem to dull the threat. He is trying to make a fool of Jerusalem as Tehran is making a fool of him. The president is pushing Israel into a corner but is hoping that Israel will accept its fate submissively Never has the United States had such a gambler for a president.
Shavit sounded a lot like Caroline Glick, who wrote this about Obama’s policies: “His goal is not to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power…The goal of Obama’s foreign policy is to weaken the State of Israel.”
Journalists and politicians are not the only ones in Israel who criticize Obama’s Middle East policies. Let’s examine what renowned Israeli academics say about the President.
The late Professor Barry Rubin, who was arguably one of the most outstanding Middle East experts of our time, predicted that things would get worse in U.S. Israel relations. Here’s what he wrote a few months before he passed away:
ISRAEL CANNOT DEPEND ON THE UNITED STATES.
That doesn’t mean that Obama and others will not provide military aid or say nice words at every event. But there is no commitment – that one can assume would be fulfilled – nor any Israeli initiative that will really be implemented.
This is a complex issue, but here are some brief points:
The idea that Obama and his team are the greatest friends of Israel is a deadly insult, and I can prove it two minutes.
The United States has undermined Israel on many issues. Do I have to provide a list?
Okay, here is a partial list: Egypt (support for a hostile Muslim Brotherhood government); Tunisia (ditto); Sinai (enablement of insurgency); Hamas (the desire to keep the Brotherhood–an ally of Hamas–government in power in Cairo); Turkey (supporting the Islamist, anti-Israel government); Syria (support of radical Syrian Islamists); Europe (lack of support for Israeli position on peace process); America itself (encouragement of anti-Israel forces among Jewish community and in Obama constituency); Palestinians (lack of criticism or pressure on Palestinian Authority, PA).
Another Middle East expert who is critical of current White House policies in the Middle East is Dr. Mordechai Kedar. He said on U.S. television that the administration didn’t understand the Middle East and said, regarding current U.S. policies towards Iran, that “America is stabbing Israel and its Arab allies in the back.”
David Rubin, a U.S.-born Israeli author and expert on the Middle East, put it this way: “President Obama is very harmful to Israel and very dangerous for the future of Judeo-Christian civilization.”
Arab-Israeli Middle East expert Bassam Tawil wrote a couple of weeks ago that Obama has declared war on Israel:
Thanks to Obama’s policies, the Iranians and their friends are now in control of Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Lebanon, and much of Bahrain and have surrounded the oilfields of the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been forced to close down its embassies in three Arab countries — Syria, Libya, and Yemen.
Instead of facing the dangers of the Iranian drive to export the Islamic revolution to as many Arab and Islamic countries as possible — with the help of an accelerating operation to acquire nuclear weapons — Obama has turned Israel in general, and Netanyahu, in particular, into the main threat to world peace and stability.”
The most outspoken criticism about Obama’s Middle East policies from an Israeli academic came from Professor Dan Shuftan. He said during a lecture, in which he gave an accurate analysis of Israel’s current position in the world, that “Obama is absolutely clueless about the Middle East”.
“ Obama is a good guy in the bad sense of the term,” Shuftan said. “If I were to be commissioned to write a book about what not to do in the Middle East Obama would sue me for plagiarism. I can’t think of one move (of Obama) that was not unbelievable dumb in terms of American interests, forget Israeli interests,” Shuftan added.
The fragment with Shuftan’s remarks about Obama starts after 14.30 minutes, but we recommend watching the whole lecture.
Are there still Israeli academics who view the Obama administration’s Middle East policies in a favorable light? Yes, there are.
On Monday, The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed written by Hebrew University Professor Eli Podeh. He recommended applying the Obama doctrine for Iran and other Pariah states to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Although he acknowledged that the Obama doctrine of engagement with regards to Iran and other pariah states could be based on wishful thinking, he thought it was even more applicable to the Israeli-Palestinian case.
A self-confident Israel, with a defense budget amounting to NIS 57b., is a superpower in comparison to the approximately $1b. budget of the Palestinian Authority (the figures for Hamas are more problematic although there is obviously a wide gap here as well). According to the Obama Doctrine, such a gap allows Israel to take risks and offer some substantial concessions concerning the occupied territories. Israel’s consistent argument that it does not have the luxury to test this proposition is disingenuous because its military might could easily undo whatever has been conceded.
Moreover, an agreement with the Palestinians would be supported by security guarantees provided by the United States, the European Community and perhaps other parties in the region, which would help deter Israel’s potential enemies.”
It is clear that Podeh still thinks that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is possible and that, if the Israeli government sticks to its current policy vis a vis the Palestinians, Obama should force his vision for solving the conflict upon Israel.
Shuftan seems to be more realistic when he said that peace has disappeared from the vocabulary of the Israelis–and even of the Israeli left.
“Israelis know where they live and know that peace is not an option,” the Haifa University Professor told his audience in the United Kingdom. He even predicted that Israel will stay in a state of war for another 140 years.