This, however, doesn’t matter very much. The second problem is critical. How can you be so nice to a country when you help its enemies? How can you help populate Israel’s borders and neighborhood with those who openly proclaim their goal of committing genocide on its people?
If one asks: Has Obama helped or hurt Israel’s strategic situation the answer is that he has quite definitely hurt it overall. If one asks: Has Obama helped or hurt Israel’s ability to deal with that strategic situation the answer is that he has been about as good–but certainly not better–as several predecessors by merely continuing past U.S. aid and other policies.
Again, though, it is not a matter of liking or disliking Obama as a person but analyzing his behavior as a president.
The day after Obama’s election in 2008, I organized a program in Tel Aviv on the result. I and everyone on the panel spoke of what a great person Obama was and how he was going to be a great friend of Israel. It was proper not to start a conflict with him.
During 2009, however, I was faced with an important question: Should I be flat-out honest as to what I thought regarding Obama’s policies or would that jeopardize the bilateral relationship. Would supporters of Obama react against Israel because of criticism of their beloved chief executive?
I decided to speak up, partly because the dangers were so great and also since the whole point of criticism is to persuade someone to change course. By 2011 it was already becoming clear that U.S.-Israel relations as such were not the problem, U.S. Middle East policy was.
Let me summarize in this way:
Arab behavior was the main force showing Obama that he was wrong. That parallels what happened during the Cold War when anti-American actions by radical Arab regimes and their alliance with the USSR persuaded previously unfriendly U.S. policymakers that they benefited from an alignment with Israel.
The fact that the American people recognized the rightness of Israel’s narrative could not be ignored by leaders, especially if bashing Israel brought no strategic advantage..
What’s significant is not whether or not Obama loves Israel but that he sees support as being in U.S. interests. Reality forced him to move from a policy of distancing himself from Israel to one of embracing Israel.
But Obama must learn now about the dangers of Islamism or his administration will continue to be a net minus for Israel. It would be better if Obama learned to love the Arabs, Iranians, and Turks fighting for moderation and real democracy in their countries, not the totalitarians in those places.
By truly protecting U.S. interests, Obama would do more for Israel than by making any number of friendly speeches.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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