Only President Obama knows whether he will continue his unrelenting savaging of Israel and also follow through on his threatened reassessment of how the U.S. votes on Israel-related issues at the UN, including quite possibly supporting Palestinian efforts to secure UN recognition. But there are growing signs of a pushback in important places, and it’s about time.
To listen to the president, Mr. Netanyahu bears sole responsibility for the breakdown of talks between Israel and the Palestinians. It seems of no moment to Mr. Obama that PA President Mahmoud Abbas adamantly refuses to accept the notion of a Jewish state; insists on the right of Palestinian repatriation within the Green Line; tries to make common cause with Hamas, which is dedicated to the elimination of Israel; has yet to persuade any thinking person that his government can overcome the military threat from Hamas; and utterly refuses to accept the notion of a demilitarized state of Palestine – which even U.S. policy deems essential.
These are fundamental issues for Israel’s security and yet Mr. Abbas refuses even to acknowledge them as grist for negotiations.
Nor does President Obama seem to give credence to the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian dispute has unfolded not in a vacuum but in a game-changing context: the political, military, and social unhinging of the Middle East and the looming emergence of a nuclear-armed predator state of Iran aspiring to regional hegemony and dedicated to Israel’s destruction.
So we welcomed the critical statements directed toward Mr. Obama by several Jewish community luminaries.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Manhattan’s Kehilath Jeshurun recently told his congregants:
I try to steer clear of politics in my sermons and messages to the community. There are times, however, when an exception should be made…. One of those times is now when reports are coming from the administration in Washington of a need for reassessing the Israel/United States relationship.
Rabbi Lookstein then went on to endorse Charles Krauthammer’s scathingly critical analysis of President Obama’s treatment of Israel. Mr. Krauthammer wrote:
I understand the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of a foreign leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.
According to Rabbi Lookstein, the Krauthammer article “presents with utmost clarity an assessment of the reassessment. It deserves the attention of all of us.”
Also, the ADL’s Abraham Foxman, who often comes across as a defender of Democratic presidents and who had been critical of Mr. Netanyhau’s decision to speak to Congress over Mr. Obama’s objections, had this to say:
Let me be clear: I wish Mr. Netanyahu would do more to solidify relations with Israel’s ally…America and to stand up to those in Israel who seek to make impossible a Palestinian state. None of this, however, justifies what we are hearing from the Obama administration. Their reactions raise deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives.
Similarly, the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris said,
The fact that the outcome of a democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern [to the President] is a cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement…. Whatever the failings of the prime minister, the way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of U.S.-Israel relations…. The U.S. appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis.
The backlash can be felt in Congress as well. A bipartisan letter authored by Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) to President Obama implored him to recall that “Democratic and Republican administrations have stood by Israel in opposing anti-Israel or one-sided resolutions at the UN Security Council and other UN agencies.” The letter noted that Mr. Obama himself has said that “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”
The letter, referring to anti-Israel resolutions and schemes to end-run direct negotiations, said the president “must make clear our willingness to use our veto power to block such efforts at the UN Security Council and our continuing defense of Israel at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other agencies where Israel is under constant assault.”
As the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin noted, “Liberal stalwarts in Congress and in the foreign policy community, many of whom harbor no affection for the current Israeli prime minister, are dumbstruck” by the administration’s posturing. She also cited recent columns critical of the president’s remarks by David Rothkopf and Jeffrey Goldberg, both known for their favorable attitude toward Mr. Obama.
Only time will tell whether the pushback is temporary or will take hold and have the desired effect.