Latest update: October 26th, 2012
So we should not have been surprised that on his second day as president, Mr. Obama appointed Senator George Mitchell as his Middle East special envoy. This quick move was interpreted at the time as a signal from the president that he was intent on quickly moving the Israeli-Palestinian issue further toward resolution – which translated into getting Israel to make major concessions to the Palestinians.
And then came the president’s Cairo speech in June of 2009 in which Mr. Obama told his Egyptian audience,
We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world, tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate…. I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.
When it came to Israel, he said in that speech, “America’s strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”
And so for the first time in recent memory, an American president speaking about the relationship between this country and Israel failed to refer to Israel’s strategic importance to the U.S. The relationship, for Mr. Obama, is a one-way street favoring Israel.
He went on to dilute even those connections:
On the other hand, is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years they have endured the pain of dislocation…. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable….
In other words, the victimization of the Jews by the most systematic killing machine in human history is for him no different from the Palestinian experience under Israeli “occupation.”
A year later the president indicated he was still on the same track. Thus, at a June 2011 event sponsored by the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Obama told the attendees that the U.S. and Israel are going to have to bring “fresh eyes” to their relationship, elaborating:
It’s not going to be sufficient for us just to keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect somehow that things are going to work themselves out. We’re going to have to be creative and we are going to have to be engaged. We’re going to have to look for opportunities where the best impulses in the Middle East come to the fore and the worst impulses are weakened…. And there are going to be moments over the course of the next six months or the next 12 months or the next 24 months in which there may be tactical disagreements in terms of how we approach these difficult problems. But the broader vision, which is one in which Israel is a secure state, is able to live in peace with its neighbors with the hopes and dreams of the original travelers to Israel, the original settlers in Israel, that those hopes and dreams that date back a millennium, that those hopes are realized. That will remain our goal.
So Mr. Obama declared that he will pursue his vision of the Middle East, where he neither was born nor lives, with policies he fully expects will conflict with the judgment of Israel’s democratically elected leaders and apparently that of the U.S. Congress as well.
Another harbinger of what the president intends to do if reelected: Under the terms of the Jerusalem Embassy Relocation Act of 1995, the American Embassy in Tel Aviv was to have been relocated to Jerusalem by May 31, 1999. If it were not relocated by that date, a drastic restriction on the amount of money the State Department could spend abroad for any purpose would kick in.
However, the statute also contains a waiver provision stating that the president may suspend the limitations on spending for six-month periods if he certifies that the restrictions would undermine U.S. interests abroad.
Both presidents Clinton and Bush regularly invoked the six-month waivers – the latter some 16 times. Yet invariably the certifications by both presidents included a statement saying: “My administration remains committed to beginning the process of moving our embassy to Jerusalem.” From his first invocation on, President Obama notably omitted this statement.
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