Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama: Surrendered Wife?

For some people, there’s nothing President Obama can do to prove his love for Israel.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

For some people, there’s nothing President Obama can do to prove his love for Israel. He could pull a Sammy Davis, Jr. and convert to Judaism. He could give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a big kiss on the lips. He could personally expel Palestinians from East Jerusalem. And still Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin would kvetch. "Yes, but what have you done for us today?" the ultra-Zionist would say. "Did you call this morning? Where are the fresh flowers? What, you don’t love Israel anymore?"

In his speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) on Sunday, President Obama did practically everything he could to prove his love. "Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority," the president said. "It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels.  It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. It's why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels."

Let me see if I’ve got this straight. We’re cutting our budgets here at home in order to send advanced military weaponry to a country that built a secret nuclear program, has continued to expand settlements in Palestinian land in violation of international law and common decency, and, under the leadership of the ever-intransigent Netanyahu, has refused to negotiate in good faith a deal with the Palestinian authorities. This is, in other words, a rogue state. We should be suspending military cooperation with this country, not rewarding it, at least until it mends its ways. We should be pushing for a region-wide nuclear weapons-free zone, as Foreign Policy In Focus (FPIF) contributor Kevin Martin argues in Zoning Out Nukes in the Middle East, and not treating Israel's nuclear status as an immutable fact.

Given the resolutely pro-Israel policies of the current administration, it’s no surprise that the AIPAC audience enthusiastically embraced the president’s speech. According to the White House transcript, the audience applauded about 50 times. In a speech that contained only around 150 sentences, that qualifies as a lovefest.

You would think that the AIPAC seal of approval would be enough. But no: Jennifer Rubin reserved her affection for the real Israel supporter at AIPAC — Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD): "Hoyer was the un-Obama — clear, unequivocally supportive of Israel and entirely within the mainstream, bipartisan pro-Israel tradition." Obama was, contra Rubin, clear and unequivocal. But he did something that Rubin did not like. He displayed the slightest hint of gumption by challenging not Israel but Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and the other right-wing yahoos in his administration.

In his Middle East speech last week and then again at AIPAC, Obama said that any deal should involve “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.” In other words, any deal to establish a Palestinian state — the "two-state solution" — must turn the clock back before the Six-Day War in 1967 when Israel seized control of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, among other territories. The "swap" part is an acknowledgement that Israeli settlers have changed the "facts on the ground" in the West Bank so that Palestinians should be compensated with different territory in exchange.

This is hardly a new position: The 1967-plus-swaps deal was at the heart of Bill Clinton's efforts in 2000. Previous Israeli administrations have accepted this approach. It is an uncontroversial approach among many Israelis. "The new world envisioned by Obama has no place for endless military occupation, for scenes like Operation Cast Lead, for shooting at protesters and for checkpoints," writes Gideon Levy in Haaretz. "There is no agreement without a Palestinian state, and there is no Palestinian state without the 1967 borders."

Netanyahu, however, believes otherwise. When they appeared together at a press conference at the White House on Friday, the Israeli prime minister dismissed Obama's plan as "peace based on illusions." Basically, Netanyahu has been treating the U.S. president like a surrendered wife. According to the surrendered wife doctrine, the wife relinquishes all control — and illusions of control — over her husband's life. Obama's temerity was the functional equivalent of a wife saying to her husband "I love you, but could you please take out the garbage once in a while?" Netanyahu, the domineering husband, blows up when he hears a "but."

"Unfortunately, despite Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas agreeing to such reciprocal territorial swaps — even though it would leave the Palestinian state with a bare 22 percent of Palestine — Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has refused to consider trading any land within Israel while simultaneously insisting on annexing large swathes of occupied Palestinian territory," writes FPIF senior analyst Stephen Zunes in Obama's Mideast Speech. "How such 'mutually agreed-upon' swaps will take place without the United States exerting enormous leverage — such as withholding some of the annual $3 billion in unconditional aid provided annually, which Obama has already ruled out — is hard to imagine."

One of the interesting words in Obama's AIPAC speech was "contiguous," as in the "Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves, and reach their potential, in a sovereign and contiguous state." Right now, obviously, the West Bank and Gaza are not territorially contiguous. In 2000, Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat at Camp David a large portion of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and a strip of connecting land. The problem was – and still is – that Israel has used walls and checkpoints to divide the West Bank into all manner of non-contiguous areas. At some point, if negotiations actually happen, the U.S. president should clarify that contiguous applies between as well within the occupied territories.

Before that point, of course, Obama has to abandon the surrendered wife role and show a bit more tough love. As FPIF senior analyst Ian Williams writes at our Focal Points blog, the president "should stop equivocating and come out plainly with a declaration that if Netanyahu continues to refuse to come to terms with reality in the region, then he cannot take a U.S. veto in the Security Council against Palestinian membership for granted nor even a nay vote in the General Assembly against a declaration of statehood."

In other words, the United States has some real leverage over Israel. And the Arab Spring is altering the political geography of the region. Netanyahu had better wake up and smell the democracy. "Israel must avoid its typical government paralysis and act quickly to advance its position in the emerging, more democratic Middle East," writes FPIF contributor Benjamin Tua in Winners and Losers in the New Middle East. "Israel remains militarily strong, but its ties with its main supporters are fraying. Time is not on its side. Israel must act posthaste to align its actions with its rhetoric."

The Obama administration is still in surrendered wife mode. It's time to make clear to Netanyahu that if he doesn't change his ways, he'll be waking up in an empty bed.

John Feffer edits Foreign Policy in Focus and is a contributor to Right Web.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was a leading framer of the “global war on terror” and a staunch supporter of aggressive U.S. military action around the world.


Mike Pompeo, the Trump administration’s second secretary of state, is a long time foreign policy hawk and has led the public charge for an aggressive policy toward Iran.


Right Web readers will be familiar with Mr. Fleitz, the former CIA officer who once threatened to take “legal action” against Right Web for publicizing reports of controversies he was associated with in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz recently left his job at the conspiracy-mongering Center for Security Policy to become chief of staff to John Bolton at the National Security Council.


Norm Coleman is chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition and a former senator from Minnesota known for his hawkish views on foreign policy.


Billionaire hedge fund mogul Paul Singer is known for his predatory business practices and support for neoconservative causes.


Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to Vice President Mike Pence, is a passionate supporter of Trump’s foreign policy.


Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest “pro-Israel” advocacy group in the United States, is known for its zealous Christian Zionism and its growing influence in the Republican Party.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trumpian new regional order in the Middle East is predicated on strongman rule, disregard for human rights, Sunni primacy over Iran and other Shia centers of power, continued military support for pro-American warring parties regardless of the unlawfulness of such wars, and Israeli hegemony.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

A comparison of U.S. nuclear diplomacy with Iran and the current version with North Korea puts the former in a good light and makes the latter look disappointing. Those with an interest in curbing the dangers of proliferating nuclear weapons should hope that the North Korea picture will improve with time. But whether it does or not, the process has put into perspective how badly mistaken was the Trump administration’s trashing of the Iran nuclear agreement.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Numerous high profile Trump administration officials maintain close ties with anti-Muslim conspiracy theorists. In today’s America, disparaging Islam is acceptable in ways that disparaging other religions is not. Given the continuing well-funded campaigns by the Islamophobes and continuing support from their enablers in the Trump administration, starting with the president himself, it seems unlikely that this trend will be reversed any time soon.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Trump administration’s nuclear proliferation policy is now in meltdown, one which no threat of “steely resolve”—in Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words—will easily contain. It is hemorrhaging in part because the administration has yet to forge a strategy that consistently and credibly signals a feasible bottom line that includes living with—rather than destroying—regimes it despises or fears. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle must call for a new model that has some reasonable hope of restraining America’s foes and bringing security to its Middle East allies.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Congressional midterm elections are just months away and another presidential election already looms. Who will be the political leader with the courage and presence of mind to declare: “Enough! Stop this madness!” Man or woman, straight or gay, black, brown, or white, that person will deserve the nation’s gratitude and the support of the electorate. Until that occurs, however, the American penchant for war will stretch on toward infinity.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

To bolster the president’s arguments for cutting back immigration, the administration recently released a fear-mongering report about future terrorist threats. Among the potential threats: a Sudanese national who, in 2016, “pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support to ISIS”; an Uzbek who “posted a threat on an Uzbek-language website to kill President Obama in an act of martyrdom on behalf of ISIS”; a Syrian who, in a plea agreement, “admitted that he knew a member of ISIS and that while in Syria he participated in a battle against the Syrian regime, including shooting at others, in coordination with Al Nusrah,” an al-Qaeda offshoot.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The recent appointment of purveyors of anti-Muslim rhetoric to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom exposes the cynical approach Republicans have taken in promoting religious freedom.


RightWeb
share