Instant view: Obama throws Israel under the bus in futile gesture of appeasement

Obama knows the Israelis can’t accept his “peace” plans. His speech was just another round of grovelling to extremism.

Robin Shepherd, Owner / Publisher
On 20 May 2011 10:33

Jeremy Bowen was glowing. The BBC’s Middle East editor said President Obama’s speech yesterday, in which he effectively threw Israel under the proverbial bus by demanding the Jewish state accepts the completely indefensible 1967 lines as the basis for a peace deal with the Palestinians, represented a clear move by the United States to the “European position”.

In fact, Obama has a ways to go. His warning to the Palestinians that “efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure” and that the presence of Hamas in the new Palestinian unity government raised “profound and legitimate questions for Israel” would never be made quite so emphatically by a European leader.

More broadly, and in sharp contrast with Europe, the United States under Obama has also been resolute at the United Nations in seeking to block blatantly anti-Israeli ventures such as the Goldstone report into alleged Israeli “war crimes” in Gaza. Even after Judge Richard Goldstone himself retracted his key allegations the British foreign office was still sticking by it as if it were a piece of holy scripture from which any deviation would be a sign of heresy.

So Bowen and company can wipe that smug smile off their faces. Actually, they can do likewise for a whole set of other reasons, beginning with this one: Obama himself knows this is a non-starter. No Israeli government -- let me rephrase that, no government of any description, anywhere -- could accept a peace deal which leaves its people at the mercy of a declared enemy long committed to the state’s destruction.

And that is exactly what the 1967 lines would mean for Israel: Not so much gambling the lives of your children on the kindness of strangers as gambling them on the kindness of people very well known to you who (literally) teach their own children to hate yours.

No real surprise then that barely had Obama finished his speech and the New York Times was reporting that the president does not believe that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu can make a peace deal. On the basis of what is now being presented to him, of course he can’t.

But there’s more. Think about what Obama’s speech is supposed to mean in practice. Netanyahu has already rejected it. So, what’s Obama going to do? Impose sanctions on Israel to get Netanyahu to bend to his will?

Really? The United States is just getting into gear for next year’s presidential elections. Israel is a very popular cause among large sections of the American population. Congress too is overwhelmingly supportive of the Jewish state. It’s not going to happen.

So, what’s this all about? Frankly, it’s just another piece of classic Obama grovelling to the Arab and Muslim world.

How else can we interpret the fact that he made widespread references in his speech to the need for Middle Eastern countries to move towards freedom, democracy and the rule of law while only offering instructions on peace and national security arrangements to the one country in the region that actually fulfills those requirements?

In one respect at least, when Obama looks at the Middle East he sees what the rest of us see – a region possessed of a virulent and unremitting hatred of Jews and the Jewish state. In order to buy credibility with such people he feels it prudent to sell a little of America’s support for Israel. It’s the classic appeaser’s bargain.

And it fails for the same reason that appeasement in such circumstances always fails: concessions are not seen by the other side as a reason to reconfigure their own world view on the basis of reason and decency; they are seen as a sign of weakness and a reason to ask for more until their maximal aims are satisfied.

As comprehensive polling of Palestinian opinion by the Israel Project showed last November around two thirds of Palestinians only support a two-state solution in order to get a one state solution when the opportunity later presents itself.

By glossing over such realities and merely paying lip service to them in his speech in favour of platitudes about a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, all President Obama is doing is encouraging the Palestinians to believe they are right to think they are engaged in a waiting game: eventually, bit by bit, they’ll get what they want.

That is no recipe for peace, it is a recipe for perpetual war.

In the end then, you can pore over Barack Obama’s speech all you like. You can put this bit of his speech against that bit. You can draw comfort from one part and be concerned by another. You can agonise about what the 1967 borders with land swaps really means. You can pull and push until it sounds innocent enough on the one hand or nothing short of disastrous on the other.

But it’s all an exercise in futility.

This is a president cocooned in delusions about how to deal with tyrannical regimes and the political cultures which underpin them. Obama is an appeaser through and through. And when you read between the lines, that was the message we should draw from yesterday's speech.

Robin Shepherd is owner/publisher of the Commentator. His most recent book is A State Beyond the Pale: Europe’s Problem with Israel.

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