By MICHAEL FREUND, JPOST—
Anyone who thought that a victory in the November elections would bring out the softer, gentler side of Barack Obama’s policy toward Israel was bound to be in for a rude awakening.
It was, after all, fairly clear that in the run-up to the presidential balloting, Obama was on his best behavior as he courted the Jewish vote. He refrained from slamming Israel and instead sought to portray himself as “having Israel’s back.”
But now, instead of biting his lip, Obama is choosing to give Israel some lip.
With less than a week to go before Israelis go to the polls, the occupant of the White House decided to take time out of his busy schedule and brazenly interfere in the Jewish state’s election campaign.
In a barely-concealed leak to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic magazine, Obama launched a stinging broadside against Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
Goldberg wrote that after the president was informed of Netanyahu’s decision to build in E-1, which would connect Jerusalem with Ma’aleh Adumim, Obama “didn’t even bother getting angry.”
“He told several people,” Goldberg said, “that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.”
Furthermore, Goldberg noted, “in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.”
This anecdote was nothing less than Obama’s gift to Israel’s left, as they struggle to gain traction with the Israeli electorate.
In effect, he handed Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yechimovitch and the extremists of Meretz a formidable talking point, enabling them to cite the ostensible leader of the free world as they bash Netanyahu’s policies.
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take Livni long to do just that.
Within hours of the publication of Obama’s remarks, Livni went on the offensive, convening a press conference in Tel Aviv to say that the president’s statement showed that there was a need for “a dramatic change” in Israel’s leadership.
In other words, Obama has now stuck his nose directly into Israel’s electoral contest.
THIS IS nothing less than a heavy-handed affront to a close US ally and it shows just how petty Obama is.
Peeved at what he perceived as Netanyahu’s support for his opponent Mitt Romney, the president decided to take revenge by lending a helping hand to Israel’s Left.
But as is his habit, Obama went too far and overstepped the bounds of decency. According to Goldberg, in the period following the unilateral Palestinian move at the United Nations late last year, Obama said in private conversations that “Israel does not know what its own best interests are.”
He added that Obama believes that “Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.”
This crude condescension is breathtakingly offensive on so many levels.
For Obama to suggest that Israel does not know what is best for itself is eerily reminiscent of the colonial mindset, which in bygone days looked down on the poor savages and felt compelled to teach them a thing or two “for their own good.”
Moreover, for a man presiding over a mounting national debt of $16.4 trillion, and who spends taxpayer money like a drunken sailor on shore leave, it is Obama who doesn’t seem to grasp what his own country’s best interests are, let alone those of Israel.
And to assert that Israel’s policies pose a greater threat to the future of the state than the Ayatollahs’ atomic ambitions is a slap in the face to Israel’s democratic system.
This is not your run-of-the-mill arrogance. It is hostility wrapped in condescension and swathed in disdain.
With this latest shot across Israel’s bow, the commander-in- chief has taken upon himself a new role, that of the conceited-in-chief.
Indeed, the last time a senior American official spoke with such antagonism towards the Jewish state was in June 1990, when then-secretary of state James Baker publicly complained that the Israeli government wasn’t willing to make enough concessions to the Palestinians.
After reading aloud the phone number for the White House switchboard – 1-202-456-1414 – he told Israel’s leadership, “When you’re serious about peace, call us.”
It is essential that American Jewry speak out loudly and clearly against Obama’s insulting tone and aggressive rancor.
This is not the kind of rhetoric that a president should be using when talking about America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and it only serves to bolster what many of us had warned about prior to the November elections: Obama is no friend of the Jewish state.
Whatever he may think of Israel’s policies, common decency – as well as common sense – dictate that Obama should respect the wishes of the Israeli public and their elected leadership.
Thankfully, the president’s slurs are unlikely to have any discernible outcome on Israel’s elections, which Netanyahu is expected to win.
But with four more years to go until Obama leaves office, this latest slight may be just the start of what could prove to be a very long – and very unpleasant – second term.