Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bibi learns that Obama is not Obambi

Right wingers push the idea that Obama is just a dogooder wimp. A pushover. They say it all the time in the US press. (This does embolden our enemies like Ahmadinejad, but the GOP only cares about such things when one of theirs is in power). So Benjamin Netanyahu, who buys into all this, hatched a plan to end the US call for a halt to West Bank settlements. He had his a housing minister (forget actual title) announce 1600 new houses (1600- anyone get the symbolism?) the day that Obama's Vice President arrives in Israel for talk. The plan was obvious: have a stunned and embarrassed Obama administration, in the person of Joe Biden, do nothing and say little while Israel flouted our wishes. Then the whole MidEast, Israel and the Arab world would see that the US wasn't serious about holding Israel to the 'no settlement' line, and that the Obama would not take on Israel in any serious way.

What a mistake. Biden promptly condemned Israel, using the "condemn" word that the USA never uses for Israel. Biden then actually snubbed the Israeli government by arriving an hour and a half late to an official dinner. Imagine keeping the president of the USA waiting for that long! These things matter. The entire Israeli government got to wonder what it might be like if the Biden didn't come at all. VP Biden's other reactions were so bad that Bibi (his nickname) immediately claimed (with no real credibility) that the unfortunate timing was a total mistake. The govt even passed a new law to prevent such 'mistakes' from re-occurring. But he didn't apologize for the action or offer to take it back. Nobody who has ever studied the middle east seriously thinks this was a mistake. A 'mistake' would be dealt with by immediately canning the minister and canceling the plan. But such things are not mistakes. Israel is a small country where everyone knows each others' business. It is inconceivable that Bibi did not know what was going on in his own administration.

Of course, Bibi didn't engage Biden on the real problem that settlements are anathema to a peace agreement. Jewish settlements over the green line in Jerusalem or the West Bank are an attempt to change facts on the ground using Israel's power advantage. [Imagine how incendiary it would be if the Palestinians were able to (and did) build Arab settlements near Tel Aviv on formerly Jewish-owned property, then connected them to the West Bank with roads and fenced the Jews out...].

Then it got worse. Evidently, Joe Biden didn't deliver the message forcefully enough. Hillary Clinton called yesterday and, according to the Jerusalem Post, read Bibi the riot act for three quarters of an hour. In short, she said that you do NOT pull this shit on the United States of America. The Israeli public, whatever they think about settlements, knew that Bibi's plan was a slap in the face to the Obama administration. Now, for the first time in 40 years, the US government is telling Israel that "enough is enough" and that it won't be a doormat, won't be toyed with or played in these little Levantine intrigues. Differ with us if you must, but don't insult us. Not when we pay the Israeli government $1,000 per year for every Jewish citizen of Israel (do the math...). This is becoming a serious political problem for Bibi. He risked the US-Israeli relationship for the desires of a small religious right wing and, for the first time ever, is paying the price.

The Obama administration brilliantly handled this. It broke ALL the unspoken rules of US-Israeli relations in ways that have clearly stunned and shocked the Israeli government. For those who don't know, every word is fraught with meaning in these contexts, and the US reaction was not like a bull in a china shop, but a deliberate transgressing of dozens of unspoken rules. In doing so, it may have handed the Israeli people a hint of the existential crisis they would face if they lost the unlimited American backing they have enjoyed for nearly half a century. The Jerusalem Post is complaining that the USA has emboldened Israel's enemies. Maybe so. If so, that was a price Israel had to pay for its own behavior, and its leaders know it.

I think Netanyahu will wait a while before insulting the US again. The strong US reaction has helped the US standing across the world, and will cut a the image of Obama as a wimp. After all, even Reagan didn't have the balls to stand up to a right-wing Israeli government when the whole phenomenon of mass settlements began - a big part of why we are now in this mess today.

1 comment:

Raised By Republicans said...

Unfortunately, the people who say Obama is wimp think that anything short of 100% unconditional support for the Israeli right wing is tantamount to surrendering to "terror" and is therefore wimpy in the extreme.

I'm glad Biden did that. You may also have heard about Israeli diplomats' recent snubbing of Turkish diplomats with childish games like making the Turkish gentleman sit in a noticeably shorter chair and have his picture taken having to look up at the Israeli official.