Friday, May 15, 2009

Obama And Israel - When Bibi Met Bammy

With Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu scheduled to come to the White for the first time next week, there's been a great deal of speculation regarding the Obama Administration's new strategy in the Middle East the future of the US -Israeli relationship and what it signifies for both countries in the future.

There's a new game shaping up in the Middle East, and the pieces are moving with astounding speed.

It's not an exaggeration to characterize the Obama Administration as the most anti-Israel in American history. Many of President Obama's closest advisers, with the possible exception of Dennis Ross can be characterized by hostility to the Jewish state and the belief that the US pressuring Israel to retreat to the pre-1967 borders and using that territory to create a Palestinian state - regardless of its attributes or character - in the soonest time possible while distancing the US from its long standing alliance with Israel is the surest way to curry favor in the Muslim world.

President Obama has made the new attitude in the White House towards Israel clear in a number of ways. Israel has systematically been cut out of the security coordination with the US it enjoyed in earlier days, with the most recent example being Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller's call for Israel to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation treaty, a violation of a US-Israeli agreement that goes back forty years to the Nixon Administration. Under that agreement, the US agreed not to press Israel at the UN or elsewhere for transparency or inspections of its nuclear program and Israel agreed not to test a bomb or declare that it had developed a bomb.

Then there was the nomination of the anti-Israel Chas Freeman to an influential post the Durban II controversy and America’s joining of the the United Nations Human Rights Council — a group that basically is controlled by the Organization of Islamic Conference and obsessively focuses on demonizing Israel at the hands of paragons of human rights like Saudi Arabia and Libya.

Obama's NSA Adviser ( and de facto Secretary of State) General Jim Jones was widely quoted as telling a European foreign minister that America will take a more “forceful hand” towards Israel than previous administrations. And over at the AIPAC convention, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel cornered three hundred of AIPAC's top donors in a closed room and told them that if Israel expected any US help with Iran, they had better cave in to the Saudi Peace ultimatum, while Vice President Joe Biden addressed the convention and said that Israel had better 'stop building settlements' and essentially prepare to submit to Obama's diktats for a Palestinian state.

And to top it all off, Obama went public today. warning Israel not to 'surprise him' with an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. This is just the latest in a series of signals designed to show Israel that the Obama Administration is more than prepared to appease Iran at Israel's expense.

With all this in mind, what is the May 18th meeting between Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Hussein Obama likely to be like? What's going to happen when Bibi meets Bammy?

Unlike Obama, Bibi Netanyahu is a trained diplomat and what we'll likely see is one of two scenarios with the same end result. If things are really contentious behind the scenes, look for a low profile meeting like the one that occurred with Israeli President Shimon Peres last week - no photo-ops, no press conferences, and no joint speeches or statements.

If Netanyahu feels like he emerges with something significant,he may be willing to horsetrade an innocuous statement of support for the 'two state solution' for it, but with enough loopholes so that it doesn't commit him or Israel to anything which case, we'll see a photo-op and a chance for Obama to mouth a few cliches about what a good friend he and his administration are to Israel. This is the more likely scenario, for reasons I'll go into later.

Obama may attempt to get Netanyahu to accede to his demands by threatening to reduce Israel's military aid,cut off Israel's loan guarantees (which cost the US nothing but allow Israel to borrow money at more favorable rates). He may very well brandish the huge majority of the American Jewish vote he got ,or even threaten to revoke Israel's favored nation trading status. He will probably link any assistance on Iran's nuclear weapons with Israeli acquiescence to a Palestinian state on the entire West Bank even if it's ultimately Hamas run.

What Obama really wants is some raw Israeli meat to throw at the Arabs when he addresses the Muslim world in Cairo on June 4th, and he expects Netanyahu to provide it - or else.

But the truth of the matter is, in one of those details that change history, Obama may have overplayed his hand.

When push comes to shove, Congress is still mostly pro-Israel..because enough American Jews who are silly Leftys on other issues aren't willing to pull the plug on Israel in the last analysis. And because there's another huge group of American supporters of Israel, evangelical Christians as well as a lot of people who aren't evangelicals but understand that Israel is our friend and ally and the Arabs and Iran mostly aren't.

These Congressmen will have to stand for re-election before Obama does, and the last thing most of them will want to do is alienate the pro-Israel vote, even in an anti-Israel Obama administration.Obama might target fundraising for pro-Israel groups, but he'd have to significantly alter the law to really effect it. Nor do I think Congress would go along with cutting off Israel's aid entirely.

Oddly enough Obama may have overplayed his hand with the Arabs too. The Arabs, particularly the Saudis are absolutely appalled at the idea of an Iran with nukes. The Eastern part of Saudi Arabia near the Persian Gulf is where the oil is, and it's mostly populated by Shiites who are treated like an underclass there.The Saudis are terrified of the idea that the Iranians might foment unrest there, or use it to blackmail them.

During that summit in Europe Obama attended ( site of the famous bowing incident) back in April, my sources tell me that King Abdullah actually had a fairly forceful conversation with the Chosen One on the sidelines about his Iranian no avail. Egypt's Hosni Mubarak feels the same way, because he's going to be dealing with Hamas' parent organization the Muslim Brotherhood, which is his main political opposition, and he's trying to hand over power to his kid Gamal ( AKA 'Jack') without worrying about an Iranian proxy. That's precisely why the Egyptians have cracked down on Hamas and the weapons smuggling from Iran in a huge way lately.

Prior to meeting with Obama, Bibi Netanyahu met with both Jordan's King Abdullah and Mubarak, and he may have some interesting things to say to President Obama about how the other Arab nations feel about a nuclear Iran and a Palestinian state that might become an Iranian proxy.

Obama also has learned a few things lately as well. His gambit to Syria has largely failed. Initially Obama and his minions in DC held out the hope of moving Syria away from Iran and moderating Hezbollah by forcing Israel to give back the Golan heights, but the Turkish-Syrian rapprochement Obama put together by promoting joint military exercises between the two and allowing massive arms sales by Turkey to Lebanon was a dismal failure and actually brought Turkey closer to Syria and Iran instead of the reverse.

Syrian and Hezbollah are gleefully employed rigging Lebanon's June 7th election to toss the rest of the pro-Western anti-Syrian parliament out of office and turn the country over to Hezbollah, along with the millions in aid and arms deal both Obama and the Bush Administration spent there. And on June 12th, Mahmoud AHmadinejad is expected to win the Iranian 'election' handily.

Needless to say, the Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni autocracies are less than pleased with this. So thanks to his own ineptitude, Obama has other things to worry about than a Palestinian state - especially with Hamas and Fatah still disunited and divided.

With Obama adamantly opposed to assisting Israel with Iran and Turkey more firmly in the Islamist camp every day, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Saudis gave some covert assistance to Israel in knocking out Iran's nukes when it comes to that. The path to Bushehr and Arak may very well involve a flight over Saudi territory...without the Saudis' 'knowledge', of course. Shimon Peres and Saudi King Abdullah supposedly had a clandestine meeting the other day, although Abdullah denied it after the story slipped out. They may very well have been discussing this if they met.

Afterwards the Sunni autocracies will squawk a great deal about 'Zionist aggression', but behind the scenes they will collectively heave a huge sigh of relief.

Meanwhile the Israelis have been extensively practicing long distance mid air refueling, dogfights in heavy formation against MIG-29's the mainstay of Iran's air force, and mounting strikes on Iranian weapons convoys bound for Hamas at distances as far afield as Sudan.

Faced with the fact that they are facing a basically unfriendly administration and that Obama is likely going to do little to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, the Israelis will likely do what they have to do on Iran and inform the US shortly before the attack begins. Then they will rope-a-dope and wait things out until 2012, like they did with Carter.

Life in Israel with the threat of Iranian nukes hanging over them would be intolerable. I doubt that the present Israeli government is under any illusions about that, and will do something about it.

If Obama attempts to initiate a major cut off of military aid, it's a problem for Israel in the short term, since right now a lot of Israeli gear is US made but not an insurmountable one. Israel got along just fine without US arms prior to Nixon, who was truly the first US president who really made Israel an ally and gave them significant military gear.

Israel's weapons industry is also much farther along now than it was then, and a cutoff in US military aid, aside from adding to unemployment here in America would simply give them an impetus to make more of their own gear.

Also, one thing the Israelis know how to do is improvise. In the past, they astounded visiting military visitors by doing things like attaching a captured Soviet T-64 cannon to a Brit Centurion tank chassis with American electronics and making all work somehow. They will do it again, and simply work towards being more self sufficient or buy parts under the table form places like Canada, India or Germany. That's what they did before, when DeGaulle cut them off right before the`67 War.

There's also the very real possibility that seeing the writing on the wall, Israel is already looking for some new best friends.Sad, but things go that way sometimes.

Another thing in Israel's favor is that Iran is their major military threat. If they do things right and take out a lot of Iran's oil infrastructure as well as its nukes, Hezbollah and Hamas will not be funded like they are today. And even if Obama does start giving Hamas and Hezbollah top of the line stuff ( he's already started with Hezbollah, via the Lebanese Army) the Israelis have had to deal with enemies before that outnumbered them and were better weaponed than they were and have come out on top. Having nowhere to run to and something to fight for is a pretty powerful edge.

Ultimately, it's all in G-d's hands, and that does make me optimistic - especially given what the Jews and Israel have already somehow survived. If nothing else, at least this time they can defend themselves if they have the will. Or, as they say in Israel, ye heye beseder - it will all work itself out.

No comments: