Credit Where Due

During the election cycle, many of us, myself included, contrasted Obama’s distance from Israel with Romney’s clear belief in Israel’s right to self-defense and the Palestinian’s lack of interest in true peace. We were not wrong; Obama did want to place “daylight” between the United States and Israel, and pursue a more pro-Arab and pro-European foreign policy. Now that he has won his last election, he is free to pursue the course that he feels correct. And the Israelis, by engaging in their first open conflict with Hamas since Obama took office (Operation Cast Lead having ended with a cease-fire on January 18, 2009), handed him a golden opportunity to pursue a different course from that of George W. Bush.

That course was offered to him by U.N. secretary general Ban Ki Moon, who called on “Israel to exercise maximum restraint” and enact an “immediate de-escalation of tensions.” Ban had little to say when Hamas, the duly installed governing authority in the Gaza Strip, was raining missiles down upon Israeli civilians. But now that Israel is finally forced to respond, it’s time for “maximum restraint” and a “de-escalation” of the war initiated by those missile attacks.

Leftists in this country, like The Nation’s Phyllis Bennis, ignored the missile attacks and called the assassination of Arch-terrorist Al-Jabari a “major escalation” of Israel’s Gaza Attack — which, of course, did not exist before the assassination. Her colleague Robert Dreyfuss called hundreds of missiles aimed at civilians, at women and children, terrorizing them on a daily basis, “pinpricks” — simply because Israel has a regular army. [Is he an anti-Semitic Jew or simply a buffoon?]

The Obama administration would have none of it, placing 100% of the blame where it belongs. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the following:

We strongly condemn the barrage of rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, and we regret the death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians caused by the ensuing violence. There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel. We call on those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately in order to allow the situation to de-escalate.

In … conversations [with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi], the president reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense. President Obama also urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties.

Hamas claims to have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that is counterproductive to the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near-daily basis does nothing to help the Palestinians in Gaza or to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination.

We certainly hope the Administration continues to sing the same chorus during the difficult weeks ahead, both publicly and privately. But this is an auspicious beginning, and credit must be given where it is most surely due.

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12 comments to Credit Where Due

  • micha

    But in the meantime, all we know about are the words. With other presidents, we would have heard about pressure being put on Hamas, Cairo and Ankara to get them to back down. (Egypt and Turkey are both supporting Hamas. Of course, so is Iran, but Obama has no relationship to Iran, bH.)

    Now, it could just be that Obama believes pressure works best when behind the scenes. I think that secrecy would be counter-productive, making it easier for Hamas to deny bucking the US, but I can’t rule out that Obama feels that way.

  • Bob Miller

    Crunch time in these wars always comes when Israel has to destroy enemy installations purposely sited in residential areas. The residents are human shields in effect and the Arabs love to exploit deaths among them. We’ll see how the West reacts this time to actions Israel takes against these installations.

  • micha

    Instead of pressuring Hamas to stop the rocket barrage, we have:
    Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired onto its territory. If that can be accomplished without the ramping up of military activity in Gaza that’s preferable. That’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of fatalities or being wounded.

    Obama feels it’s his job to motivate the Israelis to seek safety for their people without requiring a ground assault?

  • Yaakov Menken

    I simply don’t read the same message that Micha derives from the same words. The Administration’s public declarations, in and of themselves, place pressure on Hamas, and Cairo is already moving. Up to this point, I see no difference from how the Bush administration handled Operation Cast Lead. As for the quote, I don’t see how Micha fails to acknowledge that a statement like “Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired onto its territory” places pressure upon those firing those missiles to stop. As for the rest of it, I think everyone agrees that if Hamas could be compelled to halt missile fire without Israeli troops entering Gaza, that would be vastly preferable for everyone. It is also obvious that the Israelis do not deem this at all likely, and that statement elegantly makes the case that if Israel engages in a ground war, it is because the Israelis truly feel there is no other recourse. It gives American blessing for the ground war, stating in advance that the Israelis won’t waltz in unless they absolutely need to.

    Bob Miller’s concern is the one to which I alluded in my closing paragraph. It’s quite possible that if and when that ground war begins, the Americans will begin pressuring Israel in a way that George Bush did not. I am no fan of President Obama, and I continue to feel that a person with the business sense of Mitt Romney was a (vastly) better choice. But I don’t see a reason to criticize Obama for getting it right in this case, or trying to read hostile messages between the lines.

  • micha

    Reread, “That’s not just preferable for the people of Gaza. It’s also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they’re much more at risk of fatalities or being wounded.” Because, as we know, Israel needs to be persuaded to pursue peace, just like Hamas does.

    Israel needs a US president who defends them in the UN, in voting, not simply saying platitudes and actually making no commitments. Hamas needs to know that playing Iranian proxy puts them on the wrong side with a conflict with the US. Turkey and Egypt also have to be told that US money depends on which side they pick. None of this has been forthcoming. There is no pressure; the US is not using its leverage.

    I acknowledged the pretty words.

  • koillel nick

    No, you were wrong. You failed to see that Obama differentiates between defense and proper policy. He disagrees with some of the Netanyahu government’s policies, but he has never wavered on Israeli defense. He funded iron dome – request from white house to congress. Ehud Barak claimed in an interview with CNN that the Obama administration is more cooperative with intelligence and defense than any other past president including W Bush.
    Writers here, and some other Jewish pundits fail to see nuance. You have this idea that Netanyahu’s views are prophesy.
    Perhaps you should promote a more normal view. Support Israel’s security, and ignore all other politics.

  • Charlie Hall

    President Obama yesterday:

    “Let’s understand what the precipitating event here was that’s causing the current crisis, and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles; they were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders. So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians. And we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.”

    I’m not sure what more people could want from the President of the United States in such a situation.

  • Tal Benschar

    “I’m not sure what more people could want from the President of the United States in such a situation.”

    I happen to agree with R. Menken that we should give Pres. Obama credit for defending Israel. That said, I would hope the United States would do more than have the President say some supportive words at a press conference. Egypt, for example, is the recipient of substantial US aid, and they are in a position to pressure Hamas to stop the latest provocations. I would hope the US would pressure Egypt to do just that. (The Administration may well be doing this, I am not criticizing, but just saying that I would hope it did more.)

    And while we are on the subject, Turkey, I don’t know if anyone noticed, has been particularly nasty in the latest events, and has even acted to fan the flames of conflagration. One would hope that would be taken into account in US policy as well. IMO, Erdrogan is more dangerous than many other elements, because while he is as radical, he has the veneer of a Western moderate.

  • L. Oberstein

    I have a much more personal interest in this issue than worrying if Obama has our back.My son is serving in Tzahal and we communicate daily. He is on the Golan border with Syria. I didnt read too much about that front but he told me that they were getting shot at every day from over the border. He sent me a picture , it was of the inside of a jeep that was shor at while patrollng last Fridday night. The bullet passed an inch over the heads of the two soldiers in the jeep. The picture he sent me showed the hole and also the “grafitti’, one was “Hashem Shomer” another was “Nes Galui”. On behalfof all the parents of the soldiers, I hope the cease fire holds and I hope that the interests of the United States and of Israel contiinue to coincide and the two nations will continue to cooperate in deterring Iran.

  • Reb Yid

    Micha said:

    Israel needs a US president who defends them in the UN, in voting, not simply saying platitudes and actually making no commitments.

    So much for the anti-Israel Obama. He’d better be hearing some praise.

  • L. Oberstein

    In what way is the President of the United States required to support another country’s views unless it is in the best interests of the United States? If Israelis are allowed to have divergent views and even allow Peace Now and parties like Meretz , why should we expect the US Government to bow to our interests. We certainly don’t buy the anti-semitic canard that the Jews control Ccongress and the media but we seem to expect them to dance to our tune. I dwell onthis because it reflects a small minded and very narrow understanding of Democracy. There are many good reasons why Israel’s policies are inimical to American short term interests. It is nothing less than miraculous that Truman overuled his Secretary of State and most of his advisors and recognized Israel. It is nothing less than miraculous that Israel won that war and all subsequent wars until recently when it was prevented from finishing the job. I fear that reliance on Hashem is a necessity if we look at Israel’s long term prognosis. I have a lot of hope and faith and demonstrate it through my children and grandchildren who live there and my son in Tzahal. But, the US doesn’t owe us anything unless we can show them that it is in their national interest. So far, that argument has found favor in much of the military and Congress. The road ahead is not smooth and we need diplomacy and good hasbara. It certainly doesn’t help Israel when Jews use gutter language to describe the re-elected President and think we are the bosses of this large country. That is called living in a delusion.