Obama, Israel's Great Friend?

During their press conference Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Barack Obama a “great friend of Israel” and a “true friend of Israel” and thanked him for “your friendship to Israel and your friendship to me.” He also praised Obama as a “great leader: a great leader of the United States, a great leader of the world.” Netanyahu sounded like a man who was trying to convince himself of something — and after Obama’s performance at the press conference, that was understandable.

Obama, for his part, was far less effusive, praising Netanyahu’s “political skills” and saying that he was confident the prime minister would “rise to the occasion” as he would be “confronted with as many important decisions about the long-term strategic interests of Israel as any prime minister that we’ve seen in a very long time.” He declared, as if his solicitude for the Palestinians was quite understandable but that his concern for the Israelis was unusual, that it was “in the interests not only of the Palestinians but also the Israelis and the United States and the international community to achieve a two-state solution in which Israelis and Palestinians are living side by side in peace and security.”

Obama then noted, correctly, that “we have seen progress stalled on this front.” But just as he has consistently acted since he has been President as if the conflict between the U.S. is entirely the fault of the U.S. and within America’s power to end, so he seemed to assume that it was entirely up to Netanyahu and Israel to get progress moving toward this vaunted two-state solution: “And I suggested to the prime minister that he has a historic opportunity to get a serious movement on this issue during his tenure.”

To be sure, Obama did say that “there is no reason why we should not seize this opportunity and this moment for all the parties concerned to take seriously those obligations and to move forward in a way that assures Israel’s security, that stops the terrorist attacks that have been such a source of pain and hardship, and that we can stop rocket attacks on Israel, but that also allows Palestinians to govern themselves as an independent state that allows economic development to take place, that allows them to make serious progress in meeting the aspirations of their people.”

However, while calling upon Netanyahu to rise to the occasion, Obama issued no similar call to Palestinian Arab leaders. Yet the weekend before Obama met with Netanyahu, Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and is a significant presence in the West, repeated that it would never recognize Israel’s right to exist — in other words, it is still dedicated to Israel’s total destruction. Hamas chief Khaled Meshal said Saturday also that Hamas would never accept a two-state solution, either.

And what if it did, anyway? The PLO’s Ambassador to Lebanon, Abbas Zaki, said last month that “with the two-state solution, in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made — just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”

Is this the kind of attitude that Obama wants to encourage? Certainly if he doesn’t, he has done nothing to discourage it.

And his take on Iran is no better. Obama declared Monday that “it is in U.S. national security interests to assure that Israel’s security as an independent Jewish state is maintained.” But in speaking of Iran’s nuclear threat, he said that he wanted Iran to be “in a position to provide opportunities and prosperity for their people, but that the way to achieve those goals is not through the pursuit of a nuclear weapon” — as if Iran is pursuing nukes to alleviate some economic distress than can be relieved in some other way. Fanatical Shi’ite messianism and genocidal hatred for Israel? Nothing that a few good talks can’t cure!

Responding to a reporter’s question, Obama also said: “Well, it’s not clear to me why my outstretched hand would be interpreted as weakness.” But it isn’t just reporters who see it as weakness, it is the Iranian mullahs, who have stepped up their demands and ratcheted up the bellicosity of their rhetoric considerably since Obama has been in office. If Obama is really Israel’s “great friend,” and the standard-bearer of the free world against the global jihad, he will take note and adjust his course now, before it is too late.