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Obama Getting 'Honest' With Israel

President Obama's call for a "new dialogue" in the Middle East -- one in which the U.S. would be "honest" about what Israel has to do to achieve security -- is the clearest indication yet that the new administration is taking a dramatically different and much more assertive approach with its long-time ally.

Obama's comments indicate that he believes Israel has been indulged -- even deluded -- by previous administrations, to its own detriment. By contrast, this president's view seems to be that what Israel really needs is to be pushed into making the difficult concessions that are in its own long-term interests.

And Obama has been clear that the first concession Israel needs to make is to freeze the growth of Jewish settlements in the West Bank that both literally and figuratively set the occupation of Palestinian territories in concrete.

Stopping the growth of settlements -- not to mention dismantling them -- is a hugely sensitive political issue for Israelis, and Israel's current right-wing leadership is already talking about defying Obama's request.

But on the eve of an overseas trip that will include a major address to the Muslim world from Cairo on Thursday, Obama is showing no signs of, as he would put it, "equivocation."

Here is an excerpt from Obama's interview yesterday with Michele Norris and Steve Inskeep of NPR that's worth reading carefully (transcript, audio):

Inskeep: Mr. President, you mentioned a freeze on settlements. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was quoted today saying to cabinet members in Israel that he will not follow your demand for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank – that it's not going to happen. What does it suggest, that Israel is not taking your advice?
Obama: Well, I think it's still early in the process. They formed a government, what, a month ago? I think that we're going to have a series of conversations. Obviously, the first priority of an Israeli prime minister is to think in terms of Israel's security. I believe that, strategically, the status quo is unsustainable when it comes to Israeli security; that, over time, in the absence of peace with the Palestinians, Israel will continue to be threatened militarily and will have enormous problems along its borders. And so, it is not only in the Palestinians' interest to have a state. I believe it is in the Israelis', as well, and in the United States' interest, as well.
Inskeep: But if the United States says for years that Israel should stop the settlements, and for years, Israel simply does not, and the United States continues supporting Israel in roughly the same way, what does that do with American credibility in the Muslim world which you're trying to address?
Obama: Well, I think what is certainly true is that the United States has to follow through on what it says. Now, as I said before, I haven't said anything yet, because it's early in the process. But it is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace and that there's not equivocation and there's not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side; it's going to have to be two-sided, and I don't think anybody would deny that, in theory. When it comes to the concrete, then the politics of it get difficult, both within the Israeli and the Palestinian communities. But, look, if this was easy, it would've already been done.
Norris: Many people in the region are concerned — when they look at the U.S. relationship with Israel, they feel that Israel has favored status in all cases. And what do you say to people in the Muslim world who feel that the U.S. has, repeatedly over time, blindly supported Israel?
Obama: Well, what I'd say is, there's no doubt that the United States has a special relationship with Israel. There are a lot of Israelis who used to be Americans. There is huge cross-cultural ties between the two countries. I think that as a vibrant democracy that shares many of our values, obviously we're deeply sympathetic to Israel. And, I think, I would also say that given past statements surrounding Israel: The notion that they should be driven into the sea, that they should be annihilated, that they should be obliterated — the armed aggression that's been directed toward them in the past — you can understand why not only Israelis would feel concerned, but the United States would feel it was important to back this stalwart ally.
Now, having said all that, what is also true is that part of being a good friend is being honest. And I think there have been times where we are not as honest as we should be about the fact that the current direction, the current trajectory in the region, is profoundly negative — not only for Israeli interests but also U.S. interests. And that's part of a new dialogue that I'd like to see encouraged in the region.

Why are the settlements such a big deal? And why is Israeli resistance to a freeze so intense?

Isabel Kershner writes in the New York Times:

The Israeli population of the West Bank, not including East Jerusalem, has tripled since the Israeli-Palestinian peace effort started in the early 1990s, and it now approaches 300,000. The settlers live among 2.5 million Palestinians in about 120 settlements, which much of the world considers a violation of international law, as well as in dozens of outposts erected without official Israeli authorization.

Those settlers are a determined bunch. As for the politics:

Mr. Netanyahu is trying to hold together a fractious coalition, including parties that favor settlement building and oppose the establishment of a Palestinian state. He must contend with an aggressive settler movement, emboldened by support from Israeli governments for decades and determined to continue building, if necessary through unofficial means....
Underlining the competing pressures on Mr. Netanyahu, extremist settlers rioted on Monday in various parts of the northern West Bank, stoning Arab vehicles, burning tires and setting fields alight, according to a witness and the police. They were protesting the government's recent actions against some tiny outposts. Several Palestinians were wounded. Six Israeli settlers and a rightist member of Parliament were arrested and later released.
Israel had reached tacit agreements with the Bush administration that allowed for some continued construction of settlements. But Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are now demanding an end even to what the Israelis call "natural growth" in existing settlements.

Meanwhile, as Glenn Kessler reports in The Washington Post, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Washington meeting with U.S. officials.

Israeli officials have been stunned by the demands of top Obama administration officials that Israel halt settlement growth throughout the West Bank, and Barak was said to be carrying compromise proposals focusing mainly on dismantling unauthorized settlement outposts.

But if anything, Obama's position is getting more rigid.

The Obama administration has also indicated it does not consider itself bound to the terms of a 2004 letter that President George W. Bush gave then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon saying Israel could expect to keep major settlements in a peace deal. Late Friday, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly issued a statement pointedly declining to reaffirm that the letter carried over to the current administration. He instead reiterated that there must be a "stop to settlements."

Josh Marshall writes for Talking Points Memo:

"[N]atural growth" really is the most natural thing in the world if -- and this is what all turns on -- if you think the settlements are permanent. If the existing settlements are permanent, then it's silly to think that one settler can live in a house but it's forbidden to build a new house on the lot next store.
But if the settlements are permanent, then a Palestinian state is basically impossible. And that means the occupation is permanent, as is the conflict.
Now, if you think arresting the growth of the settlements in the dysfunctional politics of contemporary Israel is difficult, try dismantling them. I've long worried that any effort to dismantle them would lead to something like civil war in the country. Because the settlers, at least the most ideological ones, are completely indifferent to the rule of law.
But resolving the conflict is impossible with the West Bank settlements. And before you can dismantle them, you have to start to by stopping their growth. And on this point Obama seems like he means business.

Jonathan Marcus writes for the BBC:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a problem.
Something has changed in Washington. This new US President, Barack Obama, is unlike any that an Israeli leader has faced before....
The tone and content of the Obama administration's pronouncements on the settlement issue are clear and to the point.
The US wants a halt to settlement building. Now.....
The change in mood also extends to Capitol Hill where, when Mr Netanyahu visited Washington, he was left in no doubt that the president's approach is supported by many of Israel's longstanding friends in Congress.

Regarding that last matter -- the issue of Congressional support -- it's not at all clear how widespread it is or how long it will last. Congress has a long history of being enormously vulnerable to pressure from the pro-Israeli lobby.

And right on cue, Ben Smith writes for Politico that

the administration's escalating pressure on Israel to freeze all growth of its settlements on Palestinian land has begun to stir concern among Israel's numerous allies in both parties on Capitol Hill.
"My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute," said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). "I think it would serve America's interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements."
"When Congress gets back into session the administration is going to hear from many more members than just me," she said.
Presidents from Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush saw attempts to pressure Israel draw furious objections from Congress, but members of Congress and observers say Obama will most likely prevail as long as he shows that he's putting effective pressure on Israel's Arab foes as well.
But....the unusual criticism by congressional Democrats of the popular president is a sign that it may take more than a transformative presidential election to change the domestic politics of Israel.

Liz Halloran reports for NPR, Obama also commented on former Vice President Dick Cheney's outspoken defense of Bush-era national security policies in his NPR interview:

Norris: He's forceful, he's unapologetic and he doesn't seem willing to scale back his rhetoric....
Obama: Well, he also happens to be wrong. (Chuckles.) Right? And last time, immediately after his speech, I think there was a fact-check on his speech that didn't get a very good grade. Does it make it more complicated? No, because I think these are complicated issues and there is a legitimate debate to be had about national security. And I don't doubt the sincerity of the former vice president or the previous administration in wanting to protect the American people. And these are very difficult decisions.

Obama was clearly referring to Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel's excellent analysis of Cheney's May 21 speech for McClatchy Newspapers.

Obama also did an interview yesterday with the BBC, mostly about his upcoming speech in Cairo.

Justin Webb writes for the BBC:

This is not an apology for the actions of the Bush White House - that the president told me flatly.
Nor is it a speech that is designed only to please the audience - the president will talk about the US Muslim community ("huge and thriving" he called it) and point out misperceptions in the Muslim world's view of the US.
But on human rights, I fear he will disappoint: I asked him straight whether Hosni Mubarak (the Egyptian leader for 38 years!) was an autocrat. Mr Obama told me he was a force for stability and good.

On the issue of Israeli settlements, Webb asked Obama what he would do if Israel refuses to stop their growth. "I think I've said my peace on this matter," Obama said. "We're going to continue negotiations. We think that it's early in the process, but we think we can make some progress."

Meanwhile, in a Fox News interview with Greta Van Susteren yesterday, Cheney (accompanied by his daughter Liz) had some unsolicited advice for Obama, on his upcoming Cairo speech:

Cheney: [T]here's a bit of a temptation, I think, on the part of people who haven't dealt with that part of the world on a regular basis to think that the key is, you know, being super-nice or apologetic. My experience in that part of the world is that it's a question of respect. And what they admire most, for example, in American officials are people who stand tall for what they believe in but also are very direct, keep their word and not apologetic....
I hope he's had good advice as he crafted his remarks and decided what message it is he wants to leave with his hosts.
Van Susteren: Do you think he's soft?
Cheney: I don't -- I can't say that. I think -- I do think he's still, you know, still learning. He was a state senator and then he was a U.S. senator for a few months, and then he ran for president. It's a tough, tough job, and he's had plenty put on his platter to begin with, a very difficult economic situation, North Korea's testing nukes, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I mean, there are plenty of problems that he's got to address, and he doesn't get a breathing spell here to address them.

By Dan Froomkin  |  June 2, 2009; 11:15 AM ET
Categories:  Middle East  
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Comments

Until the settler movement is formally deemed a terrorist organization and prosecuted under Israeli law, that nasty little apartheid nation shouldn't get one dime of aid. That sort of exceptionalism is completely outside the pale, and Netanyahu's refusal to face it down means he has to go (again).

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

The fact that Israel has laid the seeds for its own civil war, on top of all the conflict they create in the rest of the region, is profoundly troubling. I, and a growing number of Americans, am really starting to question why we have supported these Israeli policies for so long at such a great cost to our own interests.

Posted by: MadAsHell3 | June 2, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Agree completely. Israel has a real problem post-Operation Cast Lead. They used US taxpayer dollars to incinerate 1,400 women and children with white phosphorus weapons. That destroyed the "special relationship" with our "stalwart ally." It's a matter of national security now, and Obama has to send a message to the world that he's willing to dismantle the illegal settlements. AIPAC-JPPPI-WINEP-Likudniks have arrogantly assumed they have Congress in their pocket and that Obama's insistence on a two-state solution is "childish." The tide has turned.

Posted by: obamaniac | June 2, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure most Native Americans would agree with those of you who feel that settlers should be prohibited from occupying land.

Humans are an agressive, territorial species. It's only been in the last 100 years or so that the idea of conquering and occupying land to expand borders or create new nations has fallen out of favor.

Israel was created out of the collective guild of the Holocaust by post-World War II Western powers who somehow thought that planting a Jewish state in the Middle East was a good thing to do. They have been surrounded by hostile nations, states, and other organizations dedicated to eradicating them. Over time they have come to some accomodation with their neighbors, but only because they have enough military might to keep the hostiles at bay.

That doesn't make what the Israeli government and settlers have done over the years in encroaching into the West Bank "right." They are simply being Human.

We are, after all, the only species on the planet that bares its fangs to express joy and delight.

Posted by: Gallenod | June 2, 2009 12:18 PM | Report abuse

In the past weeks there has been a welcome focus on the issue of WB settlements in the MSM, so long ignored by it.

It is striking in this multitude of articles that no mention is ever made of the UN Security Council resolutions calling for the withdrawal of Israeli forces or forbidding the colonization of the WB which Israel has ignored.

Contrast this with the constant refrain that Iraq and now Iran were and are in breach of UNSC resolutions.

Posted by: chet108 | June 2, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"They used US taxpayer dollars to incinerate 1,400 women and children with white phosphorus weapons."

That was a very important battle in Israel's ongoing war with its troublesome vampire population. There are many more efficient and cheaper ways to kill 1400 humans, but for the vamps, few things are better than flaming white phosphorous. Of course the undead survivors would try and turn the PR around against the forces standing up to them.

Posted by: clearbeard | June 2, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Humans are an agressive, territorial species. It's only been in the last 100 years or so that the idea of conquering and occupying land to expand borders or create new nations has fallen out of favor.

==

It may be recent but we're not going back, and stealing land has unequivocally fallen out of favor.

Make all the ridiculous generalities you like about the territorial imperative, but unless you want to say that Israelis are little more than urine-marking animals then you're just blowing smoke. The settlements are the elephant in the living room in this conflict.

Don't think we don't know that reabsorbing them into Israeli society is going to be a big fat and VERY violent problem, with respectable Israeli politicians gunned down like Rabin. But that's their problem.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

My hope is that President Obama will pursue the interests of the U.S. and no longer support the murderous Israeli government. My money is on AIPAC and the Congressional cowards.

One more point: President Obama, Israel is not a "stalwart ally", it is the murderous country that attacked the U.S.S. Liberty, killing American sailors.

Posted by: frazeysburger | June 2, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Settlements. Kinda reminds me of what the Nazis did in Poland during WWII. Bring Germanic people into the "Germanic" regions of Poland and settle them into the homes and farms of displaced Poles (both Jewish and non-Jewish Poles).

How well the Israelis learn from history.

(BTW -- The Nazi's program didn't work out.)

Posted by: Gallery90 | June 2, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

About time an American president got honest with our friends in Israel. The settlement activity must stop. A good friend tells you when you are doing something wrong and we've enabled the bad behavior of a friend for too long now.

Posted by: veeve | June 2, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

If Israel will not stop the settlements or curtail their growth then perhaps everyone needs to move forward. If there is a two state solution (which I seriously doubt the current leaders of Israel actually want) then these settlers, will be the Jewish minority in the Arab state. Everything should proceed as if this will be the reality.

Posted by: m_mcmahon | June 2, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Kach party leader Meier Kahane was against democracy in Israel precisely because there was always the possibility of Jews ending up the minority there and he wanted them to always retain political supremacy.

The settlers are indifferent to the law in their own country and contemptuous of the rest of the world. They're exceptionalist bigots of the lowest order and they are also armed to the teeth. It's worth noting that they are not descendants of the Holocaust, mostly they are transplanted Americans, far-right NRA-type goons who relocate to Israel but barely set foot in it before they're whisked out to settlements where they can get away with murder.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

I have little sympathy for the Israeli position regarding the Palestinians. They have ignored or violated international law regarding settlements and their record of behavior toward the Palestinians is far from admirable.

It appears Israel is coming to a moment of reckoning. Obama is not playing around; Israel could well lose enormous amounts of foreign aid if Obama turns off the budgetary tap. That would be a disaster for Israel.

Netanyahu better get a grip on his own people or he'll learn to regret misjudging this newest president. It could be that the days when Jerusalem drove American foreign policy are over. And good riddance.

Posted by: dbitt | June 2, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, Obama! Its been a long time coming that an American president would stand up to Israel and put them on track to a lasting peace. Hopefully Obama will force the Israeli's to disregard the extremists among them.

The irony of the West Bank settlers is that the most extreme among them are American ex-patriots.

Posted by: tgoglia | June 2, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

The "territorial imperative" is hardly rididulous. It's the basis of modern civilization, though sometimes to the point of being ridiculous in not allowing failed states like Somalia to break up into manageable parts (e.g. Somaliland vs the rest of the "country").

I agree that modern Israelis are, by and large, not Children of the Holocaust and the settlers' actions are illegal by modern standards. Fortunately for us, there was no United Nations back in the 19th Century to condemn the white settlers who poached the Oklahoma Territories (with the aid of the U.S. Government), among others, from its previous occupants.

I think Obama that he has a number of unique historical opportunities, one of which is maybe the last real chance to achieve a peace in the Middle East that isn't the result of one side completely wiping the other off the map. Forcing Israel to live up to its own laws and international obligations is a big part of that equation. However, it will be a very painful process for Israel and, if Obama follows through, will likely result in the fall of the Netanyahu government and may result in an Israeli civil war when the settlers revolt (as the typical "far-right NRA-type goons" tend to react when the sherrifs show up and surround their freehold, compound or other territory they've occupied).

But if the Israeli government is serious about convincing their neighbors that they're serious about a peaceful, stable Middle East, security will have to begin by policing their own terrorists, just as the Arab world will have to rein in Hamas and Hezbollah.

Possible? Yes. Likely? No. But I'm rooting for Obama to beat the odds.

Posted by: Gallenod | June 2, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Israel has gotten away with so much for so long without facing consequences that Israel truly believes it is above the law. For example, the settlements are considered illegal by international law because they consist of palestinian land that Israel won in wars that it started, and land that Israel stole from the Palestinians. International law does not recognize stolen land as being legit, or the right of an aggressor to profit from acts of aggression. Therefore, the illegal settlements belong to the Palestinian people and not Israel. However, Israel refused to accept the illegal settlements do not belong to Israel and renamed them, "disputed land, or just settlements." The US gov't. and US News Media quickly accepted Israel's claim to the settlements and adopted Israel's terms to describe the settlements, which deceived americans into believe the settlements belonged to Israel.

Now, Pres. Obama is trying to correct that wrong and be fair to both people, and is encountering resistance from all sides, including his own party. It is going to be difficult for him to fight Congress and win, as Congress is bought and paid for by AIPAC. Congress makes and votes on foreign policy according to the wishes of AIPAC, which will fight against the efforts of any US president to be an honest broker in the Middle East. AIPAC and Its staunch supporters of Israel want the status quo to remain, that is, a dishonest broker that is completely loyal to Israel and allows Israel to steal Palestinian land and do as it wishes. AIPAC knows an honest broker will not allow this to happen.

Pres. Obama appears to be trying to do what's right and be an honest broker in the Middle East. My heart goes out to him because he has his work cut out for him. I support Pres. Obama fully but have little hope that he will be successful, although I pray he will be.

Posted by: marge9 | June 2, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

All Obama has to do is go before the American people with a map behind him, showing Israel's borders and showing that the settlements are outside them. Explain it, and that's that.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

"I think I've said my peace on this matter," Obama said.

Or maybe he said, "I think I've said my piece....."

Posted by: unojklhh1 | June 2, 2009 3:04 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see Obama is standing firm on this issue of stopping the settlements, at least so far. Let's see if he can stand firm against the Israel lobby, and for how long. I'm not very optimistic that there will ever be a peace settlement, as long as the Israel lobby exists.

And nice head fake, Shelley Berkley. I think we're able to keep Iran and Israel in our sights at the same time....

Posted by: unojklhh1 | June 2, 2009 3:09 PM | Report abuse

I truly think Israel is being allowed to fail, leading to a 1-state solution, way down the line, somewhere, a victim of its own stupid decisions.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 2, 2009 3:13 PM | Report abuse

As thanks for the president signaling he'll now apply heavy pressure on Israel, those who supposedly will benefit from it turn around and call him a liar. And while they're at it, they call Israel "racist" and challenge the legitimacy of its "existence."

The Hamas Charter is explicit regarding the Islamic imperative that Israel be destroyed.

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it," the charter states.

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day," it adds. (A "waqf" is an irrevocable endowment of property in Islamic law.) "It, or any part of it, should not be squandered. It, or any part of it, should not be given up."

Peace conferences, according to Article 13 of the Hamas manifesto, "are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility."

Hamas' state sponsor, Iran, is engaged not only in a nuclear program that will likely soon give it atomic weapons, but also a military buildup aimed at deploying over 1,000 long-range ballistic missiles within six years.

After chiding Israel in May, President Obama was called a liar by Hamas. Meanwhile, Iran has been threatening to "wipe Israel out of existence." No matter what the new president tries to do, Islamist hard-liners will never accept their Jewish neighbor.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | June 2, 2009 3:17 PM | Report abuse

I've always thought it was an incredibly stupid move for the Israelis to take on the British, way back in '46.

But you know, welcome to the real world, there is no pretend, you can't play, you lose, you die.

And when I said a 1-state solution, I meant a mixed Israeli-Palestinian-Arab state.

This is a simple reflection of Israeli inabilty to succeed, govern, create a self sustaining government and economy. How can one, when one is constantly at, or starting, wars?

And Gaza is a war crime, same with Jenin.

Strategically, the US can't allow Israeli hate, or strategy, I forget which it is, to drive a wedge between it and the rest of the ME and world.

Period.

That would be playing into Russian or Chinese hands.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 2, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

John Marshall:
"... the settlers, at least the most ideological ones, are completely indifferent to the rule of law."

They are Israel's own equivalent to the Taliban. Pakistan has learned that you can't appease them and you can only tolerate them at the cost of losing control.

The sooner Israel recognizes the settlers for the threat to the state that they are, the better for Israel.

Posted by: j2hess | June 2, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

"As thanks for the president signaling he'll now apply heavy pressure on Israel, those who supposedly will benefit from it turn around and call him a liar. And while they're at it, they call Israel "racist" and challenge the legitimacy of its "existence."

The Hamas Charter is explicit regarding the Islamic imperative that Israel be destroyed.

"Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it," the charter states.

"The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day," it adds. (A "waqf" is an irrevocable endowment of property in Islamic law.) "It, or any part of it, should not be squandered. It, or any part of it, should not be given up."

Peace conferences, according to Article 13 of the Hamas manifesto, "are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility."

Hamas' state sponsor, Iran, is engaged not only in a nuclear program that will likely soon give it atomic weapons, but also a military buildup aimed at deploying over 1,000 long-range ballistic missiles within six years.

After chiding Israel in May, President Obama was called a liar by Hamas. Meanwhile, Iran has been threatening to "wipe Israel out of existence." No matter what the new president tries to do, Islamist hard-liners will never accept their Jewish neighbor.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | June 2, 2009 3:17 PM"
====================================

When did Iran threaten to "wipe Israel out of existence." ? Or are you one of the many people who simply believe the mistranslated garbage that the media spoon-fed you?

The President of Iran, in a speech, only mentioned that Israel would vanish from the pages of history, but did not say that it would be because of Iran. Instead, he implied that it would be from Israel's own doing.

Also, the President of Iran has no control over the Iranian military, and only the Supreme Ayatollah, who has never stated his desire to destroy Israel, can call for military action. The President of Iran only sets domestic and economic policies. So any "threat" from the President of Iran is irrelevant.

Posted by: ClandestineBlaze | June 2, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

And while they're at it, they call Israel "racist" and challenge the legitimacy of its "existence."

==

Hyperventilating with sneer-quotes.

The whole "right to exist" thing is logical nonsense and comes up in no other discussion about any other country. It's a distraction. Questions about Israel's existence certainly WERE legitimate at the time they took land from Palestine, but nobody's going to evict them now any more than the US is going to purge 12 million illegal aliens. Anyone who advocates either is just looking for attention.

But to call Israel "racist" is perfectly justified, because racist it certainly is, both as an attitude among its populace and under its law. Non-Jews hold legal second-class status and even Sephardic jews are treated as below the salt by many.

Anyone who thinks that Israeli citizens aren't foaming racists hasn't met very many of them.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Netanyahu does not see himself as the Prime Minister who oversaw the creation of Palestine out of Israeli controlled lands - no way!

I love how Cheney makes it sound like Obama is soft when all the Bush admin ever did was to respect Israeli interests. Dick Cheney on gaining respect is like listening to a porn star on fidelity. Everyone was a virgin as some point but once you've lost it...

Posted by: farkdawg | June 2, 2009 3:58 PM | Report abuse

The Bush administration seemed to tacitly approve Israeli apartheid policies in the West Bank, which is hardly surprising of a reactionary neo-con regime. Eisenhower, during the Suez canal seizure and Reagan during the Israeli shelling of Beiruit were very forceful in opposing Israeli actions. Obama is hardly in their league. He is almost certainly likely to be equivocal and will probably back down on the issue of settlements.

Hardly surprising Bush did not object to apartheid in the West Bank, which Carter and others have strongly criticized. The irony is our first African-American president will likely follow suit and acquiesce in apartheid, as well as expanded settlements.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | June 2, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping that Obama holds the line with Netanyahu, let him deal with the settlers. Once they try to assassinate him he may find the stones to face them down, but short of that he won't

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 4:56 PM | Report abuse

He is almost certainly likely to be equivocal and will probably back down on the issue
----------

That's a possibility.

But you know, as with GITMO, his is kind of a push-pull presidency so far, and it is early, yet-- he's allowing tribunals and not yet going after those torture cretins (and among other problems, he can't take that baggage into Afghanistan without a guaranteed loss), but we will see a trial in New York, and Gates is still advocating for any true terrorist to be moved to a US prison.

I don't really trust him -- but still, they're better than Cheney's kooks in that some of them at least kind of understand why the moral thing, the legal thing, is the smart thing, the best thing strategically for the US, in the end.

(Hm.

Is morality symptomatic of empathy?

Let me call Rush...)

ROTFLMAO

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | June 2, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Wow, we're running 10-to-1 in favor of Obama vs. the Israel-first AIPAC-WINEP-JPPPI Mock1ngb1rd chorus. It just goes to show that the tide is turning in the ME and I/P in particular. Obama believes he was put in this place at this time for a divine reason. The AIPACkers are wailing like schoolgirls at the loss of their influence to be the tail that wags America's foreign policy. Never thought I'd live to see the day.

Posted by: obamaniac | June 2, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Waiting for AIPAC to be investigated for espionage and broken up. Wouldn't mind seeing Joe Lieberman in leg irons either.

Posted by: chrisfox8 | June 2, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

The truth is, Israelis make rotten neighbors. It's all about them all the time, they give nothing away, and if they can take an advantage they will. It is this insularity that enabled the Holocaust, and is now perpetrating a new Holocaust on the Arabs around them. The Arabs are a generous people. If the Israelis had been kind and generous and neighborly from the start, it would all have gone better. Now everything is much much worse, and changing it will be just that much harder. Either the key nations, like the U.S. and Israeli, start setting the example of neighborliness, or we continue living in war and strife until we blow up the planet. Simple, huh?

Posted by: shaman7214 | June 2, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

I just have this sinking feeling that Obama is going to be a one-term President. He's going up against too many powerful entrenched groups all at once instead of picking his fights and choosing his battles. This is like seeing the Carter Administration all over again. And then if Obama does compromise, it'll be like the Bush senior administration being demagogued by his own party when Bush compromised on tax increases. Perhaps the Chinese will join forces with the Arabs and put an end to this madness. I don't think anything else will rein-in the out-of-control American Congress and their Israeli patrons. Congress needs to realize that they're now working for our bondholders, since their spending has put us into so much debt. If they don't start acting more responsibly soon, we may be taught a nasty lesson, again. If $4 per gallon gasoline didn't influence them, perhaps it will take $6 per gallon. Then the Chinese, Arab and Indian investors can restructure what's left of our economy into whatever makes sense for them, without more American interference in their foreign affairs. Sound defeatist? That's what we face if Obama fails.

Posted by: ripvanwinkleincollege | June 2, 2009 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Islamists say that Islam is a religion of peace, but both what they say and what they do shows it is not.

Islam has forced conversion and "Holy War" against anyone who will not convert as its core.

Islam's explicit goal is the complete domination of the world under Sharia law.

Arabs treat women like dirt, cut off people's heads, and kill each other, sunni and shiite when they aren't killing Americans like they did on 9/11.

Arabs have the most repressive and corrupt governments on the planet.

Arabs have thousands of times more land than Israel, with trilliions of dollars of oil under it.

But all Arabs care and think about is killing Jews and destroying Israel.

Even if there was no Israel, Sunni and Shiite would kill each other. Even if there was no Israel, Arab Islamic extremists would still use terror against Americans.

The Arabs attacked the USA on 9/11, not the Jews.

Posted by: UniversalHealthCareNow | June 2, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Islamists say that Islam is a religion of peace, but both what they say and what they do shows it is not.

Islam has forced conversion and "Holy War" against anyone who will not convert as its core.

to give Israel the peace of the grave in return.

Israel will not commit suicide.

The Arabs won't even accept Israel's right to exist.

The Arabs won't even renounce terrorism, like 9/11, remember it?

If the President and the Democratic Party screw Jews and Christians by screwing Israel, Jews and Christians will tell the President and the Democratic Party "Screw You"

Democrats are treating Jews like crap and going back on all their campaign promises to us regarding Israel.

We are not going to forget it.

If President Obama screws Israel, he and the Democrats will lose Jews and Christians.

Its our holy land.

Its very, very, important to us both.

Posted by: UniversalHealthCareNow | June 2, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately I do not understand the foreign policy of President Obama.
He is already considered as enemy of Israel.
Because of a lack of loyalty to Israel, Israel is looking for new allies.
Rapprochement between Jerusalem and Moscow did not serve any interest of America.
Moscow rather look like they can trigger an actual force on Iran.
Of course it won't be free of charge, Moscow wonts Israel high technology, and they will get it for the right price.

If you still have any doubt about what it is, look at the following links.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3xOqibQ5qI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHMfViorO1c

Results can be very serious to America
Especially in the Hi - Tech.

Ofer, Israel

Posted by: heibett | June 3, 2009 5:22 AM | Report abuse

West Bank belongs to the Jews according to Bible. The Palestinians have no right to be there and must be expelled. Israel must forcibly expel the Palestinians before pressure builds up. Obama has betrayed Israel and will be brought down. We will use our media power and control to bring down Obama. Without Jewish money and media backing he will be defeated by a challenger. Already, many wealthy jewish donors have contacted Congressmen and women to put pressure on Israel.


Posted by: arichgoldman | June 3, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

US must support Israel because Israel is our only ally in the middle east. Mozlems hate America and our freedom which is why they attacked us on 9/11. Israel is fighting the terrorist Mozlems that hate America. Iraq was a big threat to Israel. Due to the hard work of Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Bill Kristol and the Jewish lobby and the media, US attacked Iraq to remove the threat to Israel. 4000 American troops died in Iraq, which greatly benefited Israel. What is good for Israel is also good for us.

Posted by: arichgoldman | June 3, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Well,It is easy to press small Israel! But try to press Iran to stop nuclear prolifiration! Obama says that the USA needs to apply more diplomacy as the last 7 years it was not enough to do it! Well,the USA had 20 years diplomacy on N.Korea and what a heck the result it got now. They have IBM and WMD to strike West!
I guess it is too late to stop Muslim to get A-bombs! Obama is not gonna deliver!

Posted by: bundyt | June 6, 2009 12:23 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is trying to be absolutely fair and honest with our friend Isreal as well as for the palestinian people, its time to bring both parties to the table and lived up to its commitments that they have agreed to, as a friend we need to be completely honest to Isreal and speak truth to them, there security is extremely important to us, but the palestinians need there own state so they can govern themselves that their right as a people. The president has my full support.

Posted by: rashakur382004 | June 8, 2009 2:15 PM | Report abuse

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