WASHINGTON – Recent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks raise questions as to why Washington invested so much in such a misbegotten venture, but they brought one salutary result – they laid bare the Obama Administration’s hostility to the Jewish state.
Evidence of anti-Israel one-sidedness mounted as the talks predictably went nowhere and President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry blamed Israel in general and its settlement policy in particular.
With Washington’s frustration that Israel did not freeze settlements and make other concessions that would magically nourish peace, Israel backers wonder what the next two-plus years of Obama will mean for U.S. policy toward Israel.
Speeches and interviews by Obama, Kerry, and unnamed staffers of late reflect an outlook about the peace talks that poo-poos Israeli concerns, ignores Palestinian roadblocks, and, astonishingly, green-lights Palestinian violence and global isolation against Israel as the logical consequence of failure.
The most recent, and striking, evidence came in a Times of Israel piece in which anonymous U.S. officials who worked closely with Kerry on the peace push offered a postmortem that reveals the dripping contempt with which the Administration views America’s closest ally in the region.
“There are a lot of reasons for the peace effort’s failure,” a U.S. official said, “but people in Israel shouldn’t ignore the bitter truth. The primary sabotage came from the settlements.”
“The Jewish people are supposed to be smart; it is true that they’re also considered a stubborn nation,” another U.S. official said in a tone of nauseating condescension. “You’re supposed to know how to read the map: In the 21st century, the world will not keep tolerating the Israeli occupation. The occupation threatens Israel’s status in the world and threatens Israel as a Jewish state.”
Such comments reflect a campaign of U.S. Israel-bashing that includes several major elements:
First, the burden for Israeli-Palestinian peace-making lies squarely with Jerusalem, as Obama and Kerry have made clear.
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel,” Obama told Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg, “then he needs to articulate an alternative approach.”
That Israel is negotiating only with the Palestinian Authority and not Hamas, which rules Gaza and remains dedicated to Israel’s destruction; that rockets continue to fly from Gaza into Israel; and that Palestinian media and schoolbooks continue to incite Israel-hating seems not to trouble Obama.
Second, Israel has a legitimate peace partner in Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whom Obama describes in glowing terms as an unusually brave, sincere, peace-seeking Palestinian leader.
Abbas, Obama said, is “committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts” and “sincere” in his willingness “to recognize Israel and its right to exist… to shun violence… [and] to resolve these issues in a diplomatic fashion that meets” Israel’s concerns.
That Abbas won’t recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” wants a unity government with Hamas, glorifies Palestinian martyrs, reiterates a right of return for all Palestinian refugees, continues to serve long after his presidential term ended, and presides over growing human rights abuses in the West Bank also doesn’t trouble Obama.
Third, Palestinians will respond violently to more Israeli-Palestinian gridlock from legitimate frustration over Israeli obstinacy, while the world just as legitimately launches boycotts against Israel.
“I guess we need another intifada to create the circumstances that would allow progress,” one U.S. official said. Similarly, Kerry predicted that failed peace talks would invite “whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community” and growing momentum for a global “de-legitimization campaign.”
Thus, an Israel that refuses to make peace – notwithstanding the obstacles – shall get what it deserves.
Watching from the region and beyond, what must the rest of America’s allies think of such U.S. behavior?
A former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, Lawrence J. Haas is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.