by Victor Davis Hanson
NRO’s The Corner
Some strong supporters of both Obama and Israel are disappointed in the latest hysterical Biden-Clinton-Obama smack-down over the settlement issue. But why, I don’t know — this is a logical, not an aberrant, development from President Obama.
Once it was thought to be unprincipled guilt-by-association for pro-Israeli, anti-Obama groups to question candidate Obama’s dubious associations; after all, Reverend Wright, Rashid Khalidi, Samantha Power, et al. were all on record as hostile to the Jewish state. Few likewise seemed to take note when a key Obama campaign foreign policy advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in September 2009 suggested that the U.S. might, and perhaps should, shoot down Israeli planes over Iraq on their way to Iran: e.g., “If they fly over, you go up and confront them. They have the choice of turning back or not. No one wishes for this but it could be a Liberty in reverse.” Then there was the nomination of Charles Freeman. And of course the present outreach to the two most terrorist-friendly regimes in the Middle East, theocratic Iran and authoritarian Syria. Someone from Mars might conclude that the United States has spent far more effort in courting Ahmadinejad and Assad than Netayanhau.
Each of these steps — and there are others — in isolation can be contextualized, but in aggregate they paint a pretty clear picture that for this administration the benefits of supporting Israel are far outweighed by the downside.
So we are watching unfold a sort of Chicago-style realpolitik, flavored with the traditional academic leftist disdain for the Jewish state. The subsequent result is not so much a cut-off of U.S. aid as a subtle shift in perception abroad: Israel’s multiple enemies now are almost giddy in sensing that America is not all that into protecting the Jewish state, intellectually or morally. And given the nature of the UN, given the power of oil, given endemic anti-Semitism, given the collapse of classical liberal thought in Europe (e.g., Britain was far more deferential to Libya in repatriating a supposedly “terminally ill” mass murderer to Tripoli than it is currently with Israel), and given the realpolitik amorality of Russian and Chinese foreign policy, the world as a whole can now far more easily step up its own natural pressure on Israel, at just the moment when it increasingly has no margin of error with a soon-to-be nuclear Iran.
Once the U.S. blinks, the floodgates open — that is the real lesson from the incremental, but unmistakable shift in U.S.-Israeli relations. Like radical shifts in thinking about healthcare, energy use, and amnesty, so too abroad Obama realizes that the difficult process of “change,” in this case of becoming a neutral in the Middle East and deeming Israel’s democracy unexceptional in the region, will require all sorts of dissimulation, denials, clarifications, and acrimony. But ultimately, the end of “solving” the Middle East crisis will be seen as well worth the now unpleasant and often tawdry means of doing it.
©2010 Victor Davis Hanson