A very interesting letter in “Foreign Policy” which describes the abiding links between Israel and the U.S.
“Walter Russell Mead had a fascinating column on his blog a few months ago that perfectly explains why Netanyahu feels free to ignore the sensibilities of the Obama Administration; there is simply no downside to doing so. In fairness to the Israelis, the President’s weakness is on ample display to all of America’s friends and adversaries around the world. The Israelis know it; so do the Iranians. The Turks know it; so do the Chinese. The Western Europeans know it; so do the Russians.
Speaking of Obama, here’s what Mead had to say,
“Three times he has gone up against Netanyahu; three times he has ingloriously failed. This last defeat — Netanyahu’s deadly, devastating speech to Congress in which he eviscerated President Obama’s foreign policy to prolonged and repeated standing ovations by members of both parties — may have been the single most stunning and effective public rebuke to an American President a foreign leader has ever delivered.
Netanyahu beat Obama like a red-headed stepchild; he played him like a fiddle; he pounded him like a big brass drum. The Prime Minister of Israel danced rings around his arrogant, professorial opponent. It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters go up against the junior squad from Miss Porter’s School; like watching Harvard play Texas A&M, like watching Bambi meet Godzilla — or Bill Clinton run against Bob Dole.
The Prime Minister mopped the floor with our guy. Obama made his ’67 speech; Bibi ripped him to shreds. Obama goes to AIPAC, nervous, off-balance, backing and filling. Then Bibi drops the Congress-Bomb, demonstrating to the whole world that the Prime Minister of Israel has substantially more support in both the House and the Senate than the President of the United States.”
Mandarins like Gates, Mitchell and other members of the Obama Administration just don’t get it. They believe that their expertise means that they should set the direction of American foreign policy based on their assessment of American interests. The problem for them is that the United States is a democracy and our foreign policy direction is ultimately set not based on a cold calculation of American interests but on the wishes of the American electorate.
Here’s Mead again,
“As the stunning and overwhelming response to Prime Minister Netanyahu in Congress showed, Israel matters in American politics like almost no other country on earth. Well beyond the American Jewish and the Protestant fundamentalist communities, the people and the story of Israel stir some of the deepest and most mysterious reaches of the American soul. The idea of Jewish and Israeli exceptionalism is profoundly tied to the idea of American exceptionalism. The belief that God favors and protects Israel is connected to the idea that God favors and protects America.
It means more. The existence of Israel means that the God of the Bible is still watching out for the well-being of the human race. For many American Christians who are nothing like fundamentalists, the restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land and their creation of a successful, democratic state after two thousand years of oppression and exile is a clear sign that the religion of the Bible can be trusted.
Being pro-Israel matters in American mass politics because the public mind believes at a deep level that to be pro-Israel is to be pro-America and pro-faith. Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ God. Obama’s political isolation on this issue, and the haste with which liberal Democrats like Nancy Pelosi left the embattled President to take the heat alone, testify to the pervasive sense in American politics that Israel is an American value. Said the Minority Leader to the Prime Minister: “I think it’s clear that both sides of the Capitol believe you advance the cause of peace.”
The foreign policy elites from Secretary Gates to Daniel Drezner may find this reality objectionable. Secular leftists may also regret it; but none of this matters. Support for Israel is deep and abiding in the United States and while Americans may not have particular or deeply held preferences about the details of Israeli-Palestinian or even Israeli-American relations, they do believe that to support Israel is to support American values.
Netanyahu can afford to treat the American President like he’s a school child because that American President is deeply unpopular, widely viewed as a failed President and amazingly is less trusted by Americans on Middle East policy than the Prime Minister of Israel is.
There is little as entertaining as watching critics of Israel bemoan this reality.” For the original article by Mead, see here
Here was a letter response to the article by Mead
Obama is trapped by his leftist idée fixe that says ‘Israel is the colonialist oppressor, therefore Israel is by definition the problem.’ This is the ideology that powers Obama’s palpable animus against Israel. This is the ideology that leads Obama to forget the risks Israel has already taken for peace, and what came of them; even worse, to forget the US promises that Israel counted on when taking those risks. This is the ideology that prevents Obama from putting even the smallest amount of pressure on the side that is refusing to sit down at the table: the Palestinians. Instead, he pretends that Israeli, not Palestinian, intransigence is preventing negotiations and demands that Israel give up all its bargaining chips as a precondition to talks. For icing on the cake, Obama urges this at the very moment when Israel’s 30 year old peace treaty with Egypt, for which it gave up the whole Sinai, is being torn up, bit by bit.
Obama is a prisoner of his neo-Marxist “Orientalist” ideology. Like others of his ilk, what he really wants is for the Palestinians to be made happy or for Israel to be destroyed, which ever comes first (you get only one guess), but he can’t say that out loud, so he is forced to dissemble. It’s always prodding him, this ideology; it keeps driving him to pick fights he can’t win. I don’t even think he intended to pick a fight with Netanyahu in last Thursday’s speech! He just can’t help himself, apparently. “Substantial numbers of voters believe that politicians who don’t ‘get’ Israel also don’t ‘get’ America and don’t ‘get’ God.” Exactly right, Mr. Mead. Exactly right. In a nutshell you have described the alienation of Obama and the current leaders of the Democratic Party from the majority of Americans.