Approximately 14 million Jews exist in the entire world. Forty-two percent of them live in Israel. Forty percent of them live in the United States. This only partially explains why U.S.-Israel relations have been so tight over the years since Israel became a state in 1949. The plight of Jews in the Holocaust and Jewish-Americans staunch support for Israel also are major factors. Still, negative anti-Israel attitudes are not uncommon among Americans. Working in the Department of Defense for 23-years, I encountered many people who believed Israel didn’t deserve the treatment it received from the U.S. Government, reflecting similar segments of public opinion. Until President Barack Obama came along, however, no U.S. president had been so outright anti-Israel.
It’s possible to argue persuasively that there are several reasons for this. Barack Obama ascended to the presidency believing that his “magic” could cut through the decades of intransigence in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Then he came face to face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who took office three months after Barack Obama. Like most Israeli prime ministers, Netanyahu was a no-nonsense pragmatist undazzled by Barack Obama’s proclaimed “charm and brilliance.” He didn’t ask “How high?” when Obama said jump. Their relationship was strained from the outset. Netanyahu understood that President Obama was competence challenged and that the president’s policy approach to the problem was flawed.
Another popular explanation is that President Obama is pro-Muslim and anti-Israel. From his apology tour in 2009 to his support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to his over indulgence of Iran to his rejection of the term Islamic-jihadist terrorism, he has demonstrated his affinity for the Muslim world on numerous occasions. Is it any wonder that so many Americans, as many as 40 percent in one survey, believe he is a Muslim?
Finally, I have no doubt that President Obama truly believes that Israel settlements are the main roadblock to peace and although his principal purpose in abstaining from the vote on the UN resolution condemning them may have been to stick a finger in Netanyahu’s eye, he likely believes that ultimately he’s doing Israel a favor.
Ever since the Camp David Accords achieved through the efforts of President Jimmy Carter, the prevailing rationale behind U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the belief that a negotiated settlement is possible by Israel trading land for peace, and even though this almost happened when Yasser Arafat was leading the Palestinians, it remains a distant mirage. When the peace process fell apart because Arafat couldn’t accept the best deal from Israel he was ever going to get, it proved that Palestinians have no intention of living side by side with Israel in a “two state” solution.
Indeed, however, President Obama may have done Israel and incoming President Elect Donald Trump a favor. By allowing the UN to remove whatever bargaining chips Israel had by declaring all Israeli settlements, including those in Jerusalem, as illegal, he destroyed any incentive Israel had for a negotiated peace. The Palestinians, emboldened by the UN will no longer seek a negotiated settlement trading peace for land. The UN says they don’t have to.
It’s time to stop believing that Washington, D.C., can discover the magic formula for peace. It should stop pouring U.S. taxpayer funds into the Palestinian National Authority, reduce U.S. funding for the UN and make it abundantly clear that the United States has Israel’s back by providing the military and economic assistance necessary. The UN, with President Obama’s help, has destroyed any chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians for at least another generation.