The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Retreat from Reality

It appears that President Obama purposely wanted to pick a fight with Israel over a relatively minor announcement concerning a bureaucratic approval of a Jerusalem-based housing project. The Obama administration claimed that this announcement was "an insult" to the Vice President while he was visiting Israel. In reality, it was an ill-timed (possibly malicious) announcement by a mid-level bureaucrat. It should take a whole lot more to embarrass our VP. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister of Israel quickly apologized, and Biden accepted. Days later, the Obama administration (via Hillary Clinton) went nuclear.

The question is why? It appears that our president believes that only the Israelis should make concessions when the Israel-Palestinian question is considered. In fact, he believes that concession upon concession need be made by the Israelis while the Palestinians do nothing.

So, the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank honors the terrorist who kills 38 Israelis, and the Obama administration is silent. The Palestinian Authority teaches virulent anti-Semitism in its schools, and the Obama administration is silent. The administration suggests direct talks with the Palestinians -- the Palestinians refuse outright, and the Obama administration is silent. All of that silence, except where Israel is concerned.

Martin Peretz provides a bit of background:
Obama had gone out on a limb about Israel-Palestine. It was based on very faulty history or, rather, on a canny distortion of history. The fact is that neither George Mitchell nor Hillary Clinton nor the president himself has wrangled a single concession from the Palestinian Authority, not one. In fact, the whole structure of the talks is built on yet another concession from Israel. The press is so unknowing that it simply didn’t realize or didn’t care about the nature of the concession. But, to anyone who knows and cares about history, the arrangement is nothing less than spooky.

The idea of proximity talks goes back very deep into the past. It was actually transcended in the negotiations between Yasir Arafat and the strained Israeli duo of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. Since then, in fact, face-to-face consultations had become more or less routine. Sometimes they were desultory; other times they were not. On occasion, they were very productive, as with the agreement to field a U.S. training mission for Palestinian police with deep cooperation from Israel.

So, proximity talks are a big retreat from reality--not a surprise, but a big retreat nonetheless--when the Palestinians want only to talk with the Americans. And then, the Americans will talk to the Israelis, and back and forth through the American mediator, presumably a tired Mitchell who hasn’t had a fresh idea in years. Now he has allowed the Palestinians to push him back to the idea of indirect negotiations, and, apparently, Obama also does not object--or maybe it was his own fix-it device. This is an old nightmare in the Jewish memory bank. Already, at Versailles, there was no contact between the Zionists and the Arabs and no contact at later conferences at which the question of Palestine was discussed.

Peretz goes on to provide us with a bit of history on "proximity talks." They were first used by Neville Chamberlain (interesting how often his name comes up when Pres. Obama is discussed) in an effort to reach an accommodation between Jews and Arabs in 1939. The Arabs refused to sit at one table with the Jews, and diplomats shuttled between the two. No agreement was reached. This occurred again in 1947 after a war initiated by the Arabs when the UN tried to create both the Jewish state and an Arab state (there was no concept of a "Palestinian" at that time. Again, the Arabs refused to sit at the same table with the Jews and proximity talks occurred. No agreement was reached.

Now, the smartest guys in the room (a.k.a. the Obama administration) seem to feel that proximity talks are an answer and that the Israelis must be the ones to make concession after concession while the Palestinians simply make increasingly more difficult demands. Again, Peretz comments:
That the president and his team should now take up this old Arab formula for disguising reality demonstrates the poverty of their grasp of the problem at hand. In fact, Obama seems to think that he is the superego of the conflict and that his function is to hand out dicta on how to end it. But he has no dicta for the Palestinians and plenty for the Israelis. The Jewish state has many conditions under which it would be prepared to give more rather than less. Alas, the president can’t bring himself to publicly acknowledge this. The fact is that he does not particularly like Israel. Which is why it is so frightful to have his messenger running between Jerusalem and Ramallah making demands on the Jews.

Those of us who were not in favor of candidate Obama suggested that there significant evidence indicating that he was no friend of Israel. Today, as president, he appears to be peeved because the Israelis refuse to commit suicide.

There is an interest parallel here. On the domestic level, Obama seems unconcerned about ramming bad policy (think: his monstrous health care lergislation) down the throats of the American people. On the international level, Obama seems unconcerned about ramming bad foreign-policy down the throats of the Israelis. At least he's consistent—and consistently wrong.

Worse, it’s becoming increasingly evident that our President is so full of himself and so confident in his ideology that he’s experiencing a “retreat from reality.” Worrisome.