We can’t really call this one a surprise, not with foreign-policy advisers like Samantha Power in the White House. After all, when Barack Obama appointed someone whose idea of solving the Israeli-Palestinian dispute was to forcibly disarm Israel and occupy it, one already gets the sense that traditional American support for our closest ally in the Middle East would wane in the Obama administration. Sources in the White House tell the New York Times that Obama will “balance” American support for Israel against “other interests”:
It was just a phrase at the end of President Obama’s news conference on Tuesday, but it was a stark reminder of a far-reaching shift in how the United States views the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how aggressively it might push for a peace agreement.
When Mr. Obama declared that resolving the long-running Middle East dispute was a “vital national security interest of the United States,” he was highlighting a change that has resulted from a lengthy debate among his top officials over how best to balance support for Israel against other American interests.
This shift, described by administration officials who did not want to be quoted by name when discussing internal discussions, is driving the White House’s urgency to help broker a Middle East peace deal. It increases the likelihood that Mr. Obama, frustrated by the inability of the Israelis and the Palestinians to come to terms, will offer his own proposed parameters for an eventual Palestinian state.
Mr. Obama said conflicts like the one in the Middle East ended up “costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure” — drawing an explicit link between the Israeli-Palestinian strife and the safety of American soldiers as they battle Islamic extremism and terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Sure. Because the root of the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan can be found in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, right? Er, no. The war in Afghanistan has its roots in the Cold War in the near term, and in centuries of tribal conflict. Iraq’s misery stems from Saddam Hussein’s attempt to overrun Kuwait in 1990, thanks in no small part to a lack of diplomatic fortitude from the US prior to the invasion.
Even al-Qaeda didn’t bother mimicking the Arab regimes they hate in blaming the Israelis for their terrorism until several years after they began their operations. AQ initially began attacking American assets because of our presence in Saudi Arabia, which they consider holy land, and that resulted from Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. For that matter, Osama bin Laden and the original core of AQ were radicalized by the Saudi-Yemen conflict over disputed territory, and the elimination of the Saudi royal family has always been Osama’s key goal.
This is just another form of appeasement, attempting to buy off Islamist extremists by pushing away from Israel. Will it do any good? Not at all, not in Iraq, Afghanistan, or in Israel and the Palestinian territories. We’re not the problem, and we aren’t going to be the solution, either. The only effect this will have will be to encourage more Palestinian intransigence, just as Obama’s sudden case of the vapors on Jerusalem settlements caused, and a big shrug in the theaters of war we’re in at the moment. As long as we’re actually in the Persian Gulf region in any context, the Islamist extremists will continue to target us, and thanks to our refusal to drill for our own oil here in the US, that region remains highly strategic. That has nothing to do with Israel, and throwing our best ally in that highly strategic region under the bus will only make our own position there even less tenable.