December 23, 2008
The Obama watch begins: Zionists must be outspokenly critical if U.S. policy threatens Israel's security
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Optimism for the new Obama administration runs deep in the U.S. and abroad---and we at FLAME share these high hopes. But our optimism is guarded, and we're ready to speak up if turns out not to be justified. We trust you will be, too.
So far we have no complaints about his nominations for foreign policy posts. Starting with Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, Obama has chosen extremely bright talent. The questions for pro-Israel activists are: What is Obama's vision for the Middle East, and how will he order his foreign policy priorities---which issues will receive his energies?
Of equal importance will be the results of Israel's elections this coming February. Most pollsters predict that hard-line Likud leader Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu will win. If so, a clash between U.S. policy and Israel's is likely, according to this week's analysis, below, by Dick Morris, former political advisor to U.S. president Bill Clinton.
A recent poll in Israel and the Palestinian territories indicates that, like Netanyahu, nearly two-thirds of Israelis oppose a peace based on the so-called Saudi initiative, which calls for Israel to withdraw to pre-Six Day War borders. Ironically, some two-thirds of Palestinians support such a peace plan, and there are indications that Obama has favored a similar approach.
Morris's article also questions whether Obama's administration will take as resolute an approach to Iran's nuclear buildup as Israel believes is necessary.
While it's a bit premature to get all lathered up about Obama's foreign policy---we're still a month from his inauguration---it's not too early to warm up our vocal chords. Given the strong possibility of a divergence of wills on the question of Middle East peace and Israel's security, we have to be prepared to respond immediately if Obama begins pressuring Israel to capitulate in peace negotiations with the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world.
With your help, we at FLAME stand at the ready. We have the proven ability to publish informative and outspoken position papers in order to rally American citizens and legislators to Israel's defense. Our well-crafted and persuasive ads regularly reach more than 5 million readers, now including college students, every month.
I hope that as 2008 comes to a close and as the Obama administration ramps up, you'll consider making a donation to FLAME now. It's individuals, like you, who make it possible for us to continue to conduct powerful public relations efforts on Israel's behalf. Won't you help us now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18? (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to http://www.factsandlogic.org/make_a_donation.html. Thanks for continuing to help us keep the flame alive
Preparing for the U.S.-Israel collision
With the election of Barack Obama, the United States has moved dramatically to the left in its foreign policy at just the time that Israel, which seems likely to return Bibi Netanyahu to office in early February, is moving to the right. A collision is almost inevitable.
Caroline Glick, the highly astute conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post, writes that the "international community" believes that Obama "will move quickly to place massive pressure on the next Israeli government to withdraw from Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem and the Golan Heights in the interests of advancing a 'peace process' with the Palestinians and the Syrians." She notes that "people who have been in close contact with Obama's foreign policy transition team have privately acknowledged that the widespread belief that Obama will move swiftly to put the screws on Israel is fully justified. According to one source who has spent a great deal of time with the transition team since last month's U.S. elections, Obama's people are 'scope-locked' on Israel."
Meanwhile, in Israel, there is a growing consensus, reflected in public opinion surveys, that trading land for peace is a chimera. Netanyahu points out that "we do not have a viable partner with whom to negotiate peace." The Palestinian Authority does not speak for the people of either Gaza or the West Bank, and Hamas, which probably does (it won the election), does not want to be a party to any peace agreement. Recent experience suggests that Hamas will quickly install rocket launchers on any territory Israel concedes, using it not as a basis for peace, but as a platform from which to kill more Jews.
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the candidates of the left, Labor's Ehud Barak and Kadima's Tzipi Livni, are deeply committed to land for peace. Their rejection by the Israeli electorate -- the anticipated outcome of the Feb. 10 election -- will signal a bold departure in the political consensus of the Jewish state, a consensus that flies directly in the face of Obama's likely policy.
The difference between the U.S. and Israel also extends to the realm of how strongly they oppose Iranian development of nuclear weapons. While Iran moves closer and closer to a bomb that could and will be used against Israel, Obama speaks of extending the American "nuclear umbrella" to cover Israel.
Reading between the lines, this means that he doesn't think he can stop Iranian nuclear ambitions and will retreat to a policy of deterrence, accepting a nuclear Iran in the bargain.
If Netanyahu wins the election, he will bring with him a determination to stop Iranian nuclear weapons, no matter what, and a refusal to concede more territory in the name of the peace process. But Obama's foreign policy team will be focusing on pushing Israel in just the opposite direction.
The result is likely to be the most significant divergence between Israeli and American policies since 1956, when President Eisenhower sided with the Arabs to halt the British-French-Israeli invasion of Suez.
The United States has tremendous leverage over Israel—military, financial and political. And Obama's ability to carry the Jewish vote by a wide margin despite his likely Middle East policy makes him largely immune to the kind of political pressure that has disciplined American presidents in the past and forced them to incline toward accommodating Israeli views on the Middle East.
But Israel probably has the military capacity to bomb Iran and to win the Middle East war against Syria, Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah that is likely to result. Unlike Olmert, Netanyahu will use ground troops right off the bat and will fight such a war to win and to win big. But they may have to do it without their strongest ally: the United States.
Free subscriptions to Dick Morris's blog are available at www.dickmorris.com