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So why has Obama been hammering Israel for so long?

04426574Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu listens to President Obama deliver remarks to members of the news media in the Oval Office of the White House last year. (The Washington Post)

Well, this takes the cake. After nearly seven years of haranguing Israel and blaming the Jewish state for the failed “peace process” — not to mention threatening to leave Israel unprotected at the United Nations — President Obama confesses to Al Arabiya that there will be no peace so long as the Palestinians won’t recognize the Jewish state. Exactly as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said — and was vilified by the administration for daring to acknowledge the obvious.

He told the interviewer: “I’ve said to the Israelis you cannot remain a state that is both a democracy and Jewish if you continue to have this problem unresolved. And with respect to the Palestinians, I’ve said that you cannot expect to have a state of your own and the full dignity and respect that is inherent for all human beings if you also don’t recognize Israel, because Israel is not going anywhere.” Asked whether there would be a summit with Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said there was a lack of trust that made that leap impossible.

As for a possible summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Obama said: “Well, you never say never. So we’ll see how it unfolds. But the U.S.’s commitment to both a secure Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state, that remains our policy.” Good to know. It is, by the way, a remarkable confession that the peace process obsession was a colossal waste of time and that you can’t blame Israel, or at least not Israel alone, for the failure to obtain peace.

Elliott Abrams, former deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration, served when Israeli-U.S. relations were extremely warm and Israel agreed to voluntarily leave Gaza, take down some West Bank checkpoints and not expand settlements beyond the existing footprint. Reading the president’s comments, Abrams tells me: “The President has now acknowledged both that PLO chairman Abbas is not able to move forward to peace and that there will be no peace until Palestinians are ready to recognize Israel.” Obama nevertheless is not candid about his own role in creating enmity. “He says there’s a lack of trust, but what he doesn’t say is that there was plenty of trust in 2008 and his administration dissipated it with partisan, ideological attacks on Israel’s government,” Abrams says. “He is asking Palestinians to be realistic, but that’s advice his own government has rejected in six years of hostility toward Israel’s government.”

The interview was noteworthy on several other points. Asked about Sunni states’ fear that the United States is letting Iran run amok, the president lamely responded that at the Gulf Summit “what I wanted to emphasize, because I think there’s been concerns in the region about Iran’s destabilizing activities, is that even if we get a deal on the nuclear issue we are still concerned with some of those activities by not only Iran and the Quds Force and the IRGC [Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps], but also proxies like Hezbollah.” No wonder our allies are freaked out. What the heck does “still concerned” amount to? He does not even bother to expressly condemn Iran’s actions.
President Obama pledged an “ironclad commitment” to Persian Gulf nations to help protect their security and offered strong assurances that an international nuclear agreement with Iran would not leave them more vulnerable. (AP)

In addition, his response to the interviewer’s incredulity about an Iran deal in which key terms will sunset is telling:

Q On the deal with Iran, some say it’s a political gamble to have this deal because 10 to 15 years is a short period. And if they’re going to use this money from the sanction relief to better the life of the Iranian people, it’s kind of a wishful strategy. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don’t think it’s a wishful strategy. The sanctions that we’ve imposed have been a brutal imposition of costs on Iran. So when they receive money, they’re going to have to do things just to shore up their economy, which has collapsed drastically during the course of my administration and the international sanctions that we’ve imposed.

So what is true is that we cannot simply trust the Iranians to abide by a deal. It has to be verifiable. And so part of what we did during this summit was to lay out the unprecedented steps to verify and inspect and monitor nuclear activity inside of Iran. And under the framework that we are now trying to memorialize, Iran would be subject to the kinds of inspections that have never been put in place before.

So we are confident that we can cut off the four pathways to Iran getting a nuclear weapon. And that verification process doesn’t extend simply 10 years, or 15 years; it extends for a very, very long period of time.

The first phase — for 10 years — they would be severely restricted in their activities around any kind of nuclear power. In the subsequent decade, they would still be under the inspections regime that we are discussing, but they would be able to do more around peaceful nuclear power. And so they would have to, essentially, earn — re-earn the trust of the international community around these issues.

The alternative is to not have any idea what’s taking place inside of Iran. And that, I think, is a much more dangerous situation for everyone in the region.




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