Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Last Call For All About The Benjamin

My friend Emily L. Hauser wonders why President Obama is even bothering to meet with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu today at the White House, because it's not like Bibi hasn't smacked the president around like a wet noodle for eight years and laughed at him every second of it.  I don't often see her upset with President Obama over things, but she's pretty frustrated over this, and rightfully so.

Many things stand in the way of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace, not least Palestinian terrorism; domestic politics on both sides; a mutual refusal to recognize the just demands of long-time enemies; the hugely fraught questions of how to share Jerusalem and the status of Palestinian refugees; and all those wars in Gaza, each of which was part of a cyclical and very lopsided war of attrition waged between the sides for decades. 
But even if all that were somehow, through sheer force of will, resolved, Obama's stated goal of a two-state peace literally cannot be achieved if Israel not only refuses to leave Palestinian land but continues to build on it. Which is, and has always been, the goal of settlement — to force permanent Israeli control over the West Bank. 
What could the Obama administration have done to convince its client state that compromise for the sake of peace was in its own best interests? Any number of things, ranging from the geopolitical to the financial. We'll never know if putting real pressure on Israel would have worked, because Obama — like every other president before him, with the single and short-lived example of George H.W. Bush — was never willing to push Israel past its comfort zone. I believe Obama to have been an excellent president for the American people, but the simple truth is that he has failed Israelis and Palestinians miserably
Netanyahu, on the other hand, has staked his entire career on settlement and was once secretly recorded telling a group of constituents: "I know what America is. America is a thing you can move very easily… They won't get in our way." 
Do you think Obama wants a chance to tell Netanyahu he was right?

It's not hard to admit that Obama's foreign policy failures are real and lasting.  He's done a lot of good things over the last eight years, but Syria, Israel, and Yemen  (and in reality, Russia) are never going to be counted among his successes.  I love the man dearly and will always respect him, and I wish he could server another term, but as with Emily, the rose-colored glasses have to come off when it comes to MENA and the failure of Arab Spring, and what could have been.

He's not alone in that blame.  But he gets his healthy share of it, deservedly.

Eight years of letting Bibi kick him in the crotch and run away giggling, then giving him $38 billlion in new military aid? C'mon. The truth is, Obama got sandbagged, bruised, battered, beaten, and just plain outsmarted in his second term, like Clinton and Dubya before him.  Clinton's weakness was domestic, Dubya's was both domestic and foreign policy, but Obama's is definitely foreign policy and the next President has a hell of a mess to clean up.

And no, I expect even less from Hillary when it comes to dealing with Israel, so let's get that out of the way now.

God help us all if it's Trump, though.

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