New worries about whether Obama's presidency has made them less safe
Israelis worry, again, whether Obama's presidency has made them less safe
Forty years ago this month, at the end of the Yom Kippur War, Israel found itself in a precarious position, confronting increasing Arab strength and hostilities from countries from afar. Having pressed into Egypt, the Israeli Army camped out on the banks of the Suez Canal, uncertain of their fate.
Thursday's speech may have singlehandedly repaired a rocky relationship
Barack Obama came to Jerusalem to win over the Israeli people, and with a single speech he did. It happened when he addressed an audience of several thousand young people in Jerusalem and delivered what may have been the most passionate Zionist speech ever given by an American president.
Advice to the president on his visit
If Obama presents a "yes we can" approach to peace, Israelis will tune him out.
There is a measure of thanksgiving, or at least relief, in the land of Israel. With the ceasefire, Israelis are grateful that their young men waiting on the border—and almost everyone has a husband, son, brother, friend among those 70,000 reservists—will be spared the horrors of fighting in Gaza. They are grateful that the civilians in southern Israel can now emerge from their shelters.
When the President of the United States repeatedly says he’s got your back, and in precisely those words, what more can you ask for? Yet as I read Obama’s interview with Jeff Goldberg in The Atlantic, then his speech to the AIPAC convention, and finally reports of his meeting with Netanyahu, I felt increasingly uneasy. True, Obama went farther than he ever has in reassuring Israel of his commitment to stopping a nuclear Iran. He explicitly mentioned the military option. He upheld Israel’s right to defend itself.
When Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Barack Obama on Monday, the main issue will be trust. Obama will ask that Israel trust America’s determination to stop Iran, and trust that when he says all options are on the table he means it. Netanyahu will likely be thinking about May 1967. In late May 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol dispatched his foreign minister, Abba Eban, to Washington. Egyptian and Syrian troops were pressing on Israel’s borders; Egypt had imposed a naval blockade on the Straits of Tiran, Israel’s shipping route to the east.
For Israelis, this is the time of the return of the lie. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas tells the UN General Assembly that Israel bears sole blame for the origins of the conflict, that Israel is the sole obstacle to resolving it, and that, in effect, the Jews have no connection to the land of Israel. And he receives a standing ovation. This is also a time of inversion of expectations: Barack Obama, Israelis’ least favorite president, emerges as the defender of truth, while Bill Clinton, whom Israelis adored, joins the distorters.
Jerusalem—As the U.N. votes on Palestinian statehood, and former regional allies of the Jewish state like Turkey and Egypt turn openly hostile, much of the international community is blaming Israel for its own isolation. If only Israel had apologized to Turkey for killing nine of its nationals on last year’s Gaza flotilla, so the argument goes, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erodgan would not be threatening now to send warships against the Israeli coast.