Where does the Obama administration stand on Israel? Although that vexed question is still open, the worrying signs are accumulating.
On Sunday it was National Security Adviser James Jones telling ABC that “We understand Israel’s preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that”—and adding: “…by the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution.”
With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu slated to meet President Barack Obama in Washington on May 18, that statement and others—by Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller, and an earlier one by Jones, to name just some—are creating a mood of apprehension in Israel. Then there’s a rather bizarre interview with Jordan’s King Abdullah appearing in the Times of London on Monday.
In it Abdullah, who met with Obama on April 21 in Washington, goes well beyond the two-state solution—or as he puts it:
What we are talking about is not Israelis and Palestinians sitting at the table, but Israelis sitting with Palestinians, Israelis sitting with Syrians, Israelis sitting with Lebanese. And with the Arabs and the Muslim world lined up to open direct negotiations with Israelis at the same time. So it’s the work that needs to be done over the next couple of months that has a regional answer to this—that is not a two-state solution, it is a 57-state solution.
Referring, in other words, to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the formal convocation of an entire civilization that views a Jewish state in the midst of Dar al-Islam as an offense against its God, and that includes such friends of Israel and human rights beacons as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Sudan.
Having said that Obama “is committed to the two-state solution” and “feels the urgency of the need to move today,” Abdullah states that “Here is one final opportunity. If the only player in this equation between the West, the Arabs and the Muslims that is not being helpful and is against peace is Israel, then let’s call it for what it is. Let Israel understand that the world sees Israeli policy for what it is.”
Abdullah is then asked, “If you don’t succeed in your peace plans, will it matter?” He replies: “We’re going to have a war… If we delay our peace negotiations, then there’s going to be another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12 to 18 months….”
The treatment of Israel is, let’s say, rough. Jones acknowledges the existential threat hanging over Israel’s head but, in the same breath, clearly indicates that Israel is at least passively responsible for it by not striving hard enough for the purported two-state solution.
Certain objections to this staggering assertion spring all too readily to mind. Apart from the current political disposition of Gaza and the West Bank, there’s the fact that two Israeli governments in this decade, those of Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert, made a Palestinian state their central objective and both met a flat wall of rejection, with, in Barak’s case, a terror war thrown in.
Or one could note this statement by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini: “Iran’s stance has always been clear on this ugly phenomenon [of Israel]. We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region.” Or this one—one of many of its kind, of course—by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: “I must announce that the Zionist regime, with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene.”
That Jones—as former Supreme Allied Commander Europe and no stranger to the international scene, undoubtedly aware of statements of this ilk from Tehran—nevertheless puts the threat to Israel in the “Israeli-Palestinian, two-state-solution” frame suggests irrational fixation at best.
While Jones is a democratic official, Abdullah is—however euphemistically referred to—a Third World dictator albeit of the milder variety, and is able to be more explicit. For Abdullah, Israel’s comeuppance if it fails to follow a script decreed by others will be “another conflict between Arabs or Muslims and Israel in the next 12 to 18 months”—the alleged 57-state readiness for peace being apparently easily transformable into its opposite.
Jones’s statement, though, is no less a dire warning, since in his formulation Israel, by failing to play the “peace” game that has already subjected it to carnage and was rejected by a clear majority of its voters in February, fails to “diminish” the “existential threat” to itself and thereby increases its chance of annihilation.
The “two-state solution,” then, as panacea for much of the world’s ills, for the volatility of an entire region, and even for Tehran’s march toward the bomb. With all the factual and logical strikes against it, it is difficult not to see such a view as arising from deep-seated cultural dispositions to see Jews as being at the root of problems.
There is still time to hope that is not Barack Obama’s view.