“Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that [my being pro-Israel]?” complained U.S. President Barack Obama in the big interview he gave to Jeffery Goldberg, published Friday in The Atlantic.
“There is no good reason to doubt me on these issues,” Obama grumbled. “I have made a more full-throated defense of Israel and its legitimate security concerns than any president in history ... I have kept every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security ... We’ve got Israel’s back. That’s something that I constantly try to reinforce and remind people of.”
Unfortunately, Obama’s adamant protestations of support for Israel, along with his declaration to Goldberg that he is “not bluffing” when it comes to stopping the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, don’t wash. Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much.
First, the recent upgrades in U.S.-Israel intelligence sharing and weapons development about which Obama boasts at length in the Atlantic interview are (aside from being a benefit to the U.S. as well as Israel) primarily aimed at holding us back from attacking Iran. Like the interview itself, we know that the enhanced security cooperation is a bear hug meant to handcuff Israel.
Second, Obama spent most of his first term, before the election cycle kicked in, distancing himself from Prime MInister Benjamin Netanyahu, attempting to wedge Israel into a 1967 borders negotiating track against its will, and making a fuss about Israeli building in Jerusalem.
Third, the U.S. on Obama’s watch seems to be a confused and unpredictable superpower and a fair-weather friend. This ranges from the strange burst of military activism in Libya to a lack of activism against Bashar al-Assad in Syria. From the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak to the coddling of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. From obsequiousness toward the king of Saudi Arabia to brutishness toward Netanyahu.
Fourth, Obama has wandered around the region apologizing for American assertiveness and wasting precious time in a feckless attempt to “engage” the Iranians.
Fifth, there is the current attempt to convince us that sanctions can stop the Iranians. This is what Obama said: “[When] these [tough] kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them on Iran. So if [Iran] is presented with options that lead to either a lot of pain from their perspective, or potentially a better path, then there’s no guarantee that they can’t make a better decision.”
Again: “There is no guarantee that Iran can’t make a better decision.” Maybe Iran will just drop its nuclear weapons program, like Libya, Obama says. There is no guarantee that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will make the wrong decision, he says. Maybe he’ll decide to see things Obama’s way. Maybe. There is no guarantee that he won’t.
Here’s the problem: I can’t believe that Obama is naive enough to believe such convoluted, double-negative gobbledygook. Therefore, I can only assume that he is being disingenuous. Since he can’t be silly enough to base U.S. strategic planning on such faulty thinking, I can only assume that he is more concerned about an Israeli strike on Iran than the Iranian threat to Israel. So no, I don’t feel that Obama “has Israel’s back.”
I know that the U.S. president feels that he is a “profound” friend of Israel with a “profound” understanding of the “profoundly dangerous” situation that Israel feels itself in. He asserts a “profound” preference for peace over war, a “profound” understanding of the security interests of the U.S., a concern for the “pretty profound” potential disruptions to the world economy that war with Iran would entail, and concern for the “profound” costs of any military action. Obviously, Obama considers himself a “profound” strategic thinker. (I counted nine “profounds” in the one interview.)
Nevertheless, forgive me if Obama’s current charm offensive leaves me skeptical of the depth of his profundity when it comes to Israel.