Tucked towards the end of his otherwise vapid interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, President Barack Obama offers his own bizarre theory about what would bring about peace between Israelis and Palesitnians: namely, Israeli weakness. According to the president, if only Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were weaker than they are at present they might feel more inclined to make painful compromises:
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s “poll numbers are a lot higher than mine” and “were greatly boosted by the war in Gaza,” Obama said. “And so if he doesn’t feel some internal pressure, then it’s hard to see him being able to make some very difficult compromises, including taking on the settler movement. That’s a tough thing to do. With respect to Abu Mazen, it’s a slightly different problem. In some ways, Bibi is too strong [and] in some ways Abu Mazen is too weak to bring them together and make the kinds of bold decisions that Sadat or Begin or Rabin were willing to make. It’s going to require leadership among both the Palestinians and the Israelis to look beyond tomorrow. … And that’s the hardest thing for politicians to do is to take the long view on things.”
So, in other words, it would be better for the sake of peace if Israel had not been able to defend itself from terror and if the country were politically divided.
Obama precedes these comments with some fairly boilerplate praise for Israel (“It is amazing to see what Israel has become over the last several decades,” etc.). But he leaves little room for doubt that he sees Israel’s strength as a strategic problem–one that he would perhaps wish to undo.
It is worth noting that Obama’s view flies in the face of historical fact. Israel has generally been more willing to make compromises when it has felt stronger, not weaker. It signed the Oslo accords, for example, after Yasser Arafat made himself a pariah by supporting Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War. It also pulled out of Gaza in 2005 after defeating the second intifada and after Arafat’s death. Weakness and division have had the opposite effect.
Obama’s vies of Israel has implications for American security. Problems are solved, he suggests, when the stronger party gives up on victory. In most cases, that means America must become weaker–which is precisely the pattern that Obama has followed in the Middle East, in dealings with Russia, and so forth.
Ronald Reagan touted “peace through strength.” Obama styled himself as the anti-Reagan, and in that sense he is delivering.
Photo: Screenshot/New York Times