President Barack Obama would let the Middle East continue to suffer with chaos and conflict rather than see Israeli Jews move into apartments legally built or purchased in Jerusalem, in parts of the city that are never going to be part of a Palestinian capital under any peace agreement. He made that clear Wednesday in reacting to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s message of a new emerging Arab alliance with Israel.
Any other president–including Jimmy Carter, who sought to shift the Arab world’s leading nation against the Soviet Union when he worked with Egypt to broker the Camp David accords–would realize the historic and strategic significance of what Netanyahu is describing: the emergence of a coalition between Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and others against the extremism of ISIS and Hamas, and the nuclear ambitions of Iran.
Not Obama. In response to Netanyahu’s suggestion that this new alliance play a role in the peace process, Obama “kept the spotlight squarely on the settlements” when the two leaders met at the White House on Wednesday, the New York Times reports. Later, the White House condemned Israel’s decision to build new apartments in East Jerusalem, and the arrival of several Jewish families in apartments they bought from Arabs.
Think about that for a minute: a president who came to national prominence as a symbol of reconciliation is objecting to integrated housing, balancing the (legal!) arrival of Jews in a predominantly Arab neighborhood against the vast benefits to be gained from cultivating a regional alliance between non-extremist Arab powers and Israel–an alliance that could help bring greater stability to a region, including peace with the Palestinians.
Since he took office, President Obama has made opposition to “settlements”–by which he includes apartments bought or built by Jews in Israel’s capital city–the cornerstone of his policy towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He made a “settlement freeze” the precondition for peace talks–a demand not even Palestinians had made until that point, but which they quickly adopted as an excuse for avoiding negotiations with Israel.
Yet even when Israel did impose temporary halts in construction, the Palestinians refused to talk, and incited war instead, as President Mahmoud Abbas did in his recent speech to the UN General Assembly, in which he accused Israel of “genocide” in its war against Hamas in Gaza. The Obama administration condemned Abbas’s speech–and then went right back to encouraging his extremist demands. That reaction is a recipe for disaster.
Recall that it was Secretary of State John Kerry’s absurd push towards an imposed deadline for a peace deal earlier this year that encouraged the Gaza war. When the deadline passed, the Palestinian Authority welcomed Hamas back into a governing coalition–and the U.S. did nothing. When Hamas rained rockets over Israel, and Israel, reluctantly, fought back, Obama insisted on a cease-fire that would leave Hamas’s terror arsenal in place.
And throughout that war, Obama and Kerry griped about Palestinian civilian casualties–which Israel took great pains to avoid, despite Hamas’s use of human shields. Obama repeated those complains Wednesday–a day after he suspended his own rules against civilian casualties to facilitate U.S. bombing against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Such double standards are not due to antisemitic bias, but strategic confusion. No wonder the region is a mess.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the forthcoming ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak