Obama’s foreign policy was supposed to reboot America’s relationship with the rest of the world. Old allies would become people we occasionally talked to. Old enemies would become new allies. Goodbye Queen, hello Vladimir. Trade the Anglosphere for Latin America’s Marxist dictatorships. Replace allied governments in the Middle East with Islamists and call it a day for the Caliphate.
Very little of that went according to plan.
Obama is still stuck with Europe. The Middle East and Latin American leftists still hate America. The Arab Spring imploded. Japan, South Korea and India have conservative governments.
And then there’s Israel.
The original plan was to sideline Israel by focusing on the Muslim world. Instead of directly hammering Israel, the administration would transform the region around it. The American-Israeli relationship would implode not through conflict, but because the Muslim Brotherhood countries would take its place.
That didn’t work out too well. Instead of gracefully pivoting away, Obama loudly snubbed Netanyahu. A photo of him poking his finger in Netanyahu’s chest captured the atmosphere. Netanyahu delivered a speech that Congress cheered. And Obama came to see him as a domestic political opponent.
The torrent of anti-Israel leaks from the administration is a treatment usually reserved for political opponents. The snide remarks by White House spokesmen and the anonymous personal attacks on Netanyahu in the media echo domestic hate campaigns out of the White House like Operation Rushbo.
Netanyahu wasn’t just the leader of a country that the left hated. He had become an honorary Republican.
When Obama met with him, Netanyahu firmly but politely challenged him on policy. He has kept on doing so ever since, including during his most recent visit. At a time when most leaders had gotten the message about shunning Romney, Netanyahu was happy to give him a favorable reception. Netanyahu clearly wanted Romney to win and Obama clearly wished he could pull a Clinton and replace Netanyahu. But Netanyahu’s economic policies were working in exactly the same way that Obama’s weren’t.
The two men hate each other not only on a personal level, but also on a political level.
Netanyahu had successfully pushed through a modernization and privatization agenda that on this side of the ocean is associated with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper or Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. It’s likely what Romney would have done which is one more reason the two men got along so well. Obama’s visible loathing for Romney is of a piece with his hatred for Netanyahu.
He doesn’t just hate them. He hates what they stand for. That’s why Harper and Netanyahu get along so well. It’s part of why Obama and Netanyahu get along so badly.
But the bigger part of the conflict is neither personal nor political. Obama wanted to sideline Israel; instead he’s stuck dealing with it. Hillary’s lack of foreign policy ambition allowed the Jewish State to come through fairly well in Obama’s first term. For Hillary, being Secretary of State was just a stepping stone to the White House by making her rerun candidacy seem fresh. Her relationship with Israel was bad, but her first job was not to make any waves.
John Kerry ambitiously jumped into multiple foreign policy arenas. His bid for a deal between Israel and the PLO was a predictable disaster. And he took Obama along for the ride. It’s unknown if Obama blames Kerry for the mess that ensued when his proposals collapsed into war, but there’s little doubt that he now hates Netanyahu more than ever.
The war dragged Obama deep into the confusing political waters of the region. His attempt to back the Turkish and Qatari empowerment of Hamas in the negotiations ended with Egypt and the Saudis scoring a win. It was hardly Netanyahu’s fault that Obama once again chose to side with a state sponsor of terror, but it’s safer to blame Netanyahu for the humiliation than the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
And then there’s Iran. Netanyahu remains the loudest voice against an Obama agreement to let Iran go nuclear. No matter how many talking heads defend the deal, he blows away all their hot air.
Not only did Obama fail to sideline Israel, but he’s stuck dealing with Netanyahu. And no matter how much he may view Netanyahu as an Israeli Romney, he can’t quite openly treat him like Romney because there are plenty of Jewish Democrats who still haven’t realized his true feelings for Israel.
Both men are stuck together. Egypt hates Obama more than it did before he overthrew its original government. Iraq and Syria are war zones. The Saudis are actively undermining Obama’s policies. Israel is still America’s best ally in the region and that interdependency frustrates him even more.
Obama wanted to destroy the American-Israeli relationship. Instead he’s entangled in it. He blames Netanyahu for the situation even though the mess is mostly of his own making.
Despite the myths about the vast powers of the lobby, Israel has never been at the heart of American foreign policy. And under Obama, it’s been on the outskirts in every sense of the word. Israel is back to being a major concern of American foreign policy mostly because of Obama’s massive failures in every other part of the region and Kerry’s belief that he could somehow succeed where everyone else failed.
Netanyahu’s presence reminds Obama of his own failures. If everything had gone according to plan, America would be experiencing a new age of amity with the Muslim world. Instead he’s stuck bombing Iraq and reaffirming the special relationship with Israel almost as if he were on Bush’s fourth term.
It’s not the way that the international flavor of Hope and Change was supposed to taste.
Obama hates Israel. He hates Netanyahu. And their continuing presence in Washington D.C. reminds him of his inability to transform American foreign policy. Their very existence humiliates him.
He knows that directly lashing out at Israel would alienate the Jewish supporters he still needs. Despite his effort to displace pro-Israel voices with J Street, the Jewish community is still pro-Israel. And so he resorts to passive aggressive behavior like snubbing the Israeli Defense Minister or anonymous officials in the administration taunting Netanyahu as a “coward” and “chickens__t” in the media.
It takes a courageous administration to anonymously call the leader of a tiny country a coward. It’s childish behavior, but this is an administration of children overseen by a man whose response to his opponent’s accurate reading of the world situation was to taunt him about the “1980s” and “horses and bayonets.”
While Obama’s people anonymously taunt Netanyahu as a coward, it’s their boss who acts like a coward, stabbing Israel in the back, slandering its leader anonymously through the media and then trying to sell himself to Jewish donors as the Jewish State’s best friend in the White House.
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is a New York writer focusing on radical Islam. He is completing a book on the international challenges America faces in the 21st century.
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