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Roundup of Reaction to Obama’s AIPAC Speech

Some good, mostly concerned with what he whitewashed and left out.

  • Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Studies: What fell through the cracks
    • One additional item noticeable by its absence was any message to the people of Iran. This was a lost opportunity. At a time when the administration is counting, at least in part, on the punitive impact of sanctions to compel Iran’s leaders to change course; when U.S. officials are decrying the increased militarization of the Iranian regime; when Iran just completed parliamentary elections in which only varieties of conservatives were allowed to run; and when the people of Syria, Iran’s only Arab ally, are rising up courageously against tyranny, it would have been a useful moment for the president to underscore America’s hope that the people of Iran will soon enjoy the “universal rights” he frequently extols in Arab countries undergoing transition. One hopes this lacuna was not a product of the commonly held — but profoundly mistaken — idea that outreach to the Iranian people complicates nuclear diplomacy with the regime.
  • Omri Ceren on the wrangling over Iran:
    • Abandoning Israel in the aftermath of a preemptive strike on Iran would be a purely internal decision. It wouldn’t be forced by external diplomatic or military necessities. It’s just something the Obama people are signaling they intend to do. And if you criticize them, then the president and his water carriers on the Jewish left will blame you for everything from eroding the U.S./Israeli relationship to high gas prices.
  • Dan Senor provides some context to Obama’s relationship with Israel:
    • February 2012: At a conference in Tunis, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about Mr. Obama pandering to “Zionist lobbies.” She acknowledged that it was “a fair question” and went on to explain that during an election season “there are comments made that certainly don’t reflect our foreign policy.”
  • Jen Rubin on what the Executive Director of AIPAC (normally studiously solicitous of everyone who comes before his group) had to say about merely preventing Iran from getting a bomb:
    • It is not necessary for Iran to actually have the bomb –to demonstrate beyond doubt that they have crossed the nuclear threshold. Iran with simply the capacity to quickly produce a weapon – is a risk to peace, and a threat to the world. Iran, as a threshold nuclear state will strengthen our foes and frighten our friends. . . . That is why all U.S. officials must speak with one voice – so Tehran clearly hears that America is unified in its determination to prevent a nuclear capable Iran.

There’s been some consternation among the President’s die-hard supporters that Netanyahu has been gracious about Obama’s current comments, but hasn’t backed up Obama’s assertions about his record.  I guess the idea is that since Obama’s been talking so much about his record, Bibi’s supposed to take that as a signal that his seconding of Obama’s version of events is what Obama really wants out of the meetings.  In other words, in return for 1) standing by an ally or 2) future considerations after the election, Netanyahu should give his hechsher for American Jews to vote for Obama.

Well, it’s no surprise that Obama’s primarily concerned with the election at this point (read: Florida).  Still, Netanyahu can’t very well go and pretend the last three years didn’t happen.  Especially the parts where Obama ditches people after they’re no more use to him.  He can be forgiven for believing that should Obama be re-elected, he won’t be any more well-inclined towards Bibi regardless of what he does right now.

As for Netanyahu’s insistence that Israel retains the right to defend herself at her own needs, there’s really nothing else he can say, is there?  In any case, that insistence also happens to provide the best assurance that Israel won’t attack Iran unless the US gives the green light.  Think about it: if Netanyahu were to be seen as subordinating Israel’s interests to a President whom the majority of Israelis clearly don’t trust, failure to attack would be blamed on both him and Obama.  But if he insists that Israel can and will do what it needs to when it needs to, then any failure to attack must be because it’s not needed.

It’s no good arguing hypocrisy here.  Power politics is power politics, and Obama’s (and Clinton’s, for that matter) willingness to engage in internal Israeli politics is beside the point.   But it does make them foolish to expect Netanyahu to throw them a political bone when there’s no reason to believe it’ll be reciprocated when he needs it, either personally or on behalf of his country.

Posted in Foreign Policy.

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