‘Reset’ for Israel? No thank you
With a mix of naivete and arrogance, Obama ‘reset’ relations with Russia five years ago. The policy was a disaster from the beginning. Let not Obama ‘reset’ US-Israel relations.
As if deep cultural, linguistic and historical influences and complex personal traits could be wished away, President Barack Obama believed he could “reset” Russian-American relations upon entering office. Just start over. Obviously, this could never happen, and it didn’t happen. If anything, this administration’s failure to face the reality of an obdurate, proud, independent and psychically wounded, post-communist Russia, headed by a former KGB agent, has profoundly worsened both bilateral US-Russian relations and world peace in at least six major ways.
Item: Russia stoked the Iranian nuclear program by delivering important technology to Iran, and by blocking strong UN action against Iran for years.
Item: Russia stoked the Syrian bloodbath by unwaveringly backing Syria’s brutal dictator, Bashar Assad, with ample supplies of sophisticated weapons that Assad has used — with full Russian knowledge and approval — against tens of thousands of civilians.
Item: Russia deeply distrusted NATO’s stationing of missiles on its Western borders, completely dismissing the West’s argument that these were intended to counter Iranian, not Russian, missiles.
Item: Russia has thumbed its nose at its agreement with this administration to degrade its nuclear force. Just the opposite. While the US has complied with the agreement, Russia has improved its nuclear force.
Item: After Russia thumbed its nose at the West by invading and retaking parts of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, the US has simply acquiesced.
Item: Last week, Russia, seeing that aggression and invasion are met with no serious opposition from the US, from Europe or from anyone else, invaded Crimea — also to no serious response. For if Russia can get away with it once, why not a second time? And for that matter, why not many more times? The best Obama can come up with is “costs,” that is, not economic sanctions, but the threat thereof. Clearly, this administration’s “reset” of relations with Russia was but an early indicator that the preferred American foreign policy was, at best, one of “leading from behind”; at best, one of weakness and indifference.
Item: US policy in Libya is unfocused; one really doesn’t know what the American strategy in Libya is. The flip-flopping on Qadaffi — should he be ousted? should he not be ousted? should the revolution there be supported? should it not? with military support? without it? — has never been clarified. The botched defense of the American ambassador’s life there has never been explained, and the murderers never caught or even identified.
Item: Ditto, mostly, for Egypt.
Is it any wonder that that the US is seen as weak? Current American weakness abroad is not congenital; it is caused by poorly conceived policies, some of which are outlined above.
Which brings us to Israel and the Palestinians. No “reset,” please! No ignoring the basic background of the Israel-Palestinian conflict: the Palestinian refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy, the history and the permanence of the Jewish presence in the Middle East. History can no more be wiped out of consciousness in this part of the world any more than in Russia.
Have the Palestinians gotten over their penchant never to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity (as Abba Eban aptly put it)? We raise the question because the US seems to be pursuing a parallel effort: pushing for peace, and pushing to place the blame on Israel if the peace effort fails. As the cartoon elsewhere on this page puts it: Are the Palestinians finally willing to settle? To acknowledge a permanent Jewish and legitimate presence in the Middle East? This — not borders, not water, not settlements, not technological, medical or economic development — has always been the bottom line of the Jewish-Arab conflict. The administration needs to face that obdurate reality, not ignore it, as it has in Russia. We should not like to witness an American policy “reset” in the Middle East, inevitably to be as ineffective as it has been in Russia.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News