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Washington - What Makes This President Different from All Other Presidents?

Published on: April 1, 2010 09:26 AM
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Washington - The humiliating treatment accorded Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu during his recent visit to the White House and the 13-point diktat that he received from President Barack Obama have brought relations between the US and Israel to a point of crisis. But however this particular dispute is played out in the days and weeks ahead, observers must ponder what will follow during the rest of the Obama presidency.

Though much of the focus of Obama’s foreign policy has seemed to be a fixation with making nice with rivals and enemies, it has also been accompanied by what appears to be a calculated decision to create some distance between America and Israel. Indeed, just 15 months into the Obama presidency, the relationship seems to be as fractious as it has been in recent memory. In his first months, Obama tried and failed to topple Netanyahu’s newly elected coalition by issuing a demand for a settlement freeze. In an attempt to smooth things over with his country’s only ally, Netanyahu formally accepted the principle of a two-state solution and agreed to stop building in the West Bank, though not in Jerusalem.

But when an ill-timed announcement of a housing project in eastern Jerusalem coincided with the visit of Vice President Joe Biden earlier this month, Obama pounced again. The incident was portrayed as a full-blown insult to America that required the stiffest condemnation. Indeed, the plan to build apartments for Jews in an existing Jewish neighborhood was greeted by a more spirited American denunciation than Obama had mustered for Iran’s stolen election or the brutal repression of protesters in the streets of Teheran.

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As the dispute entered its third week, Obama’s anger and his determination to force Netanyahu to give in on the question of building in the eastern sector of Israel’s capital was apparently unabated. Yet this is hardly the first dispute between the two countries. Every administration since 1967 has proposed peace plans and negotiating strategies that Israel disliked or actively resisted. Genuine friends such as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, as well as less friendly presidents such as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, all pushed hard at times for acceptance of unpalatable concessions.

BUT IN spite these precedents, Obama has managed to go where no American president has gone before. For all of the problems created by all of his predecessors about settlements in the West Bank, no previous American leader has ever chosen to draw a line in the sand about the Jewish presence in Jerusalem. It is true that the US never recognized the annexation of the eastern sector of the city after Jerusalem’s unification in 1967. In fact, it has never even recognized western Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But the new Jewish neighborhoods that sprang up along the northern, eastern and southern outskirts of the city as well as those in the Old City were never a source of contention even during the presidencies of Carter or the elder Bush. Indeed, the notion that places such as Ramat Eshkol, Pisgat Ze’ev, Gilo or even Ramat Shlomo (the site of the “insult” to Biden) are considered “settlements” by the US and thus no different than the most remote hilltop outpost deep in the West Bank is something that has come as a complete surprise to most Israelis, let alone American supporters of Israel.

During the course of his first go at Netanyahu, Obama made it clear that, contrary to a promise given by George W. Bush in 2004, he considered the bulk of settlements situated close to the 1967 line that Israelis believe they will keep even in the event of a peace deal, to be just as illegitimate as more controversial communities. In the hope of defusing the argument, Netanyahu reluctantly agreed to a freeze in these towns and villages, while still maintaining that Jerusalem could not be treated in the same way. But Washington’s decision to jump on the Biden incident as an excuse to demand that the freeze be extended to eastern Jerusalem signals that Obama clearly believes that, like the big settlements of Ariel and Ma’aleh Adumim, the homes of the approximately 200,000 Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem are also on the table.

IT IS far from clear what Obama thinks he can achieve with these demands. Despite Netanyahu’s concessions on the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is still refusing to negotiate directly with Israel. Indeed, the so-called “proximity talks” that Obama was in such a lather to revive with further Israeli concessions showed little promise. The circumstances that have always prevented the PA from signing any agreement that legitimized a Jewish state within any borders have not changed. Even more to the point, since Obama has followed every concession with demands for more, why should Mahmoud Abbas negotiate since his failure to do so is inevitably rewarded with more pressure on Israel?

But despite that fact that his diplomatic offensive has virtually no chance of success, Obama has still done something that will permanently alter Middle Eastern diplomacy. By treating the Jewish presence in eastern Jerusalem as a vast illegal settlement, the continued growth of which is an alleged impediment to peace, Obama has made it impossible for any Arab leader to ever accept Israel’s possession of this part of the city. This not only makes the already near-impossible task of forging peace that much harder, it is a crushing blow to decades of Israeli and American Jewish efforts to force international recognition of a unified Jerusalem.

This year, along with the conventional four questions of the Passover Seder, some Americans are starting ask themselves “Why is this president different from all other presidents?”

The answer is that Barack Obama has now established opposition to Israel’s hold on its capital as a cornerstone of American Middle East policy in a way that is completely new as well as dangerous. Those wondering whether or not this development ought to cause them to reevaluate their political loyalties might want to remember the closing refrain of Passover Seders down through the centuries: “Next year in Jerusalem.”


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Read Comments (17)  —  Post Yours »

1

 Apr 01, 2010 at 09:44 AM Anonymous Says:

mr. community organizer can barely run washington, whats he trying to do now, run the world???? his name is barack hussain not superman

2

 Apr 01, 2010 at 09:44 AM Anonymous Says:

Honestly, what where you expecting when you voted for a protege of Jeremiah "G-d d-mn America" Wright, who preached support of the palestinians, who's also a man of Muslim ancestry.

3

 Apr 01, 2010 at 09:52 AM Anonymous Says:

The neveuot of the tanach are happening right now. It says that all the nations will come against us over YERUSHALAYIM. Until this current president it didn't make sense how this was going to happen. Obama is unwittingly taking part in these prophecys by going against the idea that Yerushalayim belongs to bnai yisroel and nobody else. Perek bais to follow...

4

 Apr 01, 2010 at 10:01 AM true peace Says:

Nice article. But just like many others .. Missing the main point.
We are not in israel because of obama or the UN. We have the right and should be there ONLY because G-d gave it to us. When obama or other jew haters tell us where to go (see first rashi in chumash) that this land belongs to us, simply and only because G-d The Creator of the universe gave it to us. If more of us would believe it and say it then we would not have to write such long article or even worse (G-d forbid).

Most of the world believes in the bible. Including obama. Its us jews that are scared of our own shadow. No wonder a president with such weak popularity can push around the jews who just not long ago suffered somthing that israel screams "never again".

It never happens the same way.

Wake up yiden!

5

 Apr 01, 2010 at 10:35 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
true peace Says:

Nice article. But just like many others .. Missing the main point.
We are not in israel because of obama or the UN. We have the right and should be there ONLY because G-d gave it to us. When obama or other jew haters tell us where to go (see first rashi in chumash) that this land belongs to us, simply and only because G-d The Creator of the universe gave it to us. If more of us would believe it and say it then we would not have to write such long article or even worse (G-d forbid).

Most of the world believes in the bible. Including obama. Its us jews that are scared of our own shadow. No wonder a president with such weak popularity can push around the jews who just not long ago suffered somthing that israel screams "never again".

It never happens the same way.

Wake up yiden!

While we believe that hashem gave us EY, that is irrelevant to most of the rest of the world and we might as well stop repeating our mantra that no one else cares about. We have to deal with geopolitical reality and not keep telling ourselves what we may know to be true but many of those who will determine what happens on the ground do not accept as true or instead recognize that Yerushalayim and other parts of EY are "holy" to all three religions. Most of the world (in terms of population) does not believe in OUR BIBLE (aka torah moshe misinai) so get over it.

6

 Apr 01, 2010 at 10:46 AM Anonymous Says:

Did barack negotiate with republicans or did he dictate the process. Does he for a moment think he can steamroll the Israelies into a situation that threatens their soverign existance. Barack you need to tour yad v'shem and perhaps you may understand what never again means. The wispering winds of 6 million will never acquess your dictum. We stand behind our breathern. We wait your term to expire. A modern day paroah- we are too familiar with these tactics. As jews we are our history.

7

 Apr 01, 2010 at 11:05 AM Anonymous Says:

So Obama is essentially saying Raus Juden - from Yerushalaim. Not a smart thing to do if you need heavenly help to stay in office. V.H.K.B.H. Matzilainu MiYodom.

8

 Apr 01, 2010 at 11:18 AM OBAMA Says:

For one NO WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO GOVEN AND CONTROL ANY STATE its not ours until MUshiach will come, and yet in the other hand Obama is different from the Others

1) No Diplomacy
2) NO Class
3) No experienced At all
4) NO cooperate thinking

May Hashem send us Mushiach

9

 Apr 01, 2010 at 11:39 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Anonymous Says:

While we believe that hashem gave us EY, that is irrelevant to most of the rest of the world and we might as well stop repeating our mantra that no one else cares about. We have to deal with geopolitical reality and not keep telling ourselves what we may know to be true but many of those who will determine what happens on the ground do not accept as true or instead recognize that Yerushalayim and other parts of EY are "holy" to all three religions. Most of the world (in terms of population) does not believe in OUR BIBLE (aka torah moshe misinai) so get over it.

#5
You talk like the secular politicians in EY.
That's why they are always on the run.
Talk like a proud Yehudi & the gentile world will respect you.

10

 Apr 01, 2010 at 12:32 PM insider Says:

Bibi should simply totally ignore Obama, as did Yitzchok Shamir with the elder Bush. Obama will self-destruct exactly the same way that Carter did. And Obama will move to Gaza and live there happily ever after.

11

 Apr 01, 2010 at 01:49 PM eli Says:

So who is going to put pressure on Democrats to do something about it? Or will it still be voting for Democrats?

12

 Apr 01, 2010 at 03:39 PM obamanation Says:

You want to know how Obama is different ill tell you, he's the only foreign born from kenya, citizen of the world, far left wing liberal, who hates capitalism America, is a socialist anti israel pro arab radical. I stand by every word!

13

 Apr 01, 2010 at 06:35 PM Anonymous Says:

Its realy not a diffrent for now what obama says. The main think is you have to know this land ziyonim toke before the right time and you are not alot to have your mind in thinks this is ziyones....

14

 Apr 01, 2010 at 10:11 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

Its realy not a diffrent for now what obama says. The main think is you have to know this land ziyonim toke before the right time and you are not alot to have your mind in thinks this is ziyones....

it's clear that the mindless, zombie, severely undereducated class screams "ziyonim" at every opportune moment. The only thing understood from your garbled comment is that you hate klal Yisroel and that you are illiterate.

15

 Apr 02, 2010 at 12:48 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

Its realy not a diffrent for now what obama says. The main think is you have to know this land ziyonim toke before the right time and you are not alot to have your mind in thinks this is ziyones....

what a bracha that this particular community gets to blame the zionists for everything! Can you imagine what would happen if they would have to engage in some communal introspection?

16

 Apr 02, 2010 at 02:31 AM heshy Says:

The reason G-d is using obama to take away part of Yerushalayim is because we allow stores and parking lots to stay open shabbos. no shabbos no jerusalem.

17

 Apr 02, 2010 at 04:44 AM Anonymous Says:

I hold by the Satmar shitta, but I know the difference between Yidden who are opposed to the timeh that the medine is creating and an anti-American trojan horse of a snake who is hiding his Islamophilia and resultant anti-Semitism behind "getting tough on Israel". Reb Yoilish wanted Moshiach, and not a Hamas state, to replace the medine. This rushe wants to see a repeat of the churban when the Arabs march into Tel Aviv or bomb it to bits.

18

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