You may view the 5 minute update this week via audio:
In this week’s 5 minute update, we focused on:
1) An examination of the history of the relationship between the Obama administration and Israel from the viewpoint of former US ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk
In the early days of his administration, President Barack Obama had a theory about Israel. “It was a wrong theory of the case,” says longtime diplomat Martin Indyk, but a theory nonetheless: If the president could put distance between the United States and Israel, then just maybe he could build up credibility with the Arab world — and ultimately be in a better position to help Israel negotiate for peace.
But here’s where things went wrong, says Indyk, a U.S. ambassador to Israel during the Clinton administration, and from 2013 to 2014 a special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations: “After 16 years of Clinton and Bush, of unalloyed affection, the Israelis really didn’t like that.” The theory cost Obama support among Israelis, which meant he couldn’t move the Israeli public, says Indyk, “and if he couldn’t move the Israelis, then the Arabs had no use for him.”
In the below interview, Indyk says that the fallout today can be seen in everything from the stalled peace process and last year’s negotiations over the Iran nuclear agreement, to the president’s fractious relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — who the former ambassador says was “essentially written off” by Obama after his 2012 reelection.
Let’s go to the beginning of the Obama administration. There is, we discovered as we talk to people, a kind of effort in the first ambitious efforts by the president to say, “I’m going to do something different about Israel than anybody else has really tried to do.” The word “distance” starts to be used; the word “daylight” starts to be used. There is talk of if we can reach the Arab world we’re going to have to reach them and not look like we’re pandering or [throwing] arms around Israel, and there are a number of missteps that people we talk to say occur. I’m not assuming you’re inside any of those conversations, but you’re watching and hearing and have some thoughts about it, I’m sure. Share them.
President Obama had a theory of the case, which was that George W. Bush had embraced Ariel Sharon and then Ehud Olmert, and there was no daylight between the United States and Israel, and that hadn’t produced a positive result. In the meantime, the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world was in the toilet, so the president believed that he needed to rebuild the relationship with the Muslim world, hence the Cairo speech, and by doing so, and by putting some daylight between the United States and Israel, currying favor with the Arabs and the Muslims would enable him to actually help Israel. That was his theory of the case that if the United States had more credibility with the Arabs and Muslims that he would be more in a position to help Israel make peace with them.
That was the context in which he went to Saudi Arabia before the Cairo speech, because Netanyahu had said, “Look, I can’t do a settlements freeze, but if you get me Saudi Arabia, then it’s a different story altogether.” So Obama said, “Oh, let’s go to Saudi Arabia.” The Saudis wanted him to come anyway, before he went to Cairo, because the king is the custodian of the two holy mosques and so on. But there was a strong element in Obama’s theory of the case that this was going to help Israel, whereas the previous Bush administration policy hadn’t really done anything for Israel.
It was a wrong theory of the case, as he would come to discover, because by sending a signal to Israel that he was distancing himself from Israel, by not going to Israel after Cairo — don’t forget he went to Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt; he didn’t go to Israel — for Israelis, the combination of not visiting and the speech sent them a very strong signal that he didn’t like them. After 16 years of Clinton and Bush, of unalloyed affection, the Israelis really didn’t like that. They turned against him in that moment.
What was wrong with the theory of the case then was that once he lost the Israelis, he couldn’t move the Israelis, because he didn’t have the trust that Clinton and Bush had, and if he couldn’t move the Israelis, then the Arabs had no use for him. The Arabs don’t want him to turn against Israel; they wanted him to deliver Israel. And if he is going to deliver Israel, he’s got to have a close and strong relationship of trust with the Israeli people, if not with the prime minister.
It took him a long time to appreciate that.
… How soon do you know they have erred, and erred grievously?
Immediately after the speech. It was crystal clear, crystal clear. I remember talking to an Israeli journalist, a very senior journalist whom the White House cleverly had invited to Cairo to hear the speech, and he called me from Cairo. He said: “This is a disaster. This is a disaster.” I said: “Tell [Chief of Staff] Rahm [Emanuel]. Tell him, because they need to do something about this. This is really going to lose the Israelis.”
… When Netanyahu comes to that first Oval Office meeting and it goes very badly, because basically Rahm has said to the president, as we hear it, “You’ve got to back this guy into the corner; the only way you’re going to ever get anything out of him is if you back him into the corner, and that means press him hard on the” —
— that was a miscalculation. He came to talk about Iran, and he knew the president himself was a little worried about Iran. I think he wanted, yes or no, he wanted to have a discussion about what are we going to do about this thing, or no?
I’m not sure that it was such a mistake to back him into the corner, because what it actually produced was his Bar-Ilan speech, in which he for the first time embraced the two-state solution. Actually I didn’t talk to him much in those days — he had other things to do, and I wasn’t in office anymore — but I remember we had one meeting just after the Bar-Ilan speech, and he said to me: “All right, I’ve said it. Can we now get on with Iran? Can we now focus on Iran?”
I took away from that that Netanyahu really was obsessed about Iran. This was his main concern. Clearly Obama was worried about the Palestinians, so if he could buy him off with some rhetoric, like he tried to buy Clinton off with a handshake with Arafat, OK, now let’s focus on the real issue here. I think that it was important for the president to make clear that the Palestinian issue was important to him and important to the United States.
The problem was demanding a total settlements freeze and then negotiating with Netanyahu something less, because they went out in public and declared this as an American objective, a total settlements freeze, and Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton said, “Not one house.” Then George Mitchell, the special envoy, got into a negotiation with Netanyahu, and they ended up with a moratorium in the West Bank which was actually important and worth something. But by that point they had set the bar so high there was no way that Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority] could at that point accept anything less than a full settlements freeze, which is what they actually delivered. So it was a settlement moratorium for 10 months. It took eight months to get Palestinian leader Abu Mazen into the room with Netanyahu.
I think that was the problem. The objective was unattainable, and for some reason they didn’t understand that from the get-go. With an unattainable objective, they ended up with something less, and finally they get the Israelis in place, and they have lost the Palestinians.
Let’s go to the Arab Spring. They write a speech; the president goes to the State Department, delivers it, mentions the ’67 borders. … It’s the day before Netanyahu is coming to the country. They have the office meeting. They have the lecture afterward. As you observed that happening from your perch, what do you see happening, and how does it strike you?
… It was not an attempt to ambush him. It was just that typical situation where when the fights within the U.S. government in Washington get sorted out, nobody has got any energy to remember that they had better tell the affected parties about what they’re going to do, and that happens quite regularly. That’s what happened in this case.
But from Netanyahu’s point of view, he was convinced that this was an attempt to ambush him and embarrass him and put him in a situation where the president was, from Netanyahu’s point of view, weakening Israel’s negotiating position by declaring the stats on the ’67 lines. He was furious about it, and I think that marked a turning point in the relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. It hadn’t been good up to that point, but at that point Netanyahu became convinced that Obama was out to screw him, and he was going to screw him back.
In a separate interview, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations and longtime political adviser to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Dore Gold said: “You can’t try and railroad Israel into doing things that Israel feels is dangerous.”
In his interview, Dore Gold is asked:
When the president goes to Cairo for the speech, and you heard him speak, what did you think?
Well, everybody that was in my entourage focused on the whole notion that the state of Israel rose as a response to the Holocaust. That was something that was unacceptable.
Because Israel has an eternity to it that goes far back before the 20th century, the 19th century, and even earlier. All we have to do is know that there was a Jewish majority in Jerusalem already at the time of the American Civil War. All we have to know is that we had a civilization here that was destroyed by the Romans. Our history is all over this city and all over the country. Therefore, an explanation that sees us as a bunch of Europeans who are looking for a refuge from the Nazis is a partial and not terribly accurate understanding of the soul of this country.
Does it surprise you that the president of the United States would make that error?
It surprised me that they have a speechwriter who would be allowed to write that kind of document, because I think Sen. Obama was presented with the four dimensions of Israel, but someone decided to take this partial approach in a presidential speech, and it didn’t earn him confidence with the people of Israel. …
When the Arab Spring happens, the president of the United States three months later gives a speech from the State Department. It not only is ecstatically happy about what they perceive as a potential explosion of democracy all over the region, but it also folds in this idea of let’s return to the ’67 borders.
Lines. They’re not borders — lines.
Lines. … Take me there, and give me your impressions of the events and the meaning of those events to you guys.
I was a private citizen at the time. I was running a think tank called the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. We were having a board meeting to approve my new budget, so my board had all come in, and I’m sitting with them. My secretary comes rushing in, and she goes, “Dore, the prime minister is on the phone.”
I walk into his office where his desk is, and he’s surrounded by his top advisers. He’s on a speakerphone to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. While I won’t go into what was said in detail, I’ll just say roughly, he had been advised that the president’s speech at the State Department was about to occur and that it contained reference to the ’67 lines, and he was not happy.
There was an exchange between the secretary of state and the prime minister, but this was a fundamental change in U.S. policy. … This has been a cornerstone of U.S.-Israeli diplomacy for years, and now all of a sudden talk about the ’67 lines, even with a little land swap, it is a fundamental shift in policy. That’s why it strikes so hard in Jerusalem. …
[When Netanyahu and Obama met on May 20, 2011, it was reported] that the prime minister was lecturing the president of the United States about Israel’s security, and the way we hear it, Bill Daley, the chief of staff of the president, is whispering, “Hey, who does this guy think he is, lecturing the president of the United States?” …
What if a newspaper writes, “Prime Minister Netanyahu Rebukes the President”? They put that in their headline, and then they create an atmosphere. Maybe there’s a newspaper interested in creating that atmosphere, and then you have to live with those results.
So it’s a very complicated visit, especially if you’re at the end of the day keeping in mind that the U.S. and Israel allies are facing a dangerous world and have to work together. If you want to keep that in mind, you’ve got to correct all of the either misimpressions or interpretations that have been given to your candid diplomacy.
Was there bad blood at the end of that?
I think there was a period where both sides needed to go in the corner and breathe, but at the same time everybody knows that the U.S. and Israel have to come back together again. Keep that in mind. Nobody is approaching this relationship or their interactions with the view that that’s it, we’re getting a divorce. That’s not in the cards. …
An agreement to divide Jerusalem and establish a PLO state is a tribulation event.
The link to these articles are as follows:
From a Biblical prophetic perspective, the reason why the God of Israel would allow these events to happen is because it will result in the end of the exile of the house of Jacob and the reunification of the 12 tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Judah).
We will to be “watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem” and we will not rest until the God of Israel makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth (Isaiah 62).
Shalom in Yeshua the Messiah,
Hebraic Heritage Ministries Int’l