OBAMA AND ISRAEL
By Discover The Networks
No previous American president has had so strained a relationship with Israel as Barack Obama. As Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said in 2010, “Israel’s ties with the United States are in their worst crisis since 1975 ... a crisis of historic proportions.” Author and scholar Dennis Prager concurred, “Most observers, right or left, pro-Israel or anti-Israel, would agree that Israeli-American relations are the worst they have been in memory.” In the spring of 2011, David Parsons, spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, said: “There's a traditional, special relationship between America and Israel that Obama is basically throwing out the window in a sense.” David Rubin, a U.S.-born Israeli author and expert on the Middle East, put it this way: “President Obama is very harmful for Israel and very dangerous for the future of Judeo-Christian civilization.” The author and economist Thomas Sowell asserted that Obama's relationship with Israel had been consistent with the president's pattern of “selling out our allies to curry favor with our adversaries.” Political analyst Charles Krauthammer observed that Obama had “undermined” Israel as a result of either his “genuine antipathy” toward the Jewish state or “the arrogance of a blundering amateur.” In October 2012, Israeli lawmaker Danny Danon, chairman of Likud’s international outreach branch, said that Obama had “not been a friend of Israel,” and that the President's policies had been “catastrophic.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli populace remained jittery. According to a 2010 poll commissioned by The Jerusalem Post, only 9 percent of Jewish Israelis believe that the Obama administration is more pro-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
What is the root of these deep concerns about President Obama's relationship with Israel and his commitment to protecting the Jewish state's welfare? These questions are explored and answered in this report, which lays out Obama's words, actions, and key affiliations vis à vis Israel not only during his time in the White House, but during the two decades preceding his presidency as well.
Obama's longtime association with the anti-Semitic Jeremiah Wright:
For nearly two decades, Barack Obama was a member of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Obama described Wright as his “spiritual advisor,” his “mentor,” and “one of the greatest preachers in America.” Moreover, Obama contributed large sums of money to Wright's church, and he chose Wright to perform his wedding ceremony and to baptize his two young daughters.
Wright has long been a vocal critic of Israel and Zionism, which he has blamed for inflicting “injustice and … racism” on the Palestinian people. According to Wright, Zionism contains an element of “white racism.” Likening Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to South Africa’s treatment of blacks during the apartheid era, Wright advocates divestment campaigns targeting companies that conduct any business in, or with, Israel. He has referred to Israel as a "dirty word," asserting that "ethnic cleansing [by] the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity."
On December 4, 2007, Wright was named as a member of the Obama presidential campaign's newly created African American Religious Leadership Committee. But Wright was compelled to step down from the Committee three months later, after videotapes of his many hate-filled sermons ignited fierce public debate and criticism. For further information about Wright and his anti-Semitism, click here.
Obama's ties to Rashid Khalidi and the the Arab American Action Network:
During his Illinois state senate years in the mid- to late 1990s, Barack Obama was a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School, where he became friendly with Rashid Khalidi, a professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Obama and his wife were regular dinner guests at Khalidi’s Hyde Park home.
Characterizing Israel as a “racist” state and “basically an apartheid system in creation,” Khalidi during the 1980s so strongly identified with the aims of Yasser Arafat's PLO, which was designated as a terrorist group by the State Department at the time, that he repeatedly referred to himself as “we” when expounding on the PLO’s agenda. In the early 1990s, Khalidi was involved with the PLO's so-called “guidance committee.” In 1995 Khalidi and his wife Mona founded the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), noted for its contention that Israel’s creation in 1948 was a "catastrophe" for Arab people. In 2001 and again in 2002, the Woods Fund of Chicago, with Obama serving on its board, made grants totaling $75,000 to the AAAN.
In 2003 Obama attended a farewell party in Khalidi’s honor when the latter was preparing to leave Chicago to embark on a new position at Columbia University. At this event, Obama paid public tribute to Khalidi as someone whose insights had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases.” Khalidi later told the largely pro-Palestinian attendees that Obama deserved their help in winning a U.S. Senate seat, stating: “You will not have a better senator under any circumstances.”
Obama's ties to Ali Abunimah, former vice president of the Arab American Action Network:
Onetime AAAN vice president Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada (a website that, like AAAN, refers to Israel’s creation as a "catastrophe") once told interviewer Amy Goodman: “I knew Barack Obama for many years as my state senator -- when he used to attend events in the Palestinian community in Chicago all the time. I remember personally introducing him onstage in 1999, when we had a major community fundraiser for the community center in Deheisha refugee camp in the occupied West Bank. And that’s just one example of how Barack Obama used to be very comfortable speaking up for and being associated with Palestinian rights and opposing the Israeli occupation.”
In June 2007 Abunimah recalled: “When Obama first ran for the Senate in 2004, the Chicago Jewish News interviewed him on his stance regarding Israel’s security fence. He accused the Bush administration of neglecting the ‘Israeli-Palestinian’ situation and criticized the security fence built by Israel to prevent terror attacks: ‘The creation of a wall dividing the two nations is yet another example of the neglect of this administration in brokering peace,’ Obama was quoted as saying.”
Also in 2007, Abunimah said: “The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing. As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.’ He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and U.S. policy, ‘Keep up the good work!’”
Candidate Obama publicly criticizes Israel's conservative Likud Party:
In February 2008, then-U.S. Senator (and presidential candidate) Barack Obama told an audience in Cleveland: "There is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, that you're anti-Israel." When Obama made that assertion, Likud had already been out of power for two years, and the country was being led by the centrist Kadima government (of Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni, and Shimon Peres) which had been pursuing territorial compromise of unprecedented magnitude. Moreover, as the Wall Street Journal points out: "It was under Likud that Israel made its largest territorial compromises—withdrawals from Sinai and Gaza."
Candidate Obama's reluctance to publicly refer to terrorism against Israel:
When running for President, then-Senator Obama referred, in his July 2008 speech in Berlin, to the need to “dismantle the [terrorist] networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York.” He made no mention of Israel.
President-elect Obama chooses the leader of a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated group to recite a prayer during his January 2009 inauguration:
Obama selected Ingrid Mattson -- then-president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a Muslim Brotherhood-linked group that had previously been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror-funding case -- to recite a prayer during his inauguration ceremonies in January 2009. The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the ideological forebear of both Hamas and al Qaeda, openly promotes the establishment of a worldwide Islamic caliphate and is bitterly hostile towards Israel. Not only did Obama fail to ask Mattson to explain ISNA’s links to the Brotherhood and Hamas, but he sent his senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, to be the keynote speaker at ISNA’s national convention later that year.
President Obama's first call to a foreign leader was to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas:
Two days after his inauguration, President Obama placed his first phone call to a foreign leader -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas had repeatedly emphasized the importance of "implementing the principles of Yasser Arafat," the most prolific Jew-killer since Adolf Hitler; he had praised the terrorist group Hezbollah as a shining example of "Arab resistance" against alleged Israeli oppression; he had lauded Palestinian terrorists as "strugglers" and "martyrs" whom "Allah loves"; he had steadfastly refused to acknowledge Israel's right to exist; he was the head of the Fatah Party, a movement whose Charter continued to advocate terrorism against, and the annihilation of, Israel; he had authorized lump-sum payments of $2,200 apiece to the surviving family members of Palestinian shahids (martyrs) -- including suicide bombers; and he had exhorted Palestinians to "unite the Hamas and Fatah blood in the struggle against Israel as we did at the beginning of the Intifada."
Obama's ties to the International Crisis Group, and their implications for Israel:
President Obama has long had a high regard for the political acumen of Robert Malley, Mideast Director of the International Crisis Group (ICG). Over the years, Malley has penned numerous articles and op-eds condemning Israel, exonerating Palestinians, urging the U.S. to disengage from Israel to some degree, and recommending that America reach out to negotiate with its traditional Arab enemies such as Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas. In 2007 Malley, a Harvard-trained lawyer, became a foreign-policy advisor to the Obama presidential campaign. But in mid-2008, the Obama campaign was forced -- out of political necessity -- to sever its ties with Malley after the Times of London revealed that he had secretly been in regular contact with Hamas leaders as part of his work for ICG.
Notwithstanding Malley's fall from grace, Obama's foreign policies have been, from the outset of his presidency, very much aligned with the recommendations of Malley and the ICG. For one, Obama has often emphasized his willingness to negotiate with even the most unyielding enemies of the United States, and has sought to persuade Israel to take that same approach. Six days after his inauguration, for instance, Obama granted his first television interview as U.S. President to Al Arabiya, a Dubai-based network, where he stated: “[A]ll too often the United States starts by dictating ... and we don’t always know all the factors that are involved. So let’s listen.” He subsequently called on Israel to drop its “preconceptions” and to negotiate for peace with Hamas, the terrorist organization whose founding charter remains irrevocably committed to the permanent destruction of Israel and the mass murder of Jews. Obama further signaled an eagerness to conduct “unconditional talks” on nuclear matters with Iran -- even as as that nation was actively supplying high-tech weaponry to Hamas and Hezbollah, and even after its president had repeatedly declared that "Israel must be wiped off the map."
Obama's ties to J Street:
President Obama has also demonstrated an ideological compatibility with J Street, an organization which believes that peace between Arabs and Israelis depends wholly upon the development of “a new direction for American policy in the Middle East,” a direction that recognizes "the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own”—where Palestine and Israel exist “side-by-side in peace and security." Toward this end, J Street supports “diplomatic solutions over military ones,” “multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution,” and “dialogue over confrontation.” Israel’s partner in such a dialogue would necessarily be Hamas, which holds the reins of political power in Gaza and steadfastly denies Israel’s right to exist. Yet J Street has cautioned Israel not to be too combative against Hamas, on grounds that the latter “has been the government, law and order, and service provider since it won the [Palestinian] elections in January 2006 and especially since June 2007 when it took complete control.” In the final analysis, J Street traces the Mideast conflict chiefly to the notion that “Israel’s settlements in the occupied territories have, for over forty years, been an obstacle to peace.”
The foregoing J Street positions are largely indistinguishable from those of President Obama, who likewise favors a two-state solution whereby Israel and “a sovereign Palestine” would live “side by side—in peace.” To achieve such a resolution, he says, initiatives to construct additional Israeli settlements in the West Bank “have to be stopped.” In October 2009, Obama signaled his support for J Street's agendas when he sent national-security advisor James Jones to deliver the keynote address at a J Street conference.
Obama appoints a DHS official with ties to Islamic extremists:
In April 2009, President Obama appointed Los Angeles deputy mayor Arif Alikhan as assistant secretary for policy development at the Department of Homeland Security. Two weeks before he received this appointment, Alikhan (who once called the jihadist terror group Hezbollah a “liberation movement”) had participated in a fundraiser for the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), which, like ISNA, is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Obama appoints a pro-Sharia adviser:
Also during the early part of his presidency, Obama appointed Dalia Mogahed -- a pro-Sharia Muslim -- as his chief adviser on Islamic affairs.
Together with such luminaries as Feisal Abdul Rauf, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and diplomat Dennis Ross, Mogahed was a leading voice in the Leadership Group on U.S.-Muslim Engagement, which in September 2008 had issued a 154-page recommendation paper -- a number of whose suggestions (on how to improve America's relationship with Muslims globally) were eventually adopted by the Obama administration. The paper specifically called on the U.S. to engage opposition parties (including the Muslim Brotherhood) in Egypt, and to use intermediaries to engage Hamas -- in hopes of moderating the terror group.
In early October 2009, Mogahed was interviewed on a British television program hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the extremist Hizb ut Tahrir party, which seeks to facilitate the non-violent destruction of Western democracy and the creation of a worldwide Islamic state governed by Sharia Law. Bsis and another guest (also a member of Hizb ut Tahrir) stated that Sharia should be “the source of legislation” for all nations in the world; they also repeatedly condemned the “man-made law” and the “lethal cocktail of liberty and capitalism” that existed in Western societies. Mogahed did not dispute any of their assertions. Instead she stated that the Western view of Sharia was "oversimplified," and that the majority of Muslim women around the world associated Islamic Law with "gender justice." "I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of Sharia than the common perception in Western media,” she said.
Obama goes to Cairo to address the Muslim world:
On June 4, 2009, President Obama went to Cairo, Egypt to deliver a much-anticipated address to the Muslim world. During the weeks prior to the speech, he made sure to invite Muslim Brotherhood leaders to attend. During the speech itself, the President stated that "anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust." But he made no mention of the Arab anti-Semitism of the World War II era (and beyond), even though he was speaking in the very country that had made a national hero of Grand Mufti Haj Muhammed Amin al-Husseini, who spent the war years in Berlin as Hitler's guest, helping the fuehrer facilitate the Final Solution. Nor did Obama once mention the word "terrorism."
Drawing a moral equivalence between the historical experiences of the Jews and Middle Eastern Arabs, Obama said: "The Jewish people were persecuted.… [A]nti-Semitism … culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust…. Six million Jews were killed…. On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland."
Obama also made reference to the “pain” of the “dislocation” experienced by some 600,000 Arabs during the 1948 war -- a war that began when five Arab armies united to attack Israel in an effort to destroy the nascent Jewish state on the very day of its birth. But he said nothing of the 900,000 Jewish refugees who were forcibly expelled from regions all over the Arab Middle East, where they and their ancestors had lived for hundreds, even thousands, of years.
“There has been a stalemate,” Obama elaborated. “Two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history…. It's easy to point fingers — for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks."
Professor and Hudson Institute fellow Anne Bayefsky observed:
“Calling the Israeli-Arab conflict a ‘stalemate’ represents an abysmal failure to acknowledge historical reality. The modern state of Israel emerged after an internationally approved partition plan of November 1947 that would have created two states, one Jewish and one Arab; this plan was accepted by Jews and rejected by Arabs. One people has always been prepared to live in peace, and the other has chosen war in 1948 and 1956 and 1967 and 1973 and 1982, and renewed terrorism after its every loss.”
“Obama [in the Cairo speech] analogized Palestinian ‘daily humiliations …that come with occupation’ to the ‘humiliation of segregation’ of black slaves in America and the ‘moral authority’ of ‘people from South Africa.’ His Arab audience understood that the president of the United States had just given a nod to the single most potent defamation of the Jewish state today — the allegation that Israel is a racist, apartheid state.”
Obama urges Jewish leaders to put "daylight" between the U.S. and Israel:
In July 2009, President Obama hosted American Jewish leaders at the White House and informed them that he sought to put "daylight" between America and Israel. "For eight years [i.e., during the Bush administration], there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished," Obama said. In that same meeting, the President told those in attendance that Israel would need "to engage in serious self-reflection."
Obama's first address to the UN General Assembly:
In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2009, President Obama devoted five paragraphs to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In his remarks, Obama boasted that under his administration, the U.S. had already joined the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC). He did not mention that, as of that point in time, the UNHRC had adopted more resolutions and decisions against Israel than against all the other 191 UN member states combined.
Regarding the Mideast conflict, the President drew a moral equivalence between the suffering of the Israelis and of the Palestinians. Most notably, he rejected the legitimacy of Israeli "settlements" and he referred to Israel as an "occup[ier]" of Palestinian territory:
- "We continue to call on Palestinians to end incitement against Israel. And we continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."
- "The time has come to relaunch negotiations without preconditions that address the permanent status issues, security for Israelis and Palestinians, borders, refugees and Jerusalem. The goal is clear: Two states living side by side in peace and security; a Jewish state of Israel with true security for all Israelis and a viable, independent Palestinian state with contiguous territory that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and realizes the potential of the Palestinian people."
- "The United States does Israel no favors when we fail to couple an unwavering commitment to its security with an insistence that Israel respect the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians. And nations within this body do the Palestinians no favors when they choose vitriolic attacks against Israel over constructive willingness to recognize Israel's legitimacy and its right to exist in peace and security."
Obama laments that Israel has been unwilling to make any "bold gestures" for peace:
In a January 2010 interview, President Obama said -- despite Israel’s acceptance-in-principle of a Palestinian state, its readiness to negotiate, and its commitment to an unprecedented ten-month Jewish construction freeze in Judea and Samaria -- that Israel theretofore had made no “bold gestures” for peace.
Obama opposes Israel's plan to build houses in a settlement near Jerusalem:
In November 2009, President Obama expressed displeasure over Israel's approval of a plan to build 900 new homes in Gilo, a settlement of 40,000 Israelis situated in a part of the West Bank that Israel had captured in 1967 and annexed to Jerusalem. While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to limit new construction in West Bank settlements, he stated that the Jerusalem municipality would be excluded from any settlement limits sought by Washington. Said Obama: "I think that additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel's security. I think it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbours. I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous."
The Obama administration again criticizes Israeli settlements:
During Vice President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in March 2010, a Jerusalem municipal office announced plans to build some 1,600 housing units for Jews in a section of that city. In response, Biden reportedly told Prime Minister Netanyahu: “This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.” The Wall Street Journal describes what happened next:
"The president launched an unprecedented weeks-long offensive against Israel. Mr. Biden very publicly departed Israel.
"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on a now-infamous 45-minute phone call, telling him that Israel had 'harmed the bilateral relationship.' (The State Department triumphantly shared details of the call with the press.) The Israeli ambassador was dressed-down at the State Department, Mr. Obama's Middle East envoy canceled his trip to Israel, and the U.S. joined the European condemnation of Israel.
"Moments after Mr. Biden concluded his visit to the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority held a ceremony to honor Dalal Mughrabi, who led one of the deadliest Palestinian terror attacks in history: the so-called Coastal Road Massacre that killed 38, including 13 children and an American. The Obama administration was silent. But that same day, on ABC, [Obama adviser David] Axelrod called Israel's planned construction of apartments in its own capital an 'insult' and an 'affront' to the United States. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs went on Fox News to accuse Mr. Netanyahu of 'weakening trust' between the two countries.
"Ten days later, Mr. Netanyahu traveled to Washington to mend fences but was snubbed at a White House meeting with President Obama—no photo op, no joint statement, and he was sent out through a side door."
Washington Post columnist and Middl East expert Jackson Diehl wrote that "Netanyahu is being treated [by Obama] as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator."
Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, received “the same message of American disapproval and outrage” from Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg—it being clear by now that the anger was being “managed” from the top, that is, by President Obama himself. Ambassador Oren called the incident “the worst [for Israel] with the U.S. in 35 years.”
It should be noted that, contrary to the Obama administration’s insistence that Israel was jeopardizing peace by encroaching on negotiable terrain, the construction site in Jerusalem was anything but disputed territory. Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and the construction site was in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish neighborhood where housing construction had been underway since the early 1990s. By its insistence that Israel cease all building in East Jerusalem, it was the Obama administration, and not Israel, that was breaking with precedent.
Obama refuses to intervene in an Israeli dispute with Turkey and Egypt:
In April 2010, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu withdrew from an Obama-sponsored Washington summit on nuclear proliferation after it became apparent that Turkey and Egypt intended to use the occasion to denounce Israel's nuclear program; Obama chose not to intervene in this dispute.
Obama chooses not to explicitly make reference to an act of murderous Islamic terrorism against an American:
In May 2010, when President Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Press Freedom Act, he did not mention that Pearl, the late Wall Street Journal reporter, had been beheaded by Islamist terrorists because he was a Jew. Nor did the President mention that Pearl, in the video recorded of his gruesome murder, had been forced to state specifically that he was an American Jew. Instead, Obama euphemistically referred only to Pearl’s “loss.”
The Obama administration's response to Israel's interception of a terrorist-laden flotilla headed for Gaza:
In early 2010, a Turkish organization known as the IHH -- which has known ties to Hamas, al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood -- collaborated with the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) to organize a six-ship flotilla of Muslim and anti-Israel activists who would sail (from various points in the Mediterranean region) to Gaza for the purpose of breaking Israel's naval blockade (which had been established to prevent Hamas from importing weaponry from Iran and other allies abroad).
IHH owned and operated the Mavi Marmara, the flotilla's lead ship. The flotilla embarked on its journey toward Gaza in late May of 2010. For several days, Israel issued warnings that the ships would not be permitted to dock in Gaza without first submitting to an inspection of their cargoes. But the crews of the vessels refused to comply; thus Israeli commandos intercepted the flotilla in the early morning hours of May 31. The IHH-affiliated activists responded violently, attacking the commandos with knives, clubs and pistol fire. In the melee that ensued, nine activists were killed and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded. (For comprehensive details pertaining to FGM's agendas and the flotilla incident, click here.)
In the wake of the flotilla incident, MSNBC reported that the Obama administration "wants to see a new approach that would allow more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area while guaranteeing Israel's security"; that there was "a growing consensus within the administration that U.S. and Israeli policy toward Gaza must change"; that "White House officials said they had warned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to use 'caution and restraint' before the raid on the aid convoy"; that Vice President Joe Biden was in favor of putting "as much pressure and as much cajoling on Israel as we can to allow [the Palestinians] to get building materials and other designated humanitarian aid into Gaza"; and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supported a Security Council statement condemning the "acts" that had cost the lives of the activists aboard the Mavi Marmara.
$400 Million in aid for Palestinians:
In an effort to contain the political fallout from the Mavi Marmara incident (see above), in June 2010 President Obama offered to send an extra $400 million in “humanitarian aid” to the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (This was to be above and beyond the $600+ million in aid which the U.S. was already sending to the Palestinian Authority each year.) In remarks he made during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama urged Israel to put a stop to its settlement activity and called on the Palestinians to avoid inciting further confrontation. He also called on Israel to reassess its blockade on Gaza, while conceding that "[t]here should be means by which we will be able to stop flow of arms that endanger Israel’s security." Added Obama: "If we can get a new conceptual framework, we should be able to take what is a tragedy [the recent flotilla incident] and create an opportunity so the lives of people of Gaza are improved. But in the long run, the way to solve this problem is creation of the Palestinian state and ensuring Israel’s security."
The Obama administration allows the Palestinian flag to fly at the PLO office in DC:
On July 25, 2010, JTA News reported that "[t]he Obama administration will allow the PLO office in Washington to fly the Palestinian flag and assume the title of 'delegation'"; that this decision had "symbolic value" but had "no meaning under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations"; and that the White House "suggested the [measure] would help spur the Palestinians toward direct peace talks with Israel."
A stark contrast between Obama's holiday messages to Jews and to Muslims:
In his Rosh Hashanah message in 2010, President Obama only once referred to "Jews"; made no reference at all to "Judaism'; promoted the creation of a Palestinian state; and never mentioned the monumental contributions Jews had made to the United States.
By contrast, in his August 2010 Ramadan Message, Obama referred to "Muslims" six times and to "Islam" twice; he stated that “American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country”; and he praised “Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings … a faith known for great diversity and racial equality.” Moreover, the President made no reference to what Muslims might need to do differently in order to achieve peace with Israel.
Obama criticizes Israeli settlements yet again:
On November 9, 2010, The New York Times issued the following report regarding the increasingly strained relations between the U.S. and Israel:
"President Obama’s criticism of new Israeli housing plans for East Jerusalem, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s even sharper retort, have thrown the Middle East peace talks into jeopardy, with the dispute over Jewish settlements looming as a seemingly insuperable hurdle.... [T]he brusque exchange between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu reflected again the gulf between Israel and the United States over settlements — an issue Mr. Obama initially made the centerpiece of his Middle East diplomacy....
"When asked about Israel’s plans for 1,000 housing units [in] a contested part of East Jerusalem, Mr. Obama said, 'This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations.' ... A few hours later, Mr. Netanyahu’s office responded with a statement, saying that 'Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel.'"
Obama and the fall of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt:
In early 2011, as masses of Egyptian protesters forced their longtime president Hosni Mubarak to step down from power, Barack Obama declared that all opposition groups in Egypt should have some representation in the country's next government. He made no mention of the fact that such a development would essentially ensure that the Muslim Brotherhood -- Egypt's largest opposition group -- would be in a position to steer the new regime toward adopting Sharia Law and increasing its hostility toward the U.S. and Israel.
Throughout the weeks of Egyptian rioting, the Obama administration repeatedly shifted its posture, initially expressing confidence in Mubarak's government, later threatening to withhold U.S. aid to that regime, and finally pressing Mubarak to loosen his grip on power. "We want to see free, fair and credible elections," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley on February 2. "The sooner that can happen, the better."
Obama and his administration took the foregoing positions even though the Muslim Brotherhood had made it explicitly clear that it favored the dissolution of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel; even though the Brotherhood's Supreme Guide, Muhammad Mahdi 'Akef, had stated that his organization would never recognize Israel's legitimate right to exist; and even though Muhammad Ghannem, a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, had told the Iranian news network Al-Alam that "the people [of Egypt] should be prepared for war against Israel."
On February 3, 2011, Israeli lawmaker Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who until recently had been a cabinet minister, criticized President Obama for having called on Mubarak to allow open elections in Egypt, a prospect that undoubtedly would spell the end of Mubarak's long reign -- a reign which, despite all its faults, was reliably pro-West and reasonably friendly toward Israel. Stating that Obama was repeating the mistakes of predecessors whose calls for human rights and democracy in the Middle East had backfired by bringing anti-West regimes to power, Ben-Eliezer said:
"I don't think the Americans understand yet the disaster they have pushed the Middle East into. If there are elections like the Americans want, I wouldn't be surprised if the Muslim Brotherhood didn't win a majority, it would win half of the seats in parliament. It will be a new Middle East, extremist radical Islam."
Three decades earlier, President Jimmy Carter had urged another staunch American ally -- the Shah of Iran -- to loosen his own grip on power, only to see the Shah's autocratic regime replaced by Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Republic. More recently, U.S.-supported elections had strengthened such groups as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories, and anti-American radicals in Iran. "Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as 'the president who lost Iran,'" analyst Aluf Benn wrote in the Israeli daily Haaretz. "Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who 'lost' Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled."
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu similarly warned that "if extremist forces [in Egypt] are allowed to exploit democratic processes to come to power to advance anti-democratic goals -- as has happened in Iran and elsewhere -- the outcome will be bad for peace and bad for democracy."
Obama expresses his belief that the Palestinians sincerely want peace with Israel:
In a March 2011 meeting with Jewish leaders, Obama contended -- against all historical evidence -- that “Israel’s [Palestinian] partner is sincere in wanting a peaceful settlement.” Meanwhile, he asked his Jewish interlocutors to “speak to your Israeli friends and relatives and search your souls to determine how badly do you really want peace … Israelis think this peace process is overrated.”
Implying that Jerusalem is not part of Israel:
In May 2011, the Obama State Department issued a press release declaring that its No. 2 official, James Steinberg, would be visiting "Israel, Jerusalem, and the West Bank" -- thereby implying that Jerusalem was not part of Israel.
Obama calls for an Arab-Israeli land swap based on pre-1967 borders:
On May 19, 2011 -- just a few hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu flew from Israel to Washington -- President Obama delivered his "Arab Spring" speech at the State Department. After saying that “Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist,” he called for the establishment of a Palestinian state -- even though neither Hamas nor Fatah had ever acknowledged Israel’s right to exist; nor did Obama make such an acknowledgment a precondition of the establishment of a Palestinian state. Obama also urged Israel to understand that it would never be able to achieve genuine peace if it persisted in seeking "permanent occupation."
In issuing his call for the existence of “two states,” Obama said that “the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” He was referring to the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.
Obama was not calling for a return to the 1967 borders per se; rather, he advocated the creation of a “sovereign and contiguous state” for the Palestinian Arabs -- not precisely along the 1967 lines, but along new borders "based on" those lines. But as Islam scholar Robert Spencer pointed out:
"There were ... no 1967 lines in which Palestinian Arab territory was contiguous. For the territory of Palestine to be contiguous, that of Israel will have to be substantially reduced. Israel’s 1967 borders were indefensible, and Obama is calling for Israel to be reduced even further so that a contiguous Palestinian state can be established.
"What’s more, Obama specified that the new Palestinian state should have 'borders with Israel, Jordan, and Egypt,' while Israel should have 'borders with Palestine.' The implication was that Israel, in Obama’s vision, will border on neither Jordan nor Egypt — only on 'Palestine.' Yet currently Israel has substantial borders with both Jordan and Egypt. Obama was implying that his contiguous Palestine would comprise not just Gaza and Judea and Samaria, but large expanses of Israeli territory bordering on those two states."
In response to Obama's speech, Prime Minister Netanyahu said that a Palestinian state based on the borders of 1967 would leave the Jewish state "indefensible." "The viability of a Palestinian state cannot come at the expense of Israel's existence," the Israeli leader said.
Obama chooses not to make public reference to terrorism directed against Israel:
In early September 2011, the Obama administration issued talking points for the upcoming 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In those talking points, the administration referred to terrorism's many victims around the world, “whether in New York or Nairobi, Bali or Belfast, Mumbai or Manila, or Lahore or London.” Conspicuously absent from the President's remarks was any mention of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, or Sderot, which had been hit by Islamist terrorists innumerable times.
Moral equivalence regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict:
On November 2, 2011, the Obama administration sharply criticized Israel’s decision to accelerate construction of Israeli housing in various communities in and around Jerusalem and elsewhere in the West Bank. The apartments that PM Benjamin Netanyahu sought to build would not be on Palestinian land, but rather in suburbs or even neighborhoods of Jerusalem, none of which were on the agenda for land swaps in a peace agreement.
The administration also had some harsh words about Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmud Abbas’ renewal of efforts to wrest recognition for his “Palestinian State” from the UN Security Council, in which endeavor he may have made some progress with UNESCO's October vote to accept “Palestine” as a member. It is important to recall that Mr. Abbas’ maneuvers in the UN were actually part of the PA’s political and propaganda war against Israel, which, as Abbas had told the world back in May 2011, would not stop once the UN recognized the state of “Palestine,” but rather would be ratcheted up for a more effective assault against Israel.
Yet the White House and State Department used identical language to express the President’s disappointment with both Netanyahu and Abbas. The State Department spokesperson went on to chastise Netanyahu for Israel’s temporary suspension of the transfer of millions of tax dollars that Israel collects on behalf of the PA.
By using the same language for both Israel’s housing construction and Abbas’ diplomatic saber rattling, Obama created a moral equivalence between Israel's efforts to accommodate its own population growth, and the PA's efforts to ultimately destroy that population. Further, by demanding that Israel continue to lavish the PA with millions of dollars, the State Department was promoting the absurd notion that the PA leadership and its partners (Hamas, Islamic Jihad, etc.) would use that money for state-building and economic development.
Israel scholar David Meir-Levi placed the Obama administration's positions in context:
"Dozens of Arab terrorist organizations, includingHamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, the DFLP, the PFLP-GC, Fatah, the PLO, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Ansar al-Islam, Jayyish Allah, Sayyif al-Jihad, al-Jama’a al-Islamiyeh, el-Qaeda and others, all unabashedly proclaim their intentions to destroy Israel, a close, loyal and strong ally of America. In the context of that commitment to Israel’s destruction, they also emphasize their intention to exile or murder all of Israel’s Jews....
"The endless Arab diatribe of destruction and relentless rhetoric of annihilation (thoroughly documented during decades of Arab hate-speech and hate-preach here and here) have gone on unimpeded and unabashed, broadcast throughout much of the Arab and Muslim world since before the creation of the State of Israel. And Arab deeds have matched their words for almost seventy-five years, with equally relentless terrorism punctuated by full-scale wars when Arab leaders thought they would easily win.
"Countless times, Arab confrontation states and their terrorist proxies have violated international law, the UN’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, with terror attacks on Israeli women and children, mistreatment, torture and slaughter of Israeli prisoners, and incitement to genocide.
"On the other hand, every action by Israel to seek a peaceful resolution, thirty one attempts since 1937, has been rebuffed by the Arab side with war or terrorism or vociferous threats of the same....
"One should not have much trouble recognizing the moral differences between the two parties in the Arab-Israel conflict. But our State Department wants Israel to provide the PA with millions of dollars, even as the PA continues its incitement and rejects every invitation to negotiate a peaceful settlement, even as the PA’s partner, Hamas, continues shooting qassam rockets into Israeli schools, synagogues, busses and homes."
(This section is adapted from: "Obama Continues His War on Israel," by David Meir-Levi (November 7, 2011).
Obama is caught on live microphone, blasting Israeli PM Netanyahu:
On November 3, 2011, President Obama conducted what he thought was a private conversation about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in the aftermath of a G20 summit. However, the microphones which the two men were wearing from their earlier press conference had not been turned off. What ensued was a major public embarrassment after both Obama and Sarkozy disparaged Netanyahu. In the exchange, Sarkozy told Obama: “I cannot stand him [Netanyahu]. He is a liar.” Obama replied: “You’re fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!”
Obama administration reveals Israel's secret relationship with Azerbaijan:
In March 2012, Foreign Policy magazine reported that "several high-level sources" in the Obama administration had made public information regarding Israel's secret relationship with Azerbaijan, where Israeli planes would be able to refuel on their way to or from an air strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. Those Obama sources revealed this information because the administration feared "the risks of an Israeli strike on Iran" and thus sought to undermine such a measure. As Hoover Institution Fellow Thomas Sowell puts it, "This leak was one of the historic and unconscionable betrayals of an ally whose very existence is threatened."
Obama Overrides Congress to Fund the Palestinian Authority:
On April 28, 2012, Andrew McCarthy reported that President Obama had decided to waive the Palestinian Accountability Act's freeze on U.S. funding for the Palestinian Authority (PA). That freeze had been imposed after PA president Mahmoud Abbas attempted, in September 2011, to unilaterally declare Palestinian statehood -- in violation of the PA’s treaty commitments. This move by Obama would provide $192 million to the PA. Wrote McCarthy:
"White House spinmeister Tommy Vietor stated that President Obama made the decision to pour American taxpayer dollars into Palestinian coffers in order to ensure 'the continued viability of the moderate PA government.' He added the claim that, as the report puts it, 'the PA had fulfilled all its major obligations, such as recognizing Israel’s right to exist, renouncing violence and accepting the Road Map for Peace.'
"In the real world, the very immoderate PA has reneged on all its commitments. In addition to violating its obligations by unilaterally declaring statehood, the PA has also agreed to form a unity government with Hamas, a terrorist organization that is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The PA continues to endorse terrorism against Israel as 'resistance.' Moreover, the PA most certainly does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. Back in November, for example, Adil Sadeq, a PA official writing in the official PA daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, declared that ... 'this state [Israel], based on a fabricated [Zionist] enterprise, never had any shred of a right to exist…'"
State Department official refuses to identify Jerusalem as the undispiuted capital of Israel:
In June 2012, Obama State Department official Victoria Nuland refused to say that Jerusalem, which had been the capital of Israel since 1967, was even a part of Israel. When asked whether it was "the State Department’s position that Jerusalem is not part of Israel," she replied: "You know that our position on Jerusalem has not changed …. With regard to our Jerusalem policy, it’s a permanent-status issue. It’s got to be resolved through the negotiations between the parties."
A follow-up question was: "Is it the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, notwithstanding the question about the embassy -- the location of the U.S. embassy?" Nuland replied: "We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem."
As journalist Ben Shapiro observed at the time:
"[This] position actually undercuts Israel’s ability to negotiate. Land-for-peace negotiations have been a dismal failure -- the last twenty years have proved that the Oslo strategy of appeasement was destined for disaster from the start. But if land-for-peace were going to work, as Los Angeles Jewish Journal publisher David Suissa has pointed out, the Arabs would have to see Israel as making valuable concessions, not disowning territory to which they never had a right....
"Leaving aside the practicalities of why the United States should acknowledge that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel is the moral imperative here. Israel’s legitimacy did not spring from a UN resolution (rejected by the Arabs, accepted by the Jews); it did not come from the British Mandate (which allowed settlements throughout Israel, Judea and Samaria, and even Jordan). It came from the Jews’ eternal ties to the land of Israel. If Jerusalem is not a part of Israel, neither is Haifa or Tel Aviv.
"And yet the State Department maintains that Jerusalem isn’t a part of Israel. Which means that, effectively speaking, Israel has no claim to any part of the land. If Israel is a creation of the UN, it can be uncreated; if Israel is a holdover of colonial British administration, the left’s hatred of colonialism demands Israel’s extermination.
"President Obama seems to buy into this. That’s why in Cairo, he suggested that Israel had been created because of the Holocaust -- a leftist and Arabist conceit that implies that Israel’s creation is artificial, a pity party for the Jews."
White House spokesman Jay Carney likewise refuses to identify Jerusalem as the undispiuted capital of Israel:
At a July 26, 2012 press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney refused to state directly which city is the capital of Israel. In response to a female reporter's question asking whether the Obama administration considered Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to be Israel’s capital, Carney replied, haltingly: "I haven’t had that question in a while. Our position has not changed." The reporter then repeated, "What’s the capital?" Carney responded, "You know our position." The exchange grew more tense when World Net Daily’s Lester Kinsolving, who was also in attendance, interjected: "She doesn’t know, that’s why she asked…she does not know, she just said she doesn’t know — I don’t know! ... Tel Aviv or Jerusalem? ... Could you just give us an answer ...?" Carney, however, would not elaborate any further. "You know the answer ... Our position hasn’t changed," he repeated again. For video of this exchange, click here.
Pro-Israel language is removed from the Democratic Party platform:
On September 4, 2012, FreeBeacon.com reported the following:
Several pro-Israel sections of the 2008 Democratic Party platform have been removed from the 2012 platform—on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, and Hamas. The new platform represents another shift by the Obama Democrats toward the Palestinian position on key issues in the peace process.
For Jerusalem, the new platform has been brought into line with the Obama administration’s policy of not recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and supporting its division. Jerusalem is unmentioned in the 2012 document, whereas the 2008 and 2004 Democratic Party platforms declared “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel…It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.” The Obama administration’s refusal to recognize Jerusalem has been a point of significant controversy in recent months.
On the issue of Palestinian refugees, the new document has removed language from the 2004 and 2008 platforms specifying that Palestinian “refugees” should be settled in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel.
The 2004 platform: “The creation of a Palestinian state should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel.”
The 2008 platform: The peace process “should resolve the issue of Palestinian refugees by allowing them to settle there, rather than in Israel.”
The 2012 platform contains no language on the matter.
Previously, Obama has incorporated the Palestinian positions on Jerusalem and borders into his administration’s policies. It appears that with his party’s new platform, he is also doing so with refugees.
Gone as well is the language from 2008 on the terrorist group Hamas, which currently controls the Gaza Strip. That platform declared, “The United States and its Quartet partners should continue to isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and abides by past agreements.”
The 2012 platform contains no mention of Hamas.
Previous platforms also contained promises to maintain Israel’s “qualitative military edge” in the region. The 2008 platform, for example, spoke of a “commitment which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge for its national security and its right to self-defense.” The 2012 platform mentions only that “[t]he administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” with no commitment to doing so in the future.
Democrats reinstate mentions of Israel and God in party platform, after public outcry:
On September 5, 2012, following much public criticism of the fact that the Democratic Party platform had failed to identify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, Democrats amended the platform to restore the reference to Jerusalem. Party delegates meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina, approved the amendment after three voice votes and over the objections of many people on the convention floor. The passage of the amendments required a two-thirds majority. But each of the three voice votes seemed to indicate that the two sides were about evenly split, perhaps even that those opposed to the amendment outnumbered those in favor. The lack of a clear two-thirds majority was what caused the Democratic Convention chairman, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, to call for the second and third voice votes. In each instance, it was clear that a two-thirds majority did not exist. Nonetheless, following the third voice vote Villaraigosa announced that the amendment had been passed. (Click here for video of the vote.)
Obama administration refuses to draw "red line" on Iran:
In response to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's announcement that the U.S. would set no deadlines for negotiations with the Iranian government regarding its nuclear ambitions, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the following on September 11, 2012: "The world tells Israel: ‘Wait. There’s still time.’ And I say: ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel."
Obama says he will not meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu in New York:
On September 11, 2012, the White House announced that President Obama would not be meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the latter's visit to New York later in the month for the UN General Assembly session. According to an official in Jerusalem, Netanyahu's office had sent the White House a message stating that the Prime Minister would be willing to travel to the Washington, DC to meet with Obama, so as to accommodate the President's schedule. However, said the official, the White House had rejected the request and had indicated that Obama's schedule would not allow for a meeting. On the same day Obama indicated that he would not be meeting with Netanyahu, he announced that he would be appearing on the late-night David Letterman Show the following week. At the time, concerns about Iran's nuclear-weapons ambitions were at an all-time high.
Obama excludes Israel from counterterrorism group:
On September 20, 2012, Deborah Weiss reported the following in the Washington Times:
Recently, a high-level conference on the Victims of Terrorism was held in Madrid. The sponsoring organization, the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) is the brainchild of the Obama administration and one of its “signature initiatives” on counterterrorism. Its purported purpose is to increase global cooperation in fighting terrorism worldwide. Yet, despite Israel’s interest in joining the alliance, the GCTF, under the leadership of the Obama administration, has excluded Israel from all participation.
The GCTF is intended to “provide a multilateral platform to identify civilian counterterrorism needs, mobilize the necessary expertise and resources to address such needs, and to enhance global cooperation,” according to its website. Its mission is to help countries defend themselves against threats within their borders and to deny terrorist groups new recruits. However, the forum is applying none of this to Israel, America’s closest friend and ally in the fight against terrorism.
Israel fought hard to become involved with the GCTF. Nevertheless, it was precluded from joining as a founding member, and it has been denied the opportunity to attend or participate in any of its three conferences held thus far. Obama administration officials even have omitted Israel from mention during conference speeches when listing countries affected by terrorism. It’s as though Israel is nonexistent....
A glimpse into the forum’s membership might provide insight into the reason for its rejection of Israel. The GCTF is co-chaired by the United States and Turkey. It has 29 members, 11 of them also members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt.
Reports indicate that the United States excluded Israel in capitulation to Turkey, which also recently pushed to keep Israel out of NATO. Apparently, the Obama administration has decided to turn a blind eye to the fact that Turkey supports Hamas, a state-designated terrorist organization that seeks to wipe Israel off the map.
Indeed, the OIC countries are united in their hatred of Israel and share a common vision of a world where Israel does not exist. In fact, all of the countries subscribe to the 1999 OIC Convention on Combating International Terrorism. This document states that armed struggle against “foreign occupation, aggression, colonialism and hegemony, aimed at liberation and self-determination shall not be considered a terrorist crime.” The OIC’s definition of terrorism is aimed at exempting terrorism against Israel and recasting it as “resistance” or “liberation.” Not surprisingly, all member countries support both Hamas and Hezbollah.
The OIC countries are also the reason the United Nations has been unsuccessful in achieving an anti-terrorism convention. The 56 OIC member countries refuse to define terrorism in any way that provides protection to Israel, instead legitimizing terrorism against it....
Israeli Knesset leader criticizes Obama's "naive leadership":
After Barack Obama's November 2012 re-election as U.S. President, Likud Party member Danny Danon, deputy speaker of Israel’s Knesset, said the following: “Obama’s victory demonstrates that the state of Israel must take care of its own interests. We cannot rely on anyone but ourselves. Obama has hurt the United States by his naïve leadership in foreign policy, which prefers the Arab world over the Western world, along with Israel. The state of Israel will not capitulate before Obama. ”
Hamas and Syria Step up Attacks against Israel Shortly after Obama Re-election:
On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama was re-elected as U.S. President. Four days later, Hamas began a new wave of rocket attacks on Israel’s southern cities in a new wave. The day after that, Syria began shelling Israeli positions in the north. And on November 13, the Palestinian Authority announced its plan to make another bid for statehood at the United Nations.
Administration Criticizes Israel's Dealings with Palestinians:
Speaking at a forum at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC on December 7, 2012, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “... I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.”
Clinton also criticized Israel’s newly announced plan to build 3,000 new housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank: “In light of today’s announcement, let me reiterate that this administration — like previous administrations — has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace.”
Obama Says Israeli Settlement Policies Are Leading Towards “Near-Total Isolation”:
In January 2013, President Obama stated that Israel's expansion of settlements was driving the Jewish state towards “near-total isolation,” adding: “Israel doesn’t know what its own interests are.”
In response to those remarks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “No one decides for the citizens of Israel. I think that President Obama knows that the ones determining Israel’s vital interests are the citizens of Israel, and they will be the ones to choose who will protect those interests in the best possible way.”
Former Israeli diplomat Alon Pinkas said the following about Obama's remarks: "Barack Obama said, simply and clearly, what he thinks about Israel's prime minister and where he is leading Israel. These are grave, alarming statements, which are without precedent."
Obama Alludes to the "Legitimate Frustration" of Palestinians:
In March 2013, President Obama expressed his personal frustration over the lack of progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. According to one source, he said: "The only people more frustrated than me [are the] Palestinians living in West Bank and Gaza—it’s a legitimate frustration."
Obama says Palestinians "deserve a state of their own":
During his March 2013 visit to Israel, President Obama said: “I’ve been clear with Prime Minister Netanyahu and other Israeli leadership. We do not consider continued [Israeli] settlement activity to be constructive, to be appropriate, to be something that can advance the cause of peace.” He added that the Palestinians deserved an end to Israeli “occupation” and the “daily indignities that come with it.” And he declared that the “Palestinians deserve a state of their own.”
Obama pressures Israel to apologize to Turkey
Before departing Israel for Jordan on the last leg of his March 2013 trip to the Middle East, President Obama arranged for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to submit to Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's demand for an apology regarding the deaths of eight Turkish nationals and one Turkish-American citizen resulting from Israel’s interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship that was part of an anti-Israel activist flotilla attempting to break Israel’s lawful naval blockade of Gaza in 2010. Israel also agreed to pay several million dollars in compensation to the victims’ families.
“In light of the Israeli investigation into the incident, which pointed out several operational errors,” said an Israeli government statement issued following the apology, “Prime Minister Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for any errors that could have led to loss of life and agreed to complete the agreement on compensation.” In reality, the violence was instigated entirely by several dozen Turkish jihadis aboard the Mavi Marmara, who refused to allow Israel to inspect their Gaza-bound cargo.
Prime Minister Erdogan accepted the Israeli apology on behalf of the Turkish nation. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Netanyahu’s apology, and his offer of compensation and to further ease restrictions along the Gaza border with Israel, satisfied all of Turkey’s demands. Erdogan himself, in a call to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, reportedly delivered the message that Israel had acceded to his conditions.
But Erdogan did not wait long to draw back from his reciprocal promises to restore normal diplomatic relations and put an end to the legal proceedings against the Israeli soldiers who took part in the 2010 operation (which Ergodan himself helped precipitate) involving the Mavi Mamara. Just a day after receiving Netanyahu’s apology, Erdogan told Turkish reporters that it was too early to talk about dropping the Mavi Marmara case against the Israeli soldiers, and that normalizing diplomatic relations would come gradually. “We will see what will be put into practice during the process. If they move forward in a promising way, we will make our contribution. Then, there would be an exchange of ambassadors,” Erdogan said.
Moreover, Erdogan failed to offer any apology of his own for his recent speech at a United Nations-sponsored Alliance of Civilizations conference in Vienna, where he equated Zionism with fascism and characterized Jews’ quest for their own nation in their historic homeland as a “crime against humanity.” In fact, just days before Netanyahu’s apology, Erdogan had declared that he stood by his remarks in Vienna, although he claimed they had been misunderstood.
Secret Negotiations with Iran: Israel Is Outraged
In early November 2013, it was reported that the Obama administration had begun softening U.S. sanctions against Iran (vis a vis the latter's nuclear program) soon after the election, five months earlier, of that country's new president, Hassan Rouhani. This move set the stage, in turn, for the United States -- in conjunction with Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany -- to propose a short-term “first step agreement” with Iran at a November meeting in Geneva. The deal, which sought to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for approximately six months in order to create an opportunity for a more comprehensive and lasting bargain to be negotiated, included four key provisions, as outlined by the London Telegraph:
1) Iran would stop enriching uranium to the 20 per cent level that is close to weapons-grade – and turn its existing stockpile of this material into harmless oxide.
2) Iran would continue enrichment to the 3.5 per cent purity needed for nuclear power stations – but agree to limit the number of centrifuges being used for this purpose. There would, however, be no requirement to remove or disable any other centrifuges.
3) Iran would agree not to activate its plutonium reactor at Arak, which could provide another route to a nuclear weapons capability, during the six-month period. Iran may, however, continue working on the facility.
4) Iran would agree not to use its more advanced IR-2 centrifuges, which can enrich uranium between three and five times faster than the older model.
“In return,” said the Telegraph, “America would ease economic sanctions, possibly by releasing some Iranian foreign exchange reserves currently held in frozen accounts. In addition, some restrictions affecting Iran’s petrochemical, motor and precious metals industries could be relaxed.”
On November 8, 2013, the Israeli government, which the Obama administration had not informed of the negotiations, was stunned to learn of the seemingly imminent deal with Iran. According to The DailyBeast.com, news of the agreement led to the canceling of a joint media appearance between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “and prompted, instead, a bitter exchange between them before Kerry headed off to the Swiss city” to take part in the multinational talks.
One Israeli official was quoted saying that “the Americans capitulated to Iranian maneuvering.... Kerry wants a deal at all costs and the Iranians are leading the Americans by the nose.”
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, outraged at the prospect of this agreement with Iran, said: "I understand that the Iranians are walking around very satisfied in Geneva, as well they should be, because they got everything, and paid nothing, they wanted. They wanted relief from sanctions after years of a gruelling sanctions regime.” Added Netanyhau:
“The deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years. Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and it pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure. I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal--a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community."
"Israel utterly rejects it [the deal]," Netanyahu emphasized, "and what I am saying is shared by many in the region, whether or not they express that publicly.... Israel is not obliged by this agreement and Israel will do everything it needs to do to defend itself and the security of its people."
When Iran ultimately broke off negotiations on November 10, Netanyahu’s office issued a press release stating:
"Over the weekend I spoke with President Obama, with [Russian] President Putin, with [French] President Hollande, with [German] Chancellor Merkel and with British Prime Minister Cameron. I told them that according to all the information reaching Israel, the impending deal is bad and dangerous.
"It is not only dangerous to us; it is dangerous for them, too. It is dangerous for the peace of the world because in one fell swoop it lowers the pressure of the sanctions which took years to build, and conversely, Iran essentially preserves its nuclear uranium enrichment capabilities as well as the ability to advance on the plutonium enrichment path....
"I asked all the leaders what the rush is. And I suggested that they wait…. It is good that this was ultimately the choice that was made but I am not fooling myself—there is a strong desire to strike a deal…."
A number of days later, the U.S.—along with Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany—resumed negotiations with Iran. And on November 24th an interim agreement was reached, wherein Iran agreed that for six months it would:
- place a 5% ceiling on its uranium enrichment;
- reduce to 7,000 kilograms the amount of already-enriched uranium in its possession;
- allow the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct daily inspections of acknowledged enrichment sites in Natanz and Fordo; and
- suspend all work on its unfinished plutonium plant in Arak.
In exchange, the U.S. and its bargaining partners assured Iran that for the same six-month period:
- the United Nations and the European Union would impose no new sanctions related to Iran's nuclear program, and would cease efforts to further limit Iran’s oil exports;
- sanctions on insurance services for transport to Iran would be suspended, along with additional restrictions on the sale of gold and other valuables;
- a new “financial channel” would permit Iran to access banking services for “humanitarian commerce”—e.g., the import of food, pharmaceuticals, and medical treatments;
- some U.S. sanctions would be suspended; and
- Washington would allow the sale of some spare parts for Iran’s Boeing transport aircraft.
But the agreement gave Russia, a staunch ally of Iran, the right to oversee whatever future actions the Western powers might wish to take regarding Iran. Moreover, the deal kept sensitive sites such as the Iranian military base at Parchin, where researchers were busy weaponizing enriched uranium, off-limits to inpectors. And the same immunity from inspections would apply also to any new nuclear sites that Iran might open up subsequent to the signing of the accord.
By John Kerry's telling: “The deal is the beginning and first step. It leads us into the negotiation—so that we guarantee that while we are negotiating for the dismantling, while we are negotiating for the tougher positions, they will not grow their program and their capacity to threaten Israel. Israel will actually gain a larger breathing space in terms of the breakout capacity of Iran. It’s just clear.”
President Obama was equally optimistic, saying the agreement would ensure that “Iran cannot build a nuclear weapon”—an assertion that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani described as “a funny joke.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was deeply disturbed by news of the agreement with Iran. The day after the deal had been finalized, he said: “What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake. Today the world has become a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
Netanyahu lamented that for the first time, the world's leading powers had agreed to permit uranium enrichment in Iran while suspending effective sanctions -- in exchange for merely “cosmetic Iranian concessions that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks.” Declaring, further, that “Iran is committed to Israel’s destruction,” Netanyahu emphasized that his country “has the right and the obligation to defend itself, by itself, against any threat,” and thus “is not bound by this agreement.” “It becomes [increasingly] clear,” he added, “how bad and dangerous the agreement is to the world, the region and Israel.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who likewise condemned the accord, said: “We are in a new reality that is different from yesterday, and it requires us to reevaluate the situation with good judgment, responsibly and with determination. We will do what we must and will not hesitate for a minute—and there is no need to add another word.”
Yet another Israeli official stated that his government was particulary upset by the fact that the U.S. had not even informed Israel that the negotiations were taking place.
Obama Tells Israel to Acept Mahmoud Abbas As Peace Partner
In a February 2014 interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, President Obama warned that if Israel and President Netanyahu failed to “make peace” soon with the Palestinians, Israel would be rendered “more isolated internationally.”
Turning a blind eye to every existing piece of polling data about the Palestinians' opinions regarding Israel's right to exist, Obama said: “The Palestinians would still prefer peace. They would still prefer a country of their own that allows them to find a job, send their kids to school, travel overseas, go back and forth to work without feeling as if they are restricted or constrained as a people. And they recognize that Israel is not going anywhere.... The voices for peace within the Palestinian community will be stronger with a framework agreement.”
With regard to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama said: “I think nobody would dispute that whatever disagreements you may have with him, he has proven himself to be somebody who has been committed to nonviolence and diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue.... You’ve got a partner on the other side who is prepared to negotiate seriously, who does not engage in some of the wild rhetoric that so often you see in the Arab world when it comes to Israel, who has shown himself committed to maintaining order within the West Bank and the Palestinian Authority and to cooperate with Israelis around their security concerns — for us to not seize this moment I think would be a great mistake.”
Suggested that Netanyahu should make a deal as soon as possible, even if he found it emotionally difficult to do, Obama said: “One of the things my mom always used to tell me and I didn’t always observe, but as I get older I agree with — is if there’s something you know you have to do, even if it’s difficult or unpleasant, you might as well just go ahead and do it, because waiting isn’t going to help. When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation: If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who?”
Added Obama: “if he [Netanyahu] does not believe that a peace deal with the Palestinians is the right thing to do for Israel, then he needs to articulate an alternative approach. And as I said before, it’s hard to come up with one that’s plausible.”
But in fact, there was no reason to believe that Abbas actually wanted peace. He had consistently characterized Palestinian terrorists as heroes; he continued to spend fortunes on paying salaries to imprisoned terrorists, including many Hamas members who had murdered civilians after peace negotiations began; and he controlled only the West Bank (not the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip), and thus could not promise that Gaza would abide by whatever agreements he himself might negotiate. And, as political analyst John Podhoretz subsequently noted: "In 2008, offered a peace deal by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that involved Abbas actually drawing a new West Bank map giving the Palestinians something between 92 and 95 percent of the territory, Abbas basically fled the table and didn’t return."
Netanyahu, for his part, subsequently addressed the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the remarks Obama had made:
"I mean, we [Israel] vacated cities in Judea and Samaria. We left entirely Gaza. We’ve not only frozen settlements, we’ve uprooted entire settlements. We’ve released hundreds of terrorist prisoners, including dozens in recent months. And when you look at what we got in return, it’s been scores of suicide bombings, thousands of rockets on our cities fired from the areas we vacated, and just incessant Palestinian incitement against Israel. So Israel has been doing its part, and I regret to say that the Palestinians haven’t.
"Now, I know this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, but it’s the truth. And the people of Israel know that it’s the truth because they’ve been living it. What they want is peace. What we all want fervently is peace. Not a piece a paper — although that, too — but a real peace; a peace that is anchored in mutual recognition of two nation states that recognize and respect one another, and solid security arrangements on the ground.
"... The Palestinians expect us to recognize a Palestinian state for the Palestinian people, a nation state for the Palestinian people. I think it’s about time they recognize a nation state for the Jewish people. We’ve only been there for 4,000 years."
Obama Administration Tells Israel to Stop Assassinating Iranian Nuclear Scientists and Focus on the Palestine Peace Process
On March 3, 2014, the Associated Press reported:
U.S. officials have reportedly told Israel to stop killing off Iranian nuclear scientists. Israel's Moussad spy agency has supposedly taken out [mostly with car bombs] at least five top Iranian nuclear experts in an attempt to slow the country’s nuclear program and continues to do so despite recent agreements reached to end the country’s nuclear ambitions....
Israel has never publicly acknowledged the program,... but it was designed to slow the rogue nation’s nuclear progress, as well as "deter trained and educated Iranians from joining their country's nuclear program." ...
An unidentified U.S. official disclosed the program to CBS while claiming the Obama administration is leaning on its Middle Eastern ally to stop the targeted killings and wait for the current deal to disarm to play out.
Obama Administration Says Palestinians Do Not Need to Commit to Recognizing Israel's Legitimate Existence
On March 8, 2014, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, stated in an interview with the Al-Quds newspaper that “[T]here is no need for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The American stance is clear in that it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state, but there is no need for the Palestinians to recognize it as such in a final agreement.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Says Israel Cannot Depend on U.S., Which Projects "Weakness"
On March 18, 2014, Israeli defense minister Moshe Yaalon cited the recent crisis in Ukraine (where the Russian military had seized control of Crimea) as an example of the Obama administration "showing weakness." He also said, "We had thought it would be the United States that would lead the campaign against Iran" and its nuclear program. But Yaalon lamented that although "people know Iran cheats," the United States and other nations had elected to negotiate with Tehran. "Therefore, on this matter, we have to behave as though we have nobody to look out for us but ourselves," Yaalon said.
The Obama Administration Recognizes the Palestinians' New "Unity Government" Uniting Fatah and Hamas
On June 2, 2014, the Palestinians formed a new “government of national unity” led by Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and backed by Hamas. The Washington Post described the move, which effectively united Fatah and Hamas, as “a significant step toward ending a seven-year feud between the Palestinian political factions that separately control the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.”
Within five hours of the Palestinians' announcement that a new unity government had been established, the U.S. State Department declared its willingness to work with it. This contradicted Obama's assertion during his 2008 presidential run, when he called Hamas a “terrorist organization” and said that “we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism and abide by previous agreements.” Israel's reaction to the Obama administration's new position was one of bitterness and anger:
- Public radio reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt “betrayed and deceived” by the U.S., particularly in light of the fact that Secretary of State John Kerry had promised him that Washington would not recognize the new government immediately.
- A senior political official quoted by the Israel Hayom freesheet, widely regarded as Prime Minister Netanyahu's mouthpiece, stated that the American move was “like a knife in the back.”
- Netanyahu himself then said: “I’m deeply troubled by the announcement that the United States will work with the Palestinian government backed by Hamas.... All those who genuinely seek peace must reject President Abbas’ embrace of Hamas, and most especially, I think the United States must make it absolutely clear to the Palestinian president that his pact with Hamas, a terrorist organization that seeks Israel’s liquidation, is simply unacceptable.”
- The Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, said that Israel was “deeply disappointed” that America had decided to recognize a government that legitimized Hamas, an organization “committed to our [Israel's] destruction.” “With suits in the front office and terrorists in the back office, it should not be business as usual,” said Dermer.
- Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said: “I have to say I do not understand this American announcement. You cannot present it as a Hamas government internally, then present it publicly as a government of technocrats. If these [ministers] are people who identify with Hamas, Hamas identifies with them and appointed them, then they are representatives of Hamas. This is a Hamas government, and Hamas is a terror organization.”
- Israeli Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said: “Unfortunately, American naivety has broken all records. Collaborating with Hamas, which is defined as a terror organization in the United States, is simply unthinkable. U.S. capitulation to Palestinian tactics badly damages the chance of ever returning to negotiations and will cause Israel to take unilateral steps to defend its citizens from the government of terror which Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] has set up.”
Obama Official Makes Speech Critical of Israel
On July 9, 2014 in Tel Aviv, Philip Gordon -- the White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region -- delivered the keynote address at the Haaretz Conference on Peace—a speech described by The Times of Israel as “a blistering attack on Israeli foreign policy.” Earlier that day, and throughout the preceding several days as well, Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists had been busy launching hundreds of rockets from Gaza into a number of Israeli cities—including Tel Aviv—setting off air-raid sirens and driving millions of residents into bomb shelters.
Against this backdrop, Gordon appealed to Israeli and Palestinian leaders to make the compromises necessary for a permanent peace agreement. He stated, for example, that Israel's government in Jerusalem “should not take for granted” the “opportunity” it had to negotiate such a treaty with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, “who has shown time and again that he is committed to nonviolence and coexistence with Israel.” “While walls and missile defense systems can help protect against some threats,” Gordon expanded, “true safety for both sides will only come with a comprehensive negotiated settlement” resulting in the creation of “two states” with “permanent” borders “based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Echoing Secretary of State John Kerry's and President Obama's previously articulated assertions that Israel would find itself increasingly isolated by the international community if it failed to make peace with the Palestinians, Gordon drew a moral equivalence between the two warring parties: “[W]e have no interest in a blame game. The unfortunate reality is that neither side prepared their publics or proved ready to make the difficult decisions required for an agreement. And trust has been eroded on both sides. Until it is restored, neither side will likely be ready to take risks for peace, even if they live with the dire consequences that resolve from its absence.” “[T]here has clearly been far too much recrimination and some reprehensible examples of racism on both sides,” Gordon added.
Moreover, Gordon lectured Israel on its duty to “confront” the “undeniable reality” that “it cannot maintain military control of another people indefinitely”; that “doing so is not only wrong but a recipe for resentment and recurring instability”; and that such a course of action “will embolden extremists on both sides, tear at Israel’s democratic fabric, and feed mutual dehumanization.”
Building upon that theme, Gordon reiterated the Obama administration's position that Israeli “settlements” in the West Bank were “illegitimate and an impediment to progress on peace negotiations.” “Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland,” he explained, “Palestinians have a right to be a sovereign, free, and secure people in their own land” as well, and to thereby “reach their full potential.”
Gordon also said that the U.S., as an ally of Israel, had some basic, yet difficult, questions for the Jewish state: “How will Israel remain democratic and Jewish if it attempts to govern the millions of Palestinian Arabs who live in the West Bank? How will it have peace if it’s unwilling to delineate a border, end the occupation and allow for Palestinian sovereignty, security and dignity? How will we prevent other states from supporting Palestinian efforts in international bodies, if Israel is not seen as committed to peace?”
Obama Urges Israeli Restraint Against Hamas Terrorists
On July 20, 2014 -- while Israel was in the midst of a miltary operation designed to destroy the massive network of underground missile storage-and-transport tunnels that Hamas had created throughout Gaza -- President Obama called Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. According to a statement from the White House, Obama “reaffirmed Israel’s right to defend itself [but] also raised serious concern about the growing number of casualties, including increasing Palestinian civilian deaths in Gaza and the loss of Israeli soldiers.”
Obama Administration Delays Assisting Israel's Effort to Find the Remains of Dead IDF Solder
On October 21, 2014, Israel scholar Caroline Glick wrote:
[I]n an article published [on October 14] in The Jerusalem Post, terrorism analyst and investigative reporter Steven Emerson revealed how the highest echelons of the administration blocked the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office from assisting Israel in finding the remains of IDF soldier Oron Shaul. Shaul was one of seven soldiers from the Golani Infantry Brigade killed July 20 when Hamas terrorists fired a rocket at their armored personnel carrier in Gaza’s Shejeia neighborhood. As Emerson related, after stealing his remains, Hamas terrorists hacked into Shaul’s Facebook page and posted announcements that he was being held by Hamas.
Among other things it did to locate Shaul and ascertain whether or not he was still alive, the IDF formally requested that the FBI intervene with Facebook to get the IP address of the persons who posted on Oron’s page. If such information was acquired quickly, the IDF might be able to locate Oron, or at least find people with knowledge of his whereabouts.
Acting in accordance with standing practice, recognizing that time was of the essence, the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office began working on Israel’s request immediately. But just before the US Attorney secured a court order to Facebook requiring it to hand over the records, the FBI was told to end its efforts. In an order that senior law enforcement officials told Emerson came from Attorney General Eric Holder’s office, the FBI was told that it needed to first sign an “MLAT,” a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with Israel, a procedure that would take weeks to complete, and is generally used in cases involving criminal prosecutions and other non-life threatening issues.
As a result of these delays, Israel was unable to even begin negotiating with Hamas for the return of Shaul's body parts until at least the third week of October 2014.
Obama Administration Condemns Israel's Shelling of a UN School
On July 30, 2014 -- with Israel still conducting its anti-terror campaugn in Gaza -- the Obama administration condemned Israel's deadly shelling (killing 17 people) of a United Nations school in Gaza which was sheltering displaced Palestinians. "We are extremely concerned that thousands of internally displaced Palestinians who have been called on by the Israeli military to evacuate their homes are not safe in UN designated shelters in Gaza," said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House's National Security Council. She also condemned "those responsible for hiding weapons in the United Nations facilities in Gaza" — a nod to Israel's contention that Hamas was storing arms in those facilities.
On July 31, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said:
“The Israeli military can and should do more to protect the lives of those innocent civilians. There is a difference in approach between what Hamas is perpetrating on the Israeli people and what Israel is doing to defend their country. But the shelling of a U.N. facility that is housing innocent civilian who are fleeting violence is totally unacceptable and totally indefensible. It is clear that we need our allies in Israel to do more to live up to to the high standards that they have set for themselves....
“We have steadfastly defended Israel’s right to take the actions that they feel necessary to protect their people and to defend their turf. The steps that they have taken have also been taken with the standards that they put in place to protect the lives of innocent civilians. That stands in pretty stark contrast to the approach adopted by Hamas that is actually using their military might to target innocent Israeli civilians.
“The observation I think many across the globe have made is despite those high standards, there are innocent Palestinian lives being lost. What we are simply asking the Israelis to do, in fact urging the Israelis to do, is to do more to live up to the standards that they have set for their own military operations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.”
Obama Administration Condemns Israel's Shelling of Another UN School
In early August 2014, after 10 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli shelling outside a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school in Rafah, wherein some 3,000 displaced persons were being sheltered, the Obama administration called the incident “totally unacceptable and totally indefensible.” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki demanded that Israel do “more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.” Added Psaki: “The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least 10 more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed.” Addressing the Israeli military's assertion that it was responding to mortar bombs that had been fired from near the school by Palestinians, Psaki said: “The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians.”
Netanyahu Tells U.S. Not to "Second-Guess" Him on Hamas
Also in early August 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advised the Obama administration "not to ever second guess me again" on the matter of dealing with Hamas.
State Department Says Israel Must "Do More" to Avoid Civilian Casualties
On August 4, 2014, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that there was "more that Israel can do to hold themselves to their own standards" in terms of not harming civilians in the battle against Hamas. "Every day," she explained, "the world is watching as innocent civilians are killed, as children are having shrapnel pulled out of their back. I think we can all look to make an evaluation that there's more that can be done."
Obama Withholds Weapons Shipments to Israel
In August 2014 -- in the midst of an Israeli war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip -- President Obama issued a directive stipulating that any Israeli request for weapons, however large or small that request might be, must not be fulfilled without his personal prior approval. In accordance with that order, Obama canceled at least two arms shipments to Israel that the Pentagon had previously approved (in July), and he suspended the transfer of AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to the Israeli Air Force. These were vital weapons whose sophisticated guidance systems enabled the Air Force to destroy missile-launchers in Gaza with a minimum amount of collateral damage.
Israel scholar Caroline Glick explained that the Obama administration "didn’t reject Israel’s request," but "just added a level of bureaucracy to the handling of the request that made it impossible for Israel to receive assistance from the US government in real time." Or, as State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf put it at the time: “We’re not holding anything. A hold indicates, technically, that you are not moving forward on making a decision about a transfer…. These requests are still moving forward; there’s just additional steps in the process now, and there’s been no policy decision made to not move forward with them…. They’re just going to take a little while longer.”
A U.S. official stated with displeasure: “It is unprecedented that the president approve every item in a military-to-military relationship, but this is exactly what has been decided.” “The president felt that his efforts to achieve a ceasefire was being undermined by U.S. weapons deliveries to Israel,” said a White House official. “Now, nothing moves without his approval, and that means everything will be slowed down.”
A Wall Street Journal analysis said: “Today, many administration officials say the Gaza conflict — the third between Israel and Hamas in under six years — has persuaded them that Mr. Netanyahu and his national security team are both reckless and untrustworthy. The White House and State Department have sought to regain greater control over U.S.-Israeli policy.”
The Hellfire missiles, along with other ammunition Israel requested during the war, eventually arrived in September 2014 — a month after a cease-fire had been agreed upon and implemented.
Obama Says Israel Must "Find a Way" to "Recognize" the "Legitimate Claims" of the Palestinians
In an August 2014, interview with New York Times Op-Ed columnist Thomas Friedman, Obama said: "[B]ecause Israel is so capable militarily,I don’t worry about Israel’s survival.... I think the question really is how does Israel survive? And how can you create a State of Israel that maintains its democratic and civic traditions? How can you preserve a Jewish state that is also reflective of the best values of those who founded Israel? And, in order to do that, it has consistently been my belief that you [meaning Israel] have to find a way to live side by side in peace with Palestinians.... You [meaning Israel] have to recognize that they have legitimate claims, and this is their land and neighborhood as well.”
Obama Says "Too Many Israelis" Are "Ready to Abandon the Hard Work of Peace"; Draws Moral Equivalence Between Israeli and Palestinian Deaths
In a September 23, 2014 address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama said: "The violence engulfing the region today has made too many Israelis ready to abandon the hard work of peace. And that’s something worthy of reflection within Israel. Because let’s be clear: the status quo in the West Bank and Gaza is not sustainable. We cannot afford to turn away from this effort – not when rockets are fired at innocent Israelis, or the lives of so many Palestinian children are taken from us in Gaza." Notably, he made no mention of the fact that Hamas, in its recently waged war against Israel, had forced its own civilians, against their will, to serve as human shields. Nor did he mention that Hamas routinely used schools, hospitals, and residential neighborhoods as storehouses and launching pads for its missiles and other weaponry -- thereby greatly increasing the likelihood of civilians in those places being killed in the course of battle.
Obama Administration Rejects Netanyahu's Assessment of ISIS
In late September 2014, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki indicated that Israel and the United States were not on the same page regarding the scope of Islamic terror. The rift centeed around Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s September 29 speech at the United Nations, during which he insisted that terrorist groups such as ISIS, Hamas, the Iranian regime, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram all shared the same vision. "Some are radical Sunnis, some are radical Shi’ites." Added Netanyahu: "Some want to restore a pre-medieval caliphate from the 7th century. Others want to trigger the apocalyptic return of an imam from the 9th century. They operate in different lands, they target different victims and they even kill each other in their quest for supremacy. But they all share a fanatic ideology. They all seek to create ever expanding enclaves of militant Islam where there is no freedom and no tolerance, where women are treated as chattel, Christians are decimated, and minorities are subjugated, sometimes given the stark choice: convert or die. For them, anyone can be an infidel, including fellow Muslims."
When Psaki was subsequently asked if the Obama White House agreed with Netanyahu’s argument, she replied: "We would not agree with that characterization, no." Pressed on Netanyahu’s contention that ISIS and Hamas were cut from the same cloth, Psaki once again balked. She conceded that both groups were U.S.-designated terrorist organizations, but insisted that ISIS "poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States. And that’s just a fact." Psaki continued: “We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas, so we certainly – they are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences in terms of the threat and otherwise."
Obama Draws Moral Equivalence Between Israeli and Palestinian Deaths in the Recent Israel-Hamas War
In an October 1, 2014 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Obama -- referencing the recent six-week war between Israel and Hamas -- said that Israeli and Palestinian leaders must "find ways to change the status quo so that both Israel citizens are safe in their own homes, and schoolchildren in their schools, from the possibility of rocket fire, but also that we don't have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well."
Obama Administration Sharply Rebukes Israeli Housing Project
On October 1, 2014, the Obama Administration -- in what ABC News described as "a striking public rebuke" -- condemned Israel's plan to build a new, 2,500-unit housing project in east Jerusalem. "This development will only draw condemnation from the international community," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. "It also would call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians." Morever, the Administration condemned what it called the "provocative" occupation in recent years, by several hundred Israeli settlers, of residential buildings in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem. Earnest warned that this occupation would "escalate tensions at a moment when those tensions have already been high."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was "baffled" by the Obama Administration's rebuke. "It's against the American values," stated Netanyahu. "And it doesn't bode well for peace. The idea that we'd have this ethnic purification as a condition for peace, I think it's anti-peace."
Obama Administration Expresses Condolences over Death of Hamas Terrorist; Refuses to Call Him a Terrorist
On October 24, 2014, a Palestinian teenager was shot and killed by an IDF soldier while attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at Israeli civilians. The youth was subsequently buried wearing a green Hamas headband, and the Obama administration quickly released a statement (that same day) expressing its "deepest condolences to the family." Three days later, at an October 27, 2014 State Department briefing, Associated Press reporter Matt Lee asked spokesperson Jen Psaki the following: “There are reports … that [the Palestinian teenager] was throwing Molotov cocktails at cars on a highway, and I’m wondering, if that is the case, would you still have been so speedy in putting out a statement and offering your condolences to the family? The argument that is being made by some in Israel is that this kid was essentially a terrorist, and you don’t agree with that, I assume.”
Psaki replied: “Correct, we don’t. I don't have any more details on the circumstances, though.”
Lee then asked whether the fact that the teenager was buried wearing a Hamas headband was “of concern at all.”
Psaki responded, “I just don’t have any more on this particular case,” and then abruptly turned to take a question from another reporter.
Top Obama Official Calls Netanyahu "Chickenshit"
On October 28, 2014, The Atlantic reporter Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that a senior Obama administration official had recently spoken to him in the most disparaging manner about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu, saying: “The thing about Bibi is, he’s a chickenshit.... [H]e won’t do anything to reach an accommodation with the Palestinians or with the Sunni Arab states. The only thing he’s interested in is protecting himself from political defeat. He’s not [Yitzhak] Rabin, he’s not [Ariel] Sharon, he’s certainly no [Menachem] Begin. He’s got no guts.”
"I ran this notion by another senior official who deals with the Israel file regularly," added Goldberg. "This official agreed that Netanyahu is a 'chickenshit' on matters related to the comatose peace process, but added that he’s also a 'coward' on the issue of Iran’s nuclear threat." "Over the years," Goldberg wrote as well, "Obama administration officials have described Netanyahu to me as recalcitrant, myopic, reactionary, obtuse, blustering, pompous, and 'Aspergery.' (These are verbatim descriptions; I keep a running list.)"
Moreover, Goldberg spelled out the dire implications of such rhetoric vis a vis U.S.-Israeli relations: "This comment is representative of the gloves-off manner in which American and Israeli officials now talk about each other behind closed doors, and is yet another sign that relations between the Obama and Netanyahu governments have moved toward a full-blown crisis. The relationship between these two administrations— dual guarantors of the putatively 'unbreakable' bond between the U.S. and Israel—is now the worst it's ever been, and it stands to get significantly worse after the November midterm elections. By next year, the Obama administration may actually withdraw diplomatic cover for Israel at the United Nations, but even before that, both sides are expecting a showdown over Iran, should an agreement be reached about the future of its nuclear program."
Israeli officials reacted angrily to the remarks of the anonymous Obama senior official. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said that “severe curse words against the Israeli prime minister are harmful to millions of Israeli citizens and Jews worldwide.” Former Israeli United Nations Ambassador Dan Gillerman described such name calling as “shameful,” “abusive,” and “counter-productive.”
Netanyahu, for his part, said: "I have been on the battlefield many times. I have risked my life for the country and I am not prepared to make concessions that will endanger our state.... It must be understood that our supreme interests, with security and the unity of Jerusalem first and foremost, are not among the top concerns of those anonymous elements that are attacking us and me personally, because the attack on me comes only because I am defending the State of Israel.... If I did not defend the State of Israel, if I did not vigorously uphold our national and security interests, they would not attack me. And despite all the attacks against me, I will continue to defend our state."
When a reporter asked State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki whether Obama administration officials were trying to learn who had made the comments quoted in Goldberg's article, she said simply, “No,” and then abruptly turned toward another questioner. But the aforementioned reporter immediately followed up by asking, "Why not?" To this, Psaki replied: “There are anonymous sources in all of your stories every single day. If we spent all of our time focused on that effort, we wouldn’t be working on diplomacy.” (Click here for video of the exchange.) Rejecting also the notion that the U.S. should apologize to Israel for the smear against Netanyahu, Psaki added: “If this issue comes up, [Secretary of State John Kerry] would make clear this isn’t the position of the administration.”
State Department Spokeswoman Says Israel Should Have Done More to Limit Palestinian Civilian Casualties
At a November 8, 2014 press conference, an Associated Press reporter asked State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki to comment on the International Criminal Court's decision that Israel could not be charged with having committed war crimes during its seven-week war against Hamas during the preceding summer. In her reply, Psaki issued the following remarks: "As we made clear throughout the summer’s conflict, we supported Israel’s right to self-defense and strongly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, and the use of tunnels, of course, of attacks into Israel. However, we also expressed deep concern and heartbreak for the civilian death toll in Gaza and made clear ... that we believed that Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties, and it was important that they held their selves to a high standard. So that remains our view and position about this summer’s events.... [I]t remains the broad view of the entire Administration that they [the Israelis] could have done more and they should have taken more -- all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties."
After Palestinian Terror Attack, Obama Draws a Moral Equivalence Between the Two Sides
After a November 18, 2014 attack where two Palestinian terrorists -- wielding meat cleavers, an ax, and a gun -- murdered five people (including three U.S.-born rabbis) who were praying in a Jerusalem synagogue, President Obama said: "Too many Israelis have died; too many Palestinians have died. At this difficult time I think it's important for both Palestinians and Israelis to try to work together to lower tensions and reject violence. We have to remind ourselves that the majority of Palestinians and Israelis overwhelmingly want peace."
Reports That the Obama Administration Is Considering Sanctions Against Israel
In early December 2014, the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz reported that the Obama administration, which was vigorously pushing Congress to refrain from imposing any new sanctions against Iran, had recently held secret internal meetings to discuss the possibility of imposing sanctions on Israel as punishment for the continuing construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf dodged several questions from reporters regarding the matter. “I’m obviously not going to comment one way or another on reported internal deliberations,” she said. “We’ve made clear our position on settlement activity publicly and that hasn’t changed.” When pressed further to comment, Harf said she would not “address hypotheticals.”