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Obama’s Default Mode: Blame Israel
The president thinks Israel is the main problem in the Middle East.


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Mona Charen

After a two-hour meeting in Cairo, Khaled Mashaal, unelected leader of Hamas, and Mahmoud Abbas, unelected leader of the Palestinian Authority, were all smiles. “We want to assure our people and the Arab and Islamic world that we have turned a major new and real page in partnership on everything to do with the Palestinian nation,” Mashaal announced. “There are no more differences between us now,” agreed Abbas.

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In other words, the “moderate” Abbas is now a full partner with the leader of an organization whose charter is committed not just to the destruction of Israel but to the elimination of all Jews everywhere. This is the same Abbas who forfeited whatever slim claim he held to moderate status by declining to accept Israel as a Jewish state, refusing to engage in direct negotiations with Israel (as recently as last week, chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat declined a Quartet request to sit down with the Israelis), and flouting the Oslo accords by going to the United Nations to demand recognition. Now he is formally partnered with a genocidal Islamist organization. But the Obama administration thinks Israel is the problem.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood won 40 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections, while another 25 percent went to Salafi forces. The Salafis regard the Muslim Brotherhood as squishes. Sheik Abdel Moneim el-Shahat, leader of the Salafis, is scornful of the Muslim Brotherhood for talking about citizenship and freedom outside the strictures of Islamic law. El-Shahat is not so broad-minded. “I want to say: citizenship restricted by Islamic sharia, freedom restricted by Islamic sharia, equality restricted by Islamic sharia.” So two-thirds of the Egyptian electorate support candidates who will find Hamas utterly congenial. But the Obama administration is dismayed by Israel.

In Syria, the regime’s brutal massacres of peaceful protesters continue. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said this week that “we are placing the figure at 4,000. But the information coming to us is that it’s much more.” Guess who the Obama administration is angry at?

In Turkey, the Islamist party won a huge victory in June, permitting the government to crack down on opposition voices (jailing hundreds of critics) and move the once-Western-oriented Muslim country more firmly in the direction of an Islamist state. Turkey has also noisily supported Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, and Islamists in other Muslim nations.

Inexorably, Iran continues its march toward nuclear weapons.

The Muslim world is in turmoil, with results that so far do not bode well for peace, democracy, or development. But what worries the Obama administration? Israel.

Twice in the past week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has declared that a military attack on Iran’s nuclear capabilities would do more harm than good — a signal not just that the Obama administration (its promises never to permit an Iranian bomb notwithstanding) has no intention of using force to prevent Iran from going nuclear, but also that it seeks to prevent Israel from acting. Panetta also dispensed advice to Israel, snapping, “Get back to the damn table,” as if Israel, not the PA, were the party boycotting negotiations. It is Israel’s fault, the defense secretary implied, that the region is becoming ever more radicalized and that Israel’s formerly cordial relations with Egypt and Turkey are fraying. Repairing to the favorite expression of those with nothing on the line, Panetta demanded that Israel “take risks.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, too, managed to put a finger in the eye of the region’s lone enduring democracy. Speaking to a Brookings Institution gathering, Mrs. Clinton expressed dismay about Israel’s treatment of women. She had read a Washington Post column suggesting that some Israeli buses in ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods were sex-segregated, forcing women to sit in the back. Clinton fumed that it reminded her of Rosa Parks and Iran. Mrs. Clinton failed to mention that the issue has already been litigated in Israel. The High Court has declared sex segregation illegal. But why acknowledge the workings of a vibrant democracy when you can posture about Rosa Parks?

In Belgium, Amb. Howard Gutman suggested that Arab anti-Semitism springs from the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He later insisted his comments were “taken the wrong way.”

Speaking to potential Jewish donors, President Obama preened, “I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.” Both clauses of that sentence are priceless.

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.



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