National Security & Defense

Obama Manufactures an Israel Crisis

‘Words matter,” White House secretary Josh Earnest told reporters today, by way of explanation for the Obama administration’s fresh, newly intense scorn for the government of Israel.

So they do — which is why it is so disturbing that the White House is twisting the words of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, ignoring the torrent of hate and hypocrisy that has issued forth from the Palestinian side for years, and now using its own words to drive a real wedge between the United States and Israel. (The president did speak to Netanyahu today but, per the official readout, specifically congratulating the prime minister for winning a plurality of the Knesset probably didn’t help.)

Courting his supporters before the Israeli election this week, the White House says, Netanyahu used “divisive” rhetoric and disavowed the idea of a two-state solution, calling into question a principle that has undergirded Israeli–Palestinian negotiations for more than two decades now.

In return, the White House is threatening to turn a blind eye to Palestinians’ abandonment of a different principle that has undergirded negotiations for more than two decades now. The White House says Obama will “reevaluate” the U.S. position toward Israel at the United Nations, a threat that means, most immediately, the U.S. could drop its opposition to U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood. The threat is likely empty, but publicly airing it is an incredibly contemptuous way to treat an ally — let alone one of our closest and most vulnerable ones.

The Palestinian Authority’s attempt to gain state-like recognition at the U.N. (they are currently trying to join the International Criminal Court) is a violation of the spirit of the Oslo accords, which reserves such issues to bilateral negotiations. That was just one reason, alongside the increasing influence of Hamas and other security problems, why Prime Minister Netanyahu said before the election that he would not allow the establishment of a Palestinian state on his watch.

Here were his words: “Anyone who moves to establish a Palestinian state and evacuate territory is just giving territory away to radical Islamic attacks against Israel. That’s the actual reality that has come about in recent years.” So it is, which is why, when Netanyahu was then asked whether he would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state during his time in office, he said no.

This is an acknowledgment of reality, not reckless rhetoric. At worst, combined with Netanyahu’s (ill-advised) expression of concern about high Arab turnout, it is a shadow of the kind of contempt that Palestinian officials regularly show for Israel. Netanyahu quickly clarified his two-state-solution comment, reemphasizing after the election that he did not believe a Palestinian state feasible with the other side behaving as they are, rather than disapproving of the two-state solution in theory.

President Obama, unhappy with Netanyahu’s attempts to block a deal with Iran and generally uncomfortable with a realistic view of Israel’s enemies, is blowing the controversy vastly out of proportion, just as he did with Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Obama, clearly, finds no joy or satisfaction in defending Israel on the world stage. He may not understand why we do so at all.

But he is not likely to stop doing it entirely, given the strong pro-Israel sentiment in this country. He is seeking a pound of flesh, some admission from Netanyahu that will make it look like he has pushed the two sides of the Arab–Israeli conflict closer together. (It could be, for instance, concessions on settlement construction.)

This episode, though, will do real damage to Israel’s trust in the United States. If President Obama understood what this meant, or cared, he would know that his behavior is not just a betrayal of our ally and our own values — it emboldens our enemies and does nothing to move Israel and the Palestinians toward a secure, lasting solution. And once this crisis passes, there is not much to look forward to: The president will return to occasional diplomatic slights toward Israel, allowing more time for his preferred activity, negotiating giveaways to Iran.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

PC Culture

Hate-Crime Hoaxes Reflect America’s Sickness

On January 29, tabloid news site TMZ broke the shocking story that Jussie Smollett, a gay black entertainer and progressive activist, had been viciously attacked in Chicago. Two racist white men had fractured his rib, poured bleach on him, and tied a noose around his neck. As they were leaving, they shouted ... Read More

White Progressives Are Polarizing America

To understand how far left (and how quickly) the Democratic party has moved, let’s cycle back a very short 20 years. If 1998 Bill Clinton ran in the Democratic primary today, he’d be instantaneously labeled a far-right bigot. His support for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Defense of Marriage Act, ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Strange Paradoxes of Our Age

Modern prophets often say one thing and do another. Worse, they often advocate in the abstract as a way of justifying their doing the opposite in the concrete. The result is that contemporary culture abounds with the inexplicable — mostly because modern progressivism makes all sorts of race, class, and ... Read More
PC Culture

Fake Newspeople

This week, the story of the Jussie Smollett hoax gripped the national media. The story, for those who missed it, went something like this: The Empire actor, who is both black and gay, stated that on a freezing January night in Chicago, in the middle of the polar vortex, he went to a local Subway store to buy a ... Read More

One Last Grift for Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders, the antique Brooklyn socialist who represents Vermont in the Senate, is not quite ready to retire to his lakeside dacha and so once again is running for the presidential nomination of a party to which he does not belong with an agenda about which he cannot be quite entirely ... Read More
Film & TV

A Sublime Christian Masterpiece of a Film

‘There are two ways through life -- the way of nature and the way of grace,” remarks the saintly mother at the outset of The Tree of Life, one of the most awe-inspiring films of the 21st century. She continues: Grace doesn’t try please itself. It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults ... Read More
PC Culture

Changing Reality with Words

The reinvention of vocabulary can often be more effective than any social protest movement. Malarial swamps can become healthy “wetlands.” Fetid “dumps” are often rebranded as green “landfills.” Global warming was once a worry about too much heat. It implied that man-made carbon emissions had so ... Read More