It is hard to believe anything that will be written or said in the next eight months about U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, as it applies to Israel. Obama is in campaign mode so — as in the 2008 campaign — there will be no more gratuitous insults of Mr. Netanyahu, no more grand talk of sacrosanct 1967 borders, no demands for concessions, no bows to Saudi royals, no interviews with al-Arabiya, no more talk of those “insulting” Israelis, no emphasis on a special relationship with Turkey, no more flotillas, no talk of “sunlight” with Israel, no advice about “self-reflection,” no implicit comparisons of the Holocaust with the Palestinians’ plight.
In the next few months, there will be no more jawboning about settlements, or lectures that Jews cannot buy land where they wish. There will be no grand Cairo speeches about unappreciated Islamic contributions to Western civilization. There will be no more lectures about the need for outreach and reset with Syria and Iran. Assad is no longer a “reformer,” Ahmadinejad no longer a legitimate interlocutor once snubbed in Neanderthal fashion by George Bush.
In key states and in critical fundraising fashion, Israel’s supporters must be courted for the next few months, and thus the narrative will change to Obama’s singular pro-Israeli policies. So just as there was a 2007–2008 pro-Israel campaign policy and a 2009–2011 anti-Israel actual policy, now again there comes a 2012 pro-Israel campaign policy.
The flip-flop-flip reminds me of Obama’s stance on gas prices. When they were low due to worldwide recession, and the reelection campaign was far distant, then we got pie-in-the-sky cap-and-trade advocacy, a hope that energy prices would “skyrocket,” and all sorts of crazy pronouncements from Energy Secretary Chu and Interior Secretary Salazar about either the desirability or inevitability of high gasoline prices. In those heady pre-Climategate days, we were told that Brazil should drill more, and we should not. Now after canceling the Keystone pipeline, and putting federal oil lands off limits, we suddenly get panic about tapping the strategic oil reserve and strange bragging about spurred production and a fall in demand — due to private oil men on private land, and the weak economy — as if this had occurred by the design of Barack Obama.
But after the election, expect that $4- to $5-a-gallon gas (and much higher) will again be the prized “European” level that allows all sorts of wonderful things like a subsidized Solyndra, Chevy Volts, and wind farms to be profitable.
So too with Israel. Should Obama be reelected, it will be even bleaker for Israel, as Obama need not worry about the Jewish-American vote in key states or fundraising. He can revert to his natural sympathies with Israel’s Middle East neighbors. But this time that old disdain for Israel will be spiked by a certain pique that in extremis Obama had, in humiliating fashion, been forced to go through the motions of proclaiming his preference for Israel.