Monday, September 26, 2011

How Israel Lost America

Very perceptive post from Larry Derfner, a former Jerusalem Post columnist who was fired only a few months ago because his perspective was consistently too critical of the Netanyahu government (for which the J-Post is one of the louder cheerleaders).  Pasted below, in full:

“Tafasta meruba, lo tafasta,” is a Hebrew saying that means, “If you get too greedy, you end up with nothing,” and it fits well to the arm-twisting job Israel just did on Obama at the UN. By leaning on him too single-handedly to block the Palestinian statehood bid, to pressure countries like Gabon and Bosnia-Herzegovina to go along, and to give a speech that Avigdor Lieberman said he would “sign with both hands,” Israel bent Obama too far, until he just broke. In the eyes of Palestinians, Muslims of the Middle East and probably everybody else in the world, the U.S. president has now assumed the identity of the ultimate Israel lobbyist, of Mr.Hasbara. “He’s not the president of the United States, he’s the president of Israel,” a man in Ramallah said to me the day after the speech, and that’s what Palestinians think today: They flat-out hate Obama. They may hate him more than any other U.S. president in history, including George W. Bush. They thought Obama was on their side, and in the moment of truth he sold them out to the LIkud, to the settlers, to the Republican wackos. Palestinians, and presumably all Muslims, feel toward Obama today how the settlers felt toward Ariel Sharon after he decided to withdraw from Gaza: betrayed.

With Obama’s America now having zero credibility in the Middle East, where does this leave Israel? Alone and vulnerable to an extent that’s unfamiliar to Israelis. Until now, the U.S. held sway with the Palestinians; it doesn’t anymore. It held sway with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey; I wonder how much it has left now. In highly dramatic fashion, the U.S. stood up for the occupation and against Palestinian independence, and the result of this disgrace is that outside of Israel and America, the occupation is more unpopular and Palestinian independence more popular than ever. It’s the Palestinians who have the wind at their back now, and Israel that’s pissing in the wind. And America can’t help us anymore because America has become a spent force around here.

Having gotten no respect from the U.S., the Palestinian Authority shows it none. Abbas’s aide Yasser Abed Rabbo says publicly that the Palestinians will refuse to negotiate with Israel if America is the mediator. The Quartet’s mealy-mouthed proposal for talks about talks gets blown off by the PA. The eminiently mealy-mouthed Tony Blair gets chewed out by Abbas. What leverage does America or its emissaries have over the Palestinians anymore? What can America and Europe do for Israel – threaten to cut off funds to the PA? This is the threat coming from the Netanyahu government and the Republican Party – and Abbas is just daring them to go through with it. If we can’t have independence, he’s telling them, the PA will shut down and Israeli soldiers and money can keep the peace in the refugee camps, villages and cities of the West Bank. U.S. congressmen and most Israeli cabinet ministers are too fat-headed to understand, but this is something like Abbas’s doomsday option.

He has other options, though. He can keep going back to the Security Council time after time and force Obama to embarrass himself again and again. He can launch non-violent “people power” protests across the West Bank. He can give up on the two-state solution and demand the one-state solution: Israeli citizenship for Palestinians. The Palestinians are the darlings of the world, while not only Israel but Israel’s great protector are in the world’s doghouse, or certainly the Middle East’s.

And in all this, what are Israel’s options? What leverage does it have over anybody – except the Obama administration, which, as noted, is a spent force in this neighborhood. Who wants to be Israel’s friend today, aside from Glenn Beck Nation?

Tafasta meruba, Bibi – you were too greedy. You wanted to beat Obama, but you beat him to death, for Israel’s purposes. Effectively, you lost America for this country. When it comes to alliances Israel can count on, you’ve left us with nothing.

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