Caution! White House Israel 'Strategery' Ahead

Friday, October 31, 2014

Between the incredible shrinking anti-Islamic State coalition and a childish, churlish war of words against America's steadfast ally, Israel, the boys and girls on Obama's national security staff are certainly doing their best to help Democrats lose more seats on the eve of the congressional elections.

As if they did not have enough to worry about, several NSC staff found time in between crises to rush out to the White House schoolyard and hurl all sorts of unprintable ad hominem profanity at Israel's Prime Minister Netanyahu the other day.

Let's just say that the taunts barely rose beyond junior high level.  That, my friends, passes in this White House as reasoned, mature, presidential-caliber foreign policy.
Say what you will about Mr. Netanyahu (and I have certainly said a bucketful in these pages, of late), but craven insults emanating from anonymous White House staff against a leader of one of our remaining few friends in the world further proves this NSC team is incapable of providing seasoned national security stewardship.
The war of words proves but one thing: This NSC Middle East staff is down for the count, out of ideas, spiteful, and acting like it is below the age of consumption careless in its handling of the Pandora's Box of a Middle East portfolio.  Sinking to vitriolic name calling from the confines of the White House is the equivalent of a beaten, bloody boxer refusing to vacate the ring, having no decent punch left, only a mouthful of spit.

Let's inject some reality here.  The horrific Sunni-Shiite conflict gripping the Syria and Iraq will have a growing, direct impact on America's national security.  The Islamic State's army of death is advancing mile by mile each day toward Baghdad despite punishing U.S.-led airstrikes against it.  Lebanon and Jordan are becoming unstable.  Our hyper-hypothetical NATO ally, Turkey, is playing the U.S. and other NATO allies like a Stradivarius to vanquish its Kurdish problem.  The fate of a nuclear deal with Iran is hanging by a centrifuge thread.   And in the thick of these endless maelstroms, the White House is treating Israel, not Iran, as if it is our real adversary in the Middle East! Huh??

Granted, Mr. Netanyahu has caused many a president to reach in the medicine cabinet for Prozac.  I recall in 1996, when I was envoy in Morocco, President Clinton inherited the "Bibi burden" following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. But instead of stooping to un-presidential tantrums (or egging on his staff to do it for him) President Clinton took the high road and kept the U.S-Israeli relationship on a straight track.  Clinton had the maturity and the wisdom then that Obama and team lack now.

It seems that the striking difference between President Clinton and Barack Obama when it comes to this Israeli leader is that Bill Clinton always ensured that the historical, mutually beneficial alliance with Israel remained on rock solid ground despite Netanyahu's needling and the occasional policy ups and downs.  Clinton also had a respected, seasoned Middle East national security staff -- which was independent and mature.

Yes, I prefer Israel end the needless, "in your face" settlement construction in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank.  I prefer Israel resume direct negotiations in good faith with the Palestinians and better cooperate in the humanitarian relief of Gaza's population.  Netanyahu could do much more to tamp down those in his own government who consider it amusing sport to criticize the U.S.  And Netanyahu is way too flip circling the Likud wagons against a rising tide of global anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Israel vindictiveness instead of doing his best to combat it.  Israel simply cannot afford to be isolated and under threat from more adversaries -- it has enough enemies in its own neighborhood.
Putting aside the bickering, the vast majority of the American people -- evidenced in poll after poll -- prefer a strong Israel, closely allied with the United States.  Americans instinctively understand the relationship is not a one way street.  They know that through thick and thin when it comes down to the short hairs, and at times way outside public view, Israel has and continues to provide the U.S. vital support and intelligence to aid our own national security.  The successful counter-terrorism exploits and mysterious cyber counter attacks on Iran's nuclear program occasionally leak out from the confines of former Israeli and U.S. intelligence officials showcasing their critical value to American (and Israel's) security.  Indeed, a rare prize when U.S. allies are in short supply since we are too busy eavesdropping on their leaders' cell phones.

I was recently in Israel in my capacity as CEO of Peaceworks/The OneVoice Movement Foundation (  Israelis are deeply concerned that their essential bond with the U.S. is under unprecedented duress since they respect the role America plays in Israel's defense and economic growth -- just as Israelis are proud of the technological and medical advances that have saved Americans at home and protected American servicemen abroad. The U.S.-built Iron Dome anti-missile system saved thousands of Israeli lives during Hamas' missile war on Israel's civilian population -- there is not one Israeli who is not grateful for that American-engineered shield of security.

Eventually, the mudslinging will end -- because it must.  Perhaps cooler heads with some wisdom and maturity will take charge of the White House school yard.  But Israel's prime minister has been playing fast and loose himself.  In a sop to his ultra right extremists he forsakes a solemn obligation to respect this historical alliance.  Netanyahu may like to think otherwise, but he is just a bland Israeli leader lacking vision or conviction in a chain of Israeli leaders who must turn the U.S. bond baton over to his successor.  If he drops it, Israelis will never forgive him -- no matter how many terms he held -- because their security depends on it.
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