On a recent Fox News appearance, retired US Army Colonel Ralph Peters may have been the initial well-known person in America to claim that President Obama is the “first anti-Israeli President” in US history. Media Matters, a far left organization funded by billionaire Democrat George Soros, inexplicably posted the video of Peters making the claim and inadvertently feeding oxygen to the narrative. Here are portions of the comments by Colonel Peters in response to questioning by Megyn Kelly on “America Live” on March 26, 2010:
“This is something about a chip on the President’s shoulder…Israel wants to live in peace with its neighbors, its neighbors want Israel destroyed. The President refuses to understand that…It’s become a credo of the left…that Israel is always the oppressor and that Palestinian terrorists are freedom fighters…You have to look at the President’s background…. His mother, extremely left, his university chums, on the left, Bill Ayers, left, 20 years with Reverend Wright. All of their doctrines say the Palestinians are wonderful and the Israelis are basically Nazis…and I think the President has got that by osmosis… Beyond the armchair psychoanalysis, you have to look at what people do, listen to what they say, and this is our first anti-Israeli President. Its bewildering its astonishing.“
Colonel Peters appears to be speaking without an evidentiary basis about Obama’s mother and university chums, as no evidence has surfaced that ties them to anti-Israeli thinking. However, Bill Ayers, who was associated with the President for many years, recently demonstrated his anti-Israeli thinking by being “one of 431 academics to sign a petition calling for divestment, boycott and sanctions against Israel.” The Reverend Wright, who was the President’s “spiritual adviser” for decades, is a longtime strong supporter of well-known anti-Semite Louis Farrakan. Beyond those two individuals, Obama had a long and deep relationship with Palestinian interest groups for many years during his time in Chicago, as epitomized by his close relationship with Palestinian Professor Rashid Khalidi. Obama’s relationship with Khalidi became a flash point of the 2008 campaign as the LA Times refused to release video it is holding of Obama at a going away party for Khalidi, who was leaving to take a job at Columbia University, where many Palestinian supporters said quite untoward things about Israel. Here’s the LA Times report on the party:
It was a celebration of Palestinian culture — a night of music, dancing and a dash of politics. Local Arab Americans were bidding farewell to Rashid Khalidi, an internationally known scholar, critic of Israel and advocate for Palestinian rights, who was leaving town for a job in New York. A special tribute came from Khalidi’s friend and frequent dinner companion, the young state Sen. Barack Obama. Speaking to the crowd, Obama reminisced about meals prepared by Khalidi’s wife, Mona, and conversations that had challenged his thinking.
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I’m hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid’s dinner table,” but around “this entire world.” Today, five years later, Obama is a U.S. senator from Illinois who expresses a firmly pro-Israel view of Middle East politics, pleasing many of the Jewish leaders and advocates for Israel whom he is courting in his presidential campaign. The dinner conversations he had envisioned with his Palestinian American friend have ended. He and Khalidi have seen each other only fleetingly in recent years.
And yet the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor’s going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say. Their belief is not drawn from Obama’s speeches or campaign literature, but from comments that some say Obama made in private and from his association with the Palestinian American community in his hometown of Chicago, including his presence at events where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.
At Khalidi’s 2003 farewell party, for example, a young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.” One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”
Considering the facts laid out by the LA Times above, it is easy to understand why the video of the Khalidi party would have made for interesting viewing, especially to see Obama’s reaction to the virulently anti-Israel statements made there as noted by the LA Times. However, the most important fact from this reporting is that many Palestinian American leaders believed in 2008 that Obama as President would be “more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say” based on “comments that some say Obama made in private” and his long term association with the Palestinian-American community in Chicago. Indeed, considering the recent “humiliation” of Israel’s democratically elected leader, Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu (more on that later), by President Obama at the White House, this 2008 comment by a Palestinian-American leader appears prophetic:
But his presence at such events, as he worked to build a political base in Chicago, has led some Palestinian leaders to believe that he might deal differently with the Middle East than either of his opponents for the White House.”I am confident that Barack Obama is more sympathetic to the position of ending the occupation than either of the other candidates,” said Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow for the American Task Force on Palestine, referring to the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that began after the 1967 war…. “That’s my personal opinion,” Ibish said, “and I think it for a very large number of circumstantial reasons, and what he’s said.”
In his defense, Obama at the time of the publication of the April 2008 LA Times piece “called himself a ‘stalwart’ supporter of the Jewish state and its security needs” and his chief strategist David Axelrod had this to say:
“Barack’s belief is that it’s important to understand other points of view, even if you can’t agree with them,” said his longtime political strategist, David Axelrod. Obama “can disagree without shunning or demonizing those with other views,” he said. “That’s far different than the suggestion that he somehow tailors his view.”
The video of the Khalidi going away party remains under lock and key at the LA Times to this day, adding an element of mystery to the analysis of Obama’s true feelings towards the Jewish state. However, the recent meeting at the White House between President Obama and Prime Minimster Bibi Netanyahu provides some fresh, direct evidence of the President’s feelings towards Israel, as described by the British press, which is much more willing to honestly report on Obama’s activities than the American media:
For a head of government to visit the White House and not pose for photographers is rare. For a key ally to be left to his own devices while the President withdraws to have dinner in private was, until this week, unheard of. Yet that is how Binyamin Netanyahu was treated by President Obama on Tuesday night, according to Israeli reports on a trip viewed in Jerusalem as a humiliation.
After failing to extract a written promise of concessions on settlements, Mr Obama walked out of his meeting with Mr Netanyahu but invited him to stay at the White House, consult with advisers and “let me know if there is anything new”, a US congressman, who spoke to the Prime Minister, said. “It was awful,” the congressman said. One Israeli newspaper called the meeting “a hazing in stages”, poisoned by such mistrust that the Israeli delegation eventually left rather than risk being eavesdropped on a White House telephone line. Another said that the Prime Minister had received “the treatment reserved for the President of Equatorial Guinea”.
The American media, of course, completely ignored the shameful treatment of the democratically elected leader of Israel by Obama’s White House, although CentristNet did issue a piece comparing the treatment of Israel’s democratically elected leader to the treatment of Saudi’s dictator King Abdullah by Obama. Apparently angered by Netanyahu’s failure to immediately agree to Obama’s demands for an immediate freeze to construction in East Jerusalem, Obama left the Prime Minister to go have dinner without him, stating that ““I’m still around” and “Let me know if there is anything new” as he left the Prime Minister.
Obviously, this type of extraordinarily harsh treatment of the democratically elected leader of one of America’s closest allies, Israel, in the White House is strong evidence that President Obama may indeed have negative feelings towards Israel, perhaps the most negative feelings of any occupant who’s ever occupied the Oval Office, as theorized by Colonel Peters. Perhaps the many years of hearing from Khalidi, Ayers, Wright and others about the “abuses” of the Israelis and the righteous nature of the Palestinians had an effect on Obama, and led him to the harsh treatment of the Israeli prime minister.
Indeed, from the Israeli perspective, the Obama Administration has been quite disappointing, if not infuriating, regarding its failure to take any significant action to contain or rollback the Iranian push to acquire nuclear weapons. Obama’s first meeting as President with Netanyahu resulted in a pledge to work on negotiations with the Iranians until the end of 2009, and then move towards strong sanctions thereafter if negotiations did not bear fruit. Obviously, Obama has not made such sanctions a priority since the turn of the year, which must be quite unnerving to our Israeli allies. Indeed, Iranian nuclear proliferation is the number one national security threat to Israel, not the Palestinian issue, and Bibi stated as much to then-candidate Obama when the two met in July 2008:
One substantial piece of evidence is the conversation that occurred earlier last week at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem between two men some might think are on opposite sides of the spectrum: the supposedly diplomatic Barack Obama and the uber-hawkish Bibi Netanyahu, head of the Likud Party and a fair bet to return to the prime minister’s office. According to Netanyahu advisor Uzi Arad—a former Mossad official who was present at the 45-minute talk—Obama agreed with Netanyahu that “the paramount and most urgent issue is Iran,” and that “a nuclear Iran is unacceptable not only to Israel but to the United States.”
Netanyahu “also made it clear to him that on the Iranian threat there is no dissension in Israel; this is a national attitude.” In a telephone interview on Thursday, Arad told me that he believed that the Democratic candidate for president concurred with Netanyahu as well about the sequence of events that must occur: On Iran “the clocks and centrifuges are clicking and spinning, and not only is time of the essence but the order of things is as well. Should one fail to neutralize that Iranian threat now, it would undercut anything that would be achieved with the Palestinians, Syria or Lebanon.”
As Arad put it: “If you follow that logic, the current efforts to move on the Palestinian issue are pathetic, because they would not be worth the paper they’re written on if Iran is not contained. If Iran became nuclear it would mean the victory of the militants in Hamas and Hezbollah and undercut the moderates.” Obama, for his part, said he was for the use of “more carrots and sticks” and wanted to have dialogue and engagement policy with Iran before taking any other action, according to Arad.
“Netanyahu reacted by saying that what is essential here are not means but the ends. … They are in agreement about the overall objective. Then Netanyahu added his considered judgment that the more credible the military option, the more likely it is that diplomacy with sanction will succeed.” Obama’s “body language conveyed” that he agreed with that as well, Arad said.
So Netanyahu clearly expressed his view that the immediate focus of US foreign policy in the Middle East must be Iran, not the Palestinians, and apparently Obama agreed. Netanyahu made this point again, very clearly, when he visited the White House for the first time in May 2009:
U.S. President Barack Obama set a rough timetable for his diplomatic outreach to arch-foe Iran for the first time on Monday, saying he wanted to see serious progress by the end of the year. He also held out the prospect of tougher sanctions against Tehran “to ensure that Iran understands we are serious.”
Obama’s comments came after talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in which the new Israeli leader was expected to stress Israel’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program. Israel believes it is a cover to build atomic weapons. With many Israelis skeptical about his efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, Obama stressed that attempts by the previous Bush administration to isolate Iran had failed, “so what we are going to try to do is do something different.”
Sitting next to Netanyahu in the Oval Office, Obama said he hoped to begin negotiations with Tehran soon, after Iran holds elections next month. Iran’s leaders have so far rebuffed his efforts to reach out to them and toughened their rhetoric. “The important thing is to make sure there is a clear timetable, at which we point we say these talks don’t seem to be making any serious progress,” Obama said.
“By the end of the year we should have some sense whether or not these discussions are starting to yield significant benefits, whether we are starting to see serious movement on the part of Iranians,” he said.
While little to no progress has been made in the Iranian negotiations front, as Iran has dragged out the negotiations month after month but failed to make an agreement, Iran has continued to threaten the existence of the State of Israel on a regular basis, most recently earlier this month:
The Palestinians and the nations of the Middle East will be rid of a “bad omen” once Israel is annihilated, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday, in a speech communicated by Press TV. Israel, a foreign presence and a “Western prodigy” in the region, had “reached the end of its road,” Ahmadinejad told supporters in southern Iran. Israel was not as useful for “its masters” – apparently a reference to the United States and Europe – as it was at its inception, he said. Calling Jews who immigrated to Israel before or after the founding of the state “the most criminal people in the world,” he said it was now clear that there was no regime more hated than Israel.
One can only imagine the uproarious outcry in America for an immediate military response if any foreign leader made such comments in reference to the United States. Even left-leaning US attorney Alan Dershowitz is troubled by Obama’s recent anti-Israeli actions, stating that “Obama has to realize is that he is dealing with Israel, a democracy to which you can not always dictate specific terms” while noting that the Iranians are quite pleased to see Obama aggressively attacking Netanyahu:
How would you advise Obama? I would tell him that the process cannot be unilateral and that there must be mutual concessions. For example, the Obama administration has falsely blamed the naming of a Ramallah square after a terrorist who murdered Jews on Hamas, rather than on the Palestinian Authority.
The Obama administration has to make as substantial demands of the Palestinians as it does of the Israelis. If you think this crisis is severe, you should know it is nothing compared to what could happen with regard to the Iranian issue at some future date. I’m afraid [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is one of the happiest men these days thanks to the many incidents between the United States and Israel. [PA Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas, by the way, is also pretty happy.
An overwhelming majority of the members of the House of Representatives are also troubled by Obama’s actions towards Netanyahu, with 327 out of 435 signing a letter to Obama urging him to stop attacking Israel and instead focus on Iran:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will continue discussions with his senior ministers in the coming days, looking for a way out of the crisis with the US. He received some badly needed support on Friday from 327 congressmen, who signed a letter expressing concern that “the highly publicized tensions” in US-Israeli ties will “not advance the interests” of either state.
Meanwhile, in Washington, 327 congressmen – three-quarters of the House of Representatives – signed a bipartisan letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressing solid support for Israel and the expectation that differences between Jerusalem and Washington will be smoothed over quickly and in private. “We are writing to reaffirm our commitment to the unbreakable bond that exists between our country and the State of Israel and to express to you our deep concern over recent tension,” the letter read. “A strong Israel is an asset to the national security of the United States and brings stability to the Middle East.
“We are concerned that the highly publicized tensions in the relationship will not advance the interests the US and Israel share. Above all, we must remain focused on the threat posed by the Iranian nuclear weapons program to Middle East peace and stability.”
Regarding the Iranian threat, an Israeli security expert’s comment to Newsweek in July 2008 really brings home the explicit threat that Iran poses to the continued safety of Israeli citizens and indeed the existence of the state of Israel:
As Ron Tira, an Israeli security expert, puts it: “If you look at the really big picture, there’s not only an Iranian aircraft carrier in Lebanon [Hezbollah], but there’s another one 45 kilometers from Tel Aviv in Gaza [Hamas]. With those two Iranian aircraft carriers in place and Iran proceeding with its nuclear program, with the prospect of America withdrawing from Iraq in the next two years, and Iran becoming a dominant force there … Israel is in position where it needs to act unilaterally and pay whatever the cost.” Miller adds that these huge problems will remain the same “not only for Olmert’s successor but for Bush’s.”
Despite this existential ongoing and growing threat to the State of Israel from Iran, Obama has chosen to publicly humiliate the Israeli leader for failing to move on the Palestinian track to Obama’s liking, even though Obama himself has failed to move on the Iranian track as promised to Netanyahu at their first meeting in July 2008, the subsequent meeting in May 2009 and thereafter between lower level officials. Perhaps all of the anti-Israeli rhetoric pouring out of White House officials and Obama’s treatment of Netanyahu is simply an expression of the widespread left wing ideological thinking that Israel is the wrongful aggressor and the Palestinians are the innocent victims.
However, the optics of a US Administration harshly condemning a close democratic ally like Israel, and even going to far as to humiliate the Israeli leader at the White House, while sending sweet messages of conciliation to the Iranians and bowing publicly to the Saudis, paints a troubling picture of a historically negative state of US-Israeli relations. Considering all of these facts, from an Israeli perspective or that of an American supporter of Israel like Colonel Peters, it is not hard to conclude that President Obama could indeed be the first anti-Israeli President in American history.
UPDATE: A conservative publication in Australia tends to agree that Barack Obama is the first anti-Israeli President, for much the same reasons listed above:
When Obama met the king of Saudi Arabia, a nation in which no one votes, women are subject to severe and demeaning restrictions and it is against the law to have a Christian church, Obama bowed in deep respect.
When Obama ran into Venezuela’s murderous despot, Hugo Chavez, at a summit, there was a friendly greeting observed by all.
But there is one leader whom Obama draws the line at. He will not be seen in public with Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Astonishingly, when Netanyahu saw Obama at the White House this week, all photographers and all TV cameras were banned, a level of humiliation almost completely unique in modern White House practice.
You might even conclude that Obama is trying to interfere in internal Israeli politics and bring down a government. This is something post-colonial, post-multicultural Obama would never do with Iran, but with Israel, the US’s longstanding ally, it’s fine.
And what was Netanyahu’s crime, this act of infamy that Obama’s senior staff described as an “affront” to America? It was that the relevant housing authority passed another stage of approval for 1600 Israeli housing units to be built in East Jerusalem in about three years’ time. It was very foolish that the Israelis allowed this announcement to take place while US Vice-President Joe Biden was in Israel. But they apologised to Biden at the time, Biden kissed and made up with the Israelis and was back to delivering fulsome pro-Israel speeches before he left.
After that point, though, the US reaction went into overdrive. Impeccable American sources tell me this reaction was driven by Obama, and to a lesser extent the Chicago mafia around him.
We must ask why this is so, but first let’s get Netanyahu’s infamous crime into perspective.
Last November Netanyahu announced a 10-month moratorium on all building activity in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Israel has already promised not to take any more land for settlements but there is the question of renovating existing buildings and constructing new ones in existing settlements.
As Hillary Clinton acknowledged in her speech this week to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, East Jerusalem was never part of this agreement. The two main peace offers Israel has made to the Palestinians in recent years were the Camp David/Taba proposals and the accompanying Clinton parameters in 2000, and Ehud Olmert’s offer to Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. Both plans offered essentially the same formula. The Palestinians get all of the Gaza Strip, about 95 per cent of the West Bank and a compensating parcel of territory from Israel proper to make up for the small amount of territory in the West Bank that Israel would keep which houses the main Jewish population blocks. The Palestinians also get some parts of East Jerusalem as their capital. This principle of territorial swaps was accepted by Yasser Arafat and Abbas.
East Jerusalem has always had a different status from the West Bank and some Israelis certainly don’t want to give any of it to a new Palestinian state. But everyone accepts that some Jewish neighbourhoods would remain part of Israel. These are mostly neighbourhoods, as Netanyahu pointed out this week, which are five minutes from the Knesset and a couple of blocks beyond the 1949 armistice line. The administration of George W. Bush had formally agreed with the Israelis that these areas would be permanently part of Israel. Bill Clinton had negotiated an offer to the Palestinians in 2000 which accepted this.
It would be a radical change of policy for an Israeli government to decree that no building would ever take place in Jewish areas of Jerusalem. It would also be a change of American policy.
Moreover, no serious analyst could believe that such building is a roadblock to peace. Peace negotiations have gone on with such building taking place in the past. And all the things that truly make peace impossible – Arab and Palestinian refusal to accept the legitimacy of any Jewish state, Palestinian insistence on certain deal breakers such as the right of return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants to Israel proper, the insistent and violent anti-Semitism of Palestinian and Arab propaganda and the regional ambitions of players such as Iran and Syria – will be completely unaffected by any decision to build apartments in a Jewish neighbourhood in East Jerusalem in three years time. So why has Obama gone into full jihad mode against Israel? Three explanations suggest themselves. Obama has had a terrible year in foreign policy. He has achieved nothing on Iran or China or anything else of consequence. He is too smart to believe this intimidation of Israel will advance peace, but it might get peace talks going again. The Palestinians only made settlements a roadblock after Obama did. They are refusing to join Israel in peace talks, which Netanyahu would be happy to participate in. They have said they might engage in proximity talks – which means not talking to the Israelis directly but to mediators who will shuttle back and forth carrying messages between them and the Israelis. This is primitive and ridiculous stuff, but if such talks get going Obama could claim some kind of victory, or at least progress.
And Obama is showing that his personal popularity, not America’s standing, still less matters of substance such as Iran’s nuclear program, is what motivates him.
This leads to the second explanation of his behaviour, and that is to make himself personally popular in the Muslim world. Beating up on Israel is the cheapest trick in the book on that score and it can earn him easy, worthless and no doubt temporary plaudits in some parts of the Muslim world.
And thirdly, Obama is the first post-multicultural president of America. In his autobiography he talks of seeking out the most radical political theorists he could at university. For these people Israel is an exercise in Western neo-imperialism. Obama makes their hearts sing with this anti-Israel jihad.
Accompanying Obama’s own actions has been some of the most dangerous rhetoric ever to come out of a US administration, to the effect that Israeli intransigence endangers US troops by inflaming extremists in the Islamic world. No serious analyst anywhere believes that Israel is an important source of the conflicts in Afghanistan or Iraq. Using this type of argument comes dangerously close to the administration licensing a mutant strain of anti-Semitism – it’s all the Jews’ fault.