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Nothing personal. Obama Photo: AFP
Nothing personal. Obama Photo: AFP
 
 

Obama on the fence

Op-ed: White House policy toward Israel proves friendship cannot compete with interests

Yoaz Hendel
Published: 09.06.12, 20:11 / Israel Opinion

In Hebrew there is a slight difference between in the pronunciation and spelling of "obligation" and "commitment." There is a big difference when it comes to the nuclear threat. The Obama administration has said everything it had to say in order to convince us that it is committed to Israel's security. But what it isn’t saying is that it is obligated – because it isn't.

 

When Obama speaks of commitment, he is referring to financial aid, security-related cooperation and vetoing anti-Israel UN resolutions. As far as he is concerned, this is an adequate display of the bond between the countries. As far as Israel is concerned, it's admirable, but does not allay our concerns regarding Iran.

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Obama has been walking the Iranian tightrope like an acrobat. Following a brief detachment from reality at the beginning of his term (the Cairo speech, the "new beginning" in relations with the Muslim world and the friendly nuclear talks), it appears that Obama understands that this goat cannot be milked with speeches and catchy slogans. He understands that the Iranian nuclear program is dangerous, and not only to Israel. But from an operational standpoint, he remains many interests away from resolving the crisis. If it were up to Obama, we could continue discussing this remarkable table that has all of the options and solutions on it. If it were up to Obama, the interest of calm would dictate everything.

 

Obama is not the first to find refuge in the comfortable commitment. Before him was the Republican president, George W. Bush, a friend of Israel, Olmert and Sharon. Bush respected the Israeli prime ministers. He hugged a lot, spoke a lot and did little. He refrained from attacking the nuclear reactor in Syria, and, despite the expectations, he did not attack in Iran either. Friendship cannot compete with interests.

 

The relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is very bad, as are the results. But it's nothing personal. Israelis dislike Netanyahu because of his character or actions. When the Americans shy away from him, it is because of interests. When Obama chose not to visit Israel while travelling in the Middle East, he was not yet familiar with Netanyahu. When he was photographed with his feet on the table during a phone conversation with Netanyahu – they were still getting to know each other. When Obama froze, Netanyahu courted him as though he were lovestruck. Obama consciously chose a certain path. Netanyahu, a fan of the US, chose a different path.

 

This is also true for the Iranian crisis. It is in the US' interest to delay the decision as much as possible. Due to their military capabilities, the Americans have much more time than Israel's window of opportunity allows. What will they do when they reach that point? Good question.

 

In the face of an economic crisis and a crumbling Arab world – the Americans will most likely do nothing. Here is where the Israeli pressure comes into play – the attack dilemma. If, as reported, Obama is advancing from the commitment stage to the obligation stage, then this would constitute a major achievement. If not, Netanyahu and Israelis in general are in for a difficult time.

 

 

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