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Photo: Reuters
Obama. Prefers to wave the carrot and hide the stick
Photo: Reuters
Ben-Dror Yemini
Obama is a great friend of Israel
Op-ed: US president's appeasement policy towards Islam is wrong, but not driven by hostility; Netanyahu needs to back out of detrimental speech to Congress.
Several days after the terror attacks in Paris, US President Barack Obama clarified that the situation of Muslims in the United States is different. Why they, the Americans, know how to integrate the Muslims.

 

 

A listener from a different planet would have understood that the wonderful US is the Muslims' darling, and that the horrible Europe treats them arrogantly. Obama pointed an accusing finger at Europe, and unintentionally provided an understanding of Islamic terror.

 

There is a problem with Obama's theory. In practice, during his term, Muslim hostility towards the US has only grown. In Egypt, for example, support dropped from 22% in 2008 to 16% in 2013.

 

Yes, of all presidents, the one who tried to appease and reconcile, the one who refuses to call Islamic jihad by its name, is the one who increased the hostility towards the US. And in any event, the US holds a higher spot than Europe on the hostility scale. But Obama is insisting on teaching the Europeans about courtesy and manners towards Muslims.

 

There is a concern, more than a concern, that Obama's approach towards Shiite Islam is no different from his approach towards Sunni Islam. It's the same appeasement. It has not led to a drop in the level of schemes, radicalization and terror.

 

But Obama insists. He is a believer. He is using the same approach towards Iran. Indeed, for a tiny moment, Iran is a partner in the battle against the Islamic State. But the fact that the Islamic State is the enemy of both Iran and the US does not make Iran a friend of the US.

 

Obama and Netanyahu. 'With all due respect to his Republican rivals, in the next two years Obama will be the one who will set the foreign policy and the level of cooperation with Israel and make decisions about the agreement with Iran' (Photo: Reuters)
Obama and Netanyahu. 'With all due respect to his Republican rivals, in the next two years Obama will be the one who will set the foreign policy and the level of cooperation with Israel and make decisions about the agreement with Iran' (Photo: Reuters)

 

In this sense, we must admit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's concerns are justified. The Republicans' less appeasing stance towards Iran is much more realistic. The sanctions have hurt Iran. They have proved to work. They led the Islamic regime to the negotiating table and to a false impression of moderation.

 

Despite all that, Obama prefers to wave the carrot and hide the stick. There is no need to go back to Neville Chamberlain to prove that this appeasement isn’t working. The Sunni example of the past few years makes it clear.

 

On the other hand, that same Obama, despite it all and after all, is a great friend of Israel. He is making a mistake. But it's not a mistake driven by hostility. Why even in the past few months, with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' moves, it was the American administration – led by Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry – which went to the trouble of standing by Israel, even against a significant part of the international community.

 

It is Obama's US that has boosted the military cooperation with Israel in recent years. It is Obama's US that defended Israel's citizens by funding the Iron Dome system. The most difficult dispute with the administration is about the settlements. And here too, a significant part of the Israeli public, perhaps the majority, supports the administration's position.

 

So Obama, despite Iran, is still Israel's most important friend in the world. And with all due respect to his Republican rivals who control the Congress, over the next two years Obama will be the one to set foreign policy and decide the level of cooperation with Israel, and - most importantly - Obama is the person to make the decisions about an agreement with Iran.

 

In Netanyahu's previous Congression appearances, there was a unified show of support for Israel. Democrats and Republicans applauded him together. This time it's different. Netanyahu has managed to break the unified support. He is creating enemies. he isn't adding friends. Even Fox News, which cannot be suspected of sympathizing with Obama, sees it as an irritation.

 

Only one question remains: Will Netanyahu be able to act responsibility and back out of this unnecessary move?

 

And one more thing: Election commentators are saying that this is a political move aimed at increasing the number of votes for the Likud. The hidden assumption is, once again, that the hesitant or right-wing voters get all excited over a provocation that sabotages the relationship between Israel and the administration. There is no greater nonsense.

 

Netanyahu is causing damage to Israel on the diplomatic level. He is also causing damage to himself on the political level. 

 

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