By Bret Stephens
March 23, 2015
humiliating denouement to America’s involvement in Yemen came over the
weekend, when U.S. Special Forces were forced to evacuate a base from which they
had operated against the local branch of al Qaeda. This is the same branch that
claimed responsibility for the January attack on Charlie Hebdo and has long been
considered to pose the most direct threat to Europe and the United States.
Obama be declaring war on in the Middle East other than the state of Israel?
is an upside-down quality to this president’s world view. His administration
is now on better terms with Iran—whose Houthi proxies, with the slogan “God
is great, death to America, death to Israel, damn the Jews, power to Islam,”
just deposed Yemen’s legitimate president—than it is with Israel. He claims
we are winning the war against Islamic State even as the group continues to
extend its reach into Libya, Yemen and Nigeria.
treats Republicans in the Senate as an enemy when it comes to the Iranian
nuclear negotiations, while treating the Russian foreign ministry as a
diplomatic partner. He favors the moral legitimacy of the United Nations
Security Council to that of the U.S. Congress. He is facilitating Bashar
Assad’s war on his own people by targeting ISIS so the Syrian dictator can
train his fire on our ostensible allies in the Free Syrian Army.
prepared to embrace a Muslim Brother as president of Egypt but maintains an
arm’s-length relationship with his popular pro-American successor. He has no
problem keeping company with Al Sharpton and tagging an American police
department as comprehensively racist but is nothing if not adamant that the
words “Islamic” and “terrorism” must on no account ever be conjoined.
The deeper that Russian forces advance into Ukraine, the more they violate
cease-fires, the weaker the Kiev government becomes, the more insistent he is
that his response to Russia is working.
adapt George Orwell’s motto for Oceania: Under Mr. Obama, friends are enemies,
denial is wisdom, capitulation is victory.
current victim of Mr. Obama’s moral inversions is the recently re-elected
Israeli prime minister. Normally a sweeping democratic mandate reflects
legitimacy, but not for Mr. Obama. Now we are treated to the astonishing
spectacle in which Benjamin Netanyahu has become persona non grata for his
comments doubting the current feasibility of a two-state solution. This, while
his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas is in the 11th year of his four-year
term, without a murmur of protest from the White House.
true that Mr. Netanyahu made an ugly election-day remark about Israeli-Arab
voters “coming out in droves to the polls,” thereby putting “the
right-wing government in danger.” For this he has apologized, in person, to
leaders of the Israeli-Arab community.
more than can be said for Mr. Abbas, who last year threatened Israel with a
global religious war if Jews were allowed to pray in the Temple Mount’s Al
Aqsa mosque. “We will not allow our holy places to be contaminated,” the
Palestinian Authority president said. The Obama administration insists that Mr.
Abbas is “the best interlocutor Israel is ever going to have.”
that’s true, but if so it only underscores the point Mr. Netanyahu was making
in the first place—and for which Mr. Obama now threatens a fundamental
reassessment of U.S. relations with Israel. In 2014 Mr. Abbas agreed to a
power-sharing agreement with Hamas, a deal breaker for any Israeli interested in
peace. In 2010 he used the expiration of a 10-month Israeli settlement freeze as
an excuse to abandon bilateral peace efforts. In 2008 he walked away from a
statehood offer from then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. In 2000 he was
with Yasser Arafat at Camp David when the Palestinians turned down a deal from
Israel’s Ehud Barak.
on. For continuously rejecting good-faith Israeli offers, Mr. Abbas may be about
to get his wish: a U.S. vote for Palestinian statehood at the United Nations.
For tiring of constant Palestinian bad faith—and noting the fact—Israel will
now be treated to pariah-nation status by Mr. Obama.
my advice to the Israeli government, along with every other country being
treated disdainfully by this crass administration: Repay contempt with contempt.
Mr. Obama plays to classic bully type. He is abusive and surly only toward those
he feels are either too weak, or too polite, to hit back.
Saudis figured that out in 2013, after Mr. Obama failed to honor his promises on
Syria; they turned down a seat on the Security Council, spoke openly about
acquiring nuclear weapons from Pakistan and tanked the price of oil, mainly as a
weapon against Iran. Now Mr. Obama is nothing if not solicitous of the Saudi
Israelis will need to chart their own path of resistance. On the Iranian nuclear
deal, they may have to go rogue: Let’s hope their warnings have not been mere
bluffs. Israel survived its first 19 years without meaningful U.S. patronage.
For now, all it has to do is get through the next 22, admittedly long, months.