Why doesn’t Obama get it?

I don’t hate Obama; I don’t even dislike the man. I just don’t understand him. How can a highly intelligent individual get the situation in Israel so gloriously wrong? Time and time again, his assessment and vision seem off, and not by a little.

Obama’s Tuesday night interview with Israeli television made it clear that Obama still doesn’t get it. Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what David Horovitz – no Bibi fanatic or extremist, by any stretch of the imagination – said in his Times of Israel editorial:

Discussing Israeli reservations about the Iran nuclear deal you are so energetically pushing, Mr. President, you asserted in your striking, heartfelt Israel Channel 2 interview broadcast Tuesday that “I can say to the Israeli people: I understand your concerns and I understand your fears.”

But here’s the thing, Mr. President: You don’t. And your interview made that so unfortunately plain. You don’t fully understand our concerns and our fears — not as regards the ideologically and territorially rapacious regime in Tehran, driven by a perverted sense of religious imperative, and not as regards the Palestinian conflict.

After establishing his credentials, Mr H goes on to make several key points.

For example:

On Iran

You seek to assure us that this deal with Iran is in our own best interests when we know that Iran — which almost daily calls for our destruction — will paint any agreement as a victory and a vindication, and will utilize that ostensible victory to step up its efforts to harm us, via terrorism and via its proxy armies in Lebanon and Gaza, while also continuing to do its utmost to cheat and bully its way to the bomb. We know that the deal will cement this bleakest of regimes in power in Tehran, and that it was your negotiators who blinked, who never forced the regime to choose between survival and its nuclear program, when the financial leverage was available to impose that choice.

On the Palestinians

You implore us, again and again, to give more thought to the plight of the Palestinians, to turn away from leadership — in the seemingly ever-present shape of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — that peddles the politics of fear, and instead to choose the path of optimism and opportunity. But Israel just elected Netanyahu again, ignoring your entreaties, because the evidence of danger outweighed the evidence upon which to build hope. And here’s the irony, Mr. President: Your policies and your rhetoric haven’t helped.

On security

Have you truly internalized the fact that five years ago, Israel was contemplating relinquishing the Golan Heights, the high strategic ground, for a peace deal with Bashar Assad. Where would that have left us now? Utterly vulnerable to the brutal spillover of anarchic violence across that border.


Have you really, honestly, utterly internalized that Hamas booted out the forces of the relatively moderate Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza in a matter of hours in 2007, and that there is every reason to believe that Hamas would seek to do the same in the West Bank were Israel to do as you wish, and pull out? And Hamas in the West Bank would entirely paralyze this country. A single Hamas rocket that landed a mile from the airport last summer prompted two-thirds of foreign airlines to stop flying to Israel for a day and a half — including all the major US airlines. A single rocket. Hamas rule in the West Bank would close down our entire country.

On Abbas

But here’s where, with the greatest respect, you’ve failed us thus far, Mr. President. You got the settlement freeze six years ago, you got the prisoner releases in 2013, but what did you wrest from Abbas? Did he stop the incitement against Israel? Did he moderate his positions on the “right of return”? You fault Netanyahu for his bleak wordview, but did you castigate Abbas for entering a governing partnership which gives Hamas veto power over his ministers? Did you tell him, sorry, that’s not going to work for us? No. You said you’d keep right on dealing with him.

You berate Netanyahu for ruling out Palestinian statehood on election eve, dismiss his subsequent re-endorsement of a two-state solution as full of “so many caveats” as to be unrealistic, and warn that Israel is consequently losing international credibility, and that this makes it harder for you to defend us internationally. But love or loathe Netanyahu, his concerns, Mr. President, are compelling. Hamas did anticipate reducing Israel to rubble last summer, and only the extraordinary performance of Iron Dome prevented this. Hamas would try to take over the West Bank if we pulled out — and then to tunnel under and fire rockets over our borders.

Abbas has not encouraged his people to internalize Jewish sovereign legitimacy in this part of the world. And along with that hope you espied for a better future there is hatred, too, in so many young Palestinian faces. Think of the toxin that must have been absorbed by the 16-year-old Palestinian who stabbed to death an 18-year-old Israeli soldier, Eden Atias, asleep next to him on a bus in Afula, northern Israel, in November 2013. Think of your daughters, of around that age, as I think of my children, and recognize how remote from their most basic, decent, humane instincts is an act such as that, and how systematic and relentless the climate of anti-Israel hostility must be in the Abbas-controlled West Bank to have produced that killer and others like him. The expansion of settlements discredits moderates, and makes it easier for terrorist groups to recruit, but that’s not the root of the hatred, the root of the conflict. At its heart, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict marches bloodily on because the Palestinian leadership refuses to acknowledge that the Jewish nation has any legitimacy here.

There’s more. Well written, well reasoned, level-headed, and on target. It even includes some solid, sensible, and practical advice to Obama. (If only he would take it.) Read it all, here.

If I had my way, every policymaker in the west would be forced to read this as a thoughtful, honest counter to the rubbish spouted by Obama and Team USA. And, unless there’s a radical change – unlikely, I know – this will be Obama’s legacy: the man who didn’t understand the situation in Israel.