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Guest Column

President Obama's "If not now, when?!"
By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Mar 8, 2014 - 3:37:16 AM

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President Obama assumes that regional and global circumstances are now conducive for a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. According to Obama, such a peace accord would require Israel (once again) to undertake tangible, critical, territorial concessions, in return for (once again) intangible Palestinian commitments. "If not now, when!?" he asked Prime Minister Netanyahu, in a March 2, 2014 interview.

However, the editorial headline of the March 3, 2014 Washington Post, a solid supporter of President Obama, stated: "President Obama's foreign policy is based on fantasy." According to the Washington Post, "For five years, President Obama has led a foreign policy based more on how he thinks the world should operate than on reality. It was [supposedly] a world in which 'the tide of war is receding....' Secretary John Kerry displayed this mindset, [saying that] Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a 19th century act in the 21st century.... Unfortunately, Russian President, Putin, has not received the memo on the 21st century behavior. Neither has China's president Xi Jinping, who is engaged in gunboat diplomacy against Japan and weaker nations of Southeast Asia.... Assad is waging a very 20th century war against his own people...."

Thus, President Obama considers the non-Palestinian-related Arab Tsunami a transition towards peace and democracy, in spite of the proliferating conflicts throughout the globe. Therefore, he pressures Israel to retreat and concede, in defiance of the receding tide of peace and democracy in the boiling globe and the tectonic Middle East. Contrary to the early assessments of the "Arab Springers," the real Middle East is increasingly stormy, ruthless, oppressive, Islamist, anti- American, intolerant, fragmented, unstable, unreliably treacherous and violently unpredictable. Moreover, Obama bullies Israel to conclude a peace agreement in a region which has never experienced comprehensive intra-Muslim/Arab peace; a region that has always displayed intra- Muslim agreements signed on ice, rather than carved in stone; a region which features prominently in the clash of civilizations between Western democracies and rogue Islamic regimes.

Although the rising tide of global and regional disorder, restlessness, uncertainty, terrorism and savagery warrant a higher security thresholds and more caution -- especially for a besieged nation in a conflict ridden neighborhood - Obama leans on Israel to assume dramatic risks and lower its guards. Israel is urged to undertake a lethal retreat from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria, which over-tower Jerusalem and the 9-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, the majority of "pre-1967 Israel," including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben Gurion Airport and 80% of Israel's population and civilian infrastructures.

President Obama expects Israel to trade high-ground topography for high-tech military systems and security arrangements, devised by American generals, who led the failed efforts to snatch Iraq and Afghanistan out of the jaws of Islamic terrorism and Iranian radicalism. Israel is expected to entrust its own national security to the goodwill of its Arab neighbors and international guarantees, at a time when both are exposed as non-viable. At a time when a posture of deterrence is increasingly critical for one's survival -- especially in the Middle East - Israel is pushed to erode its own posture of deterrence, and to transform itself from a producer -- to a consumer - of national security, from a strategic asset to a strategic burden.

Israel is expected to subordinate its own threat-assessment to assessments made by the US foreign policy establishment, whose track record in the Middle East has been systematically flawed, worthy of the March 3, 2014 Washington Post criticism: opposing the establishment of the Jewish State; overestimating Arab muscle and underestimating Jewish muscle; courting the anti-US, radical President Nasser of Egypt; betraying the Shah of Iran and facilitating the rise of Khomeini; punishing Israel for destroying Iraq's nuclear reactor and collaborating with Saddam Hussein (until the day of the August, 1990 invasion of Kuwait); embracing Yasser Arafat as a man of peace; providing a tailwind for the Gaza takeover by Hamas; heralding Hafiz and Bashar Assad as potentially peaceful, constructive and reformist leaders (until the eruption of the civil war in Syria); deserting pro-US Mubarak and courting anti-US, trans-national Muslim Brotherhood terrorists; potentially, transforming Iran from a controllable tactical threat to a non- controllable strategic, nuclear, apocalyptic threat; etc.

President Obama contends that Israel is, now, increasingly threatened by international isolation and the Arab demographic time bomb. However, notwithstanding the anti-Israel diplomatic talk, the strategic walk is steadily and dramatically pro-Israel, highlighting the Jewish state as a key player in the world of commercial and defense high tech, a most attractive site for overseas investments, a preferred partner for scientific, technological, agricultural and medical cooperation and the most respected authority on military operations, intelligence and training. Contrary to conventional wisdom at the White House, there is no demographic machete at the throat of the Jewish state. Israel is not threatened by an Arab demographic time bomb; Israel benefits from an unprecedentedly robust Jewish demographic tailwind.

"If not now, when?!" behooves the US and Israel to heed, now, the advice of the March 3 Washington Post editorial - refraining from a policy which subordinates grim and complicated reality to pleasant and oversimplified wishful-thinking -- lest they undermine their own long term, strategic, vital interests.

Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
The Ettinger Report
"Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative"
First published in "Israel Hayom" newsletter,

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