Obama Bails on Israel

July 5th, 2010 at 7:59 am David Frum | 31 Comments |

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The front page of the Sunday New York Times offered a weird, weird story yesterday morning.

Slugged as a “diplomatic memo,” it reported a supposedly “little noticed” glitch in some recent US negotiations over nuclear nonproliferation.

It was only one paragraph buried deep in the most plain-vanilla kind of diplomatic document, 40 pages of dry language committing 189 nations to a world free of nuclear weapons. But it has become the latest source of friction between Israel and the United States in a relationship that has lurched from crisis to crisis over the last few months.

At a meeting to review the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in May, the United States yielded to demands by Arab nations that the final document urge Israel to sign the treaty — a way of spotlighting its historically undeclared nuclear weapons.

Just one paragraph! Who knew?

But however much the story surprised the Times, the fact is: some people DID know – and even reported what they knew. Here for example is Eli Lake fifteen months ago predicting exactly what the NYT reported with such astonishment today.

President Obama’s efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons threaten to expose and derail a 40-year-old secret U.S. agreement to shield Israel’s nuclear weapons from international scrutiny, former and current U.S. and Israeli officials and nuclear specialists say.

The issue will likely come to a head when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with Mr. Obama on May 18 in Washington. Mr. Netanyahu is expected to seek assurances from Mr. Obama that he will uphold the U.S. commitment and will not trade Israeli nuclear concessions for Iranian ones.

And here’s Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal reporting the yielding as it happened in real time two months ago:

The U.S. is negotiating with Egypt a proposal to make the Middle East a region free of nuclear weapons, as the U.S. seeks to prevent Iran from derailing a monthlong U.N. conference on nuclear nonproliferation that begins Monday.

The “news” in the NYT story is the Obama administration’s expressions of regret that their best intentions were overwhelmed by the diplomatic might of Egypt.

The United States, American officials said, faced a hard choice: refusing to compromise with the Arab states on Israel would have sunk the entire review conference. Given the emphasis Mr. Obama has placed on nonproliferation, the United States could not accept such an outcome.

But the important thing, the Times‘ sources want us to know, is that the Obama administration deeply and sincerely regrets that it was not able to do more for Israel – and solemnly promises that it will act more reliably next time.

Administration officials said the United States negotiated for months with Egypt, on behalf of the Arab states, to leave out the reference to Israel. While the United States supports the goal of a nuclear-free Middle East, it stipulated that any conference would be only a discussion, not the beginning of a negotiation to compel Israel to sign on to the treaty.

The United States, recognizing that the document would upset the Israelis, sought to distance itself even as it signed it.

In a statement released after the conference ended, the national security adviser, Gen. James L. Jones, said, “The United States deplores the decision to single out Israel in the Middle East section of the NPT document.” He said it was “equally deplorable” that the document did not single out Iran for its nuclear ambitions. Any conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, General Jones said, could only come after Israel and its neighbors had made peace.

Believe that who will. Meanwhile for those who like their news when current, not 15 months after the fact, Eli Lake is reporting today on the next looming Obama abandonment of a U.S. commitment to Israel.

As Israel’s prime minister prepares for his fifth official meeting with President Obama this week, the White House has declined to publicly affirm commitments made by President Bush to Israel in 2004 on the final borders of the Jewish state. … The April 14, 2004, letter from Mr. Bush to Mr. Sharon said a final peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians should reflect “new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers,” and that “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.”

Mr. Bush’s letter also said Palestinians would have to agree to the final borders, yet at the time the letter was touted as a major concession by Mr. Sharon’s top advisers as Israel was preparing to withdraw settlements and Israeli troops from Gaza unilaterally.

During a conference call Friday with reporters, Dan Shapiro, the White House National Security Council’s senior director for the Middle East and North Africa, declined to say whether the 2004 letter reflected the Obama administration’s understanding of the parameters or borders of a final settlement to the conflict.


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31 Comments so far ↓

  • Viraldoc23

    I dont get it….are we suppose to look out for our interest or israel??…Peace has not happened by bowing to every demand by the israelis and peace has not happened by bowing to every neo-cons wishes. In fact, they only lead to more tension and more war. I am more than happy we try a different perspective.

  • sdspringy

    Peace through Appeasement
    Peace through Debasement
    The “Bow and Apology Peace Program”
    Peace throug the Allie Abandonment Program

  • balconesfault

    Hey – how about America just addresses all the Middle Eastern governments (including those who have been critical allies in our GWOT, those we rely on for our crude oil supply, and those we’re trying to build democratic support for in Iraq and Afghanistan) … and we say:

    Suck on it, guys. There is a double standard. We think Israel needs a nuke to protect themselves from the craziest leaders in the Middle East, and we don’t trust any of you with one. Now please keep allowing our corporations and contractors to have free run of your oil fields, and STFU about Israel’s nukes. Oh – and if any of you try to follow Israel’s or Pakistan’s lead and develop your own nukes, we may have to blow the crap out of you.

    I mean, that really is the neocon position. Why not just put it out there on the table?

  • Viraldoc23

    Also…Why is it the first instinct of these neo-cons to take the side of israel?…MOST REASONABLE americans first instinct is “Will this benefit the US”…”Will this create lasting peace”….it’s like…you throw US. vs. Israel and Frum would probably take Israel. I just dont get their mind of thinking.

  • Viraldoc23

    balconefault,

    That is true also. How can you make lasting peace when the two superpowers are dictating to everybody else how they WANT things. I mean…its unbelievable. You expect the US to be a broker of peace when it unfairly favors one side over the other???…Even the world cup has figured that out by putting a completely neutral referee with any matches. The only way this will ever work is if the US can be perceived as a NEUTRAL player. No favors for Israel.

  • Watusie

    Add me to the list of those who are mystified by the “Israel can do no wrong and America must back it to the hilt” brigade.

  • easton

    balconesfault: Suck on it, guys. There is a double standard. We think Israel needs a nuke to protect themselves from the craziest leaders in the Middle East, and we don’t trust any of you with one. Now please keep allowing our corporations and contractors to have free run of your oil fields, and STFU about Israel’s nukes. Oh – and if any of you try to follow Israel’s or Pakistan’s lead and develop your own nukes, we may have to blow the crap out of you.

    It is hilarious because that is exactly what I think the US position should be. I think the point of good diplomacy is to not say it. Obama is trying to play both ends but, in the end, this is pretty much what the default standard US position is, it is just that neo-cons don’t want Obama to try to finesse the Arabs at all.

  • Viraldoc23

    Easton,

    The neo-cons are all about TALKING tough…they dont like nuance and subtlety. I mean…obama can be colluding with Netanyahu this whole time to try and “finesse” the arabs into thinking they are neutral but the neo-cons would never catch on because he isnt talking tough.

  • easton

    Viraldoc23, exactly, and it wouldn’t matter what neo cons would think if they didn’t have the ear of Netanyahu and his people who think they can stall until there is a President Palin who will let them do whatever they want.

    Netanyahu is a hack, as finance minister he was good but as PM he is singularly unimaginative.

    As to this article, so convoluted and I could not find anything remotely justifying “Obama bails on Israel.” When will there be an article “Netanyahu bails on US?” which has been happening more than just in rhetoric, like the announcement of increased settlements while Biden was there, or the mishandled blockade, etc. neither of which Netanyahu seemed to be in control of nor even in the loop. The guy is a hack.

  • Viraldoc23

    “Netanyahu bails on the US”…that probably drives neo-cons crazy because it’s true.

  • LauraNo

    Until they stop stealing land and return what they’ve already stolen, I am prepared to bail on Israel. All these years of supporting them and what is there to show for it? Israel has no intentions of ever achieving any peace, just like the U.S. doesn’t, can you say “Iran”, anyone? This blind faith in Israel no matter their actions, and the spin put on every issue regarding Israel is just more right-wing ideology. They’re good because we say they’re good and we say they’re good because we know it in our guts. Even though their guts are nearly always wrong…

  • sdspringy

    Balcon’s argument would be valid IF we did have FREE run of the oil fields. Remember the “War for OIl”, otherwise known as the Iraq War. US corporation ended up having access to 10% of the Iraq oil fields.

    So either US corporations really messed up or we really didn’t control the oil fields or the Lib slogans really have no basis in reality. Since we don’t have FREE run of anything. Don’t we pay governments in the Middle East a tremendous amount of money for that oil.

    Isn’t that one the the Libs talking points about Green Energy, which is to move away from M.E. oil. Why do that if we have FREE run, something not adding up here.

    Finesse, not even the NYT is buying that load of manure, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/world/middleeast/04mideast.html
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/04/world/middleeast/04mideast.html

    nor anyother MSM site:
    http://www.theatlanticwire.com/opinions/view/opinion/Turkeys-Central-Role-in-Israeli-Flotilla-Crisis-3828

  • msmilack

    Short of giving up our own interests for security in order to protect Israel (a country that does not do the same for us), I am not sure what you would have us do. Seriously, what would you have us do?

  • nhthinker

    I would be surprised if many posters on David’s own forum strongly support David with respect to Israel.
    Israel is just a prop to most Americans. Until Israel loses a war, it won’t get much sympathy from much of the American electorate.

    It was much different during the Cold War, when it was us and Israel against the Soviet Union and the Arab states directly around Israel.

    Since the Cold War ended, there really was not been a reason explained to the American people as to why Americans should stay as a strong ally to Israel. The ethnic restrictions in Israeli law does not sit well with most American sensibilities. The strongest reasons put forward is that Israelis would be wiped out if the US did not support them. But fewer Americans believe this and still fewer Americans view it as their responsibility.

    Another substantial factor is the US is not anywhere near as Christian nor religious as it once was. The concept of “holy land” is now relatively meaningless to most Americans.

    Taiwan is much more clearly aligned to democratic principles than Israel is and I think the American electorate is ready to give up on that alliance as well. This century may well go down in history as the ascendancy of “Global Trader” philosophy as emphasis on human freedoms and democratic principles subside as serious foreign policy pursuits for the US.

  • jakester

    Viraldoc23
    Even before 1967 & the Israelis nuclear program, there was no peace for Israel. So how does turning the clock back b4 1967 going to bring peace to Israel?

  • jakester

    I certainly don’t believe that Israel can do no wrong. I was totally opposed to the mass invasion of Lebanon in 2006 that was doomed to fail and helped turned more anti-Shiite Lebanese against Israel. But please spare me the sanctimony about the poor Arab nations feeling neglected. The Arabs and their liberal enablers here act like Israel is the source of all their problems when in fact it is a minor insignificant part of their problems , which are self caused for the most parts anyways. Remember, we are talking about scum like Saudi Arabia & the Sudan, yet all the Arabs ever seem to do is whine about Israel.

    They are like a typical anti-semite who is a complete failure and would rather blame Jews than accept any responsibility for their own self created mess.

  • jakester

    nhthinker
    Good point, if we bail on Taiwan & Israel for crass political reasons in favor of more numerous and tyrannical powers then we have lost the moral edge.

  • Charles Martel

    This is simple, folks. Frum supports Israel because of racial/ethnic loyalty. When Anglos do it, it’s called racism. The WASP elite of the USA has abrogated its responsibility to its people, for personal gain, or lack of courage. Now, we have fifth columnists like David Frum who would have us believe we ‘need’ Israel, or we ‘owe’ them. Nonsense! When America goes under in the next few years, Israel will go, too. The parasite dies with the host.

  • balconesfault

    Arabs and their liberal enablers here act like Israel is the source of all their problems

    What liberals act like Israel is the source of all “their” problems (from your writing, I can’t tell who “their” referst to – the Israelis themselves? The “poor Arab nations”. The “liberal enablers”?)

    Of course the Arabs are anti-Jewish (I always think calling semites “anti-semitic” to be kind of silly). First, much of the Israeli population is anti-Arab – there’s a long-standing racism on both sides. Second, there is a legit grievance over the original grant of the land to Israel, even if most of us in the Western world all think that was a good idea.

    Meanwhile, you can’t talk about the Arab world’s attitude towards the Saudis without understanding that the Saudis have been actively directing anger towards Israel to divert it from themselves. And they’ve got a lot of money to do it with.

  • jakester

    balconesfault
    You know fully I meant the Arabs act like little Israel is the source of all their problems. Sure a lot of Jews are anti-Arab, can you blame them?
    Though I do concede that the Palestinians have legal claims too, the 1948 charter called for two countries but reality dictated that wasn’t feasible.

    PS: If the Palestinian state is such a necessity for the Arab/Muslim world, why was nothing done before 1967 when the Arabs controlled the West Bank & Gaza? I guess they thought they could still drive the Jews into the sea, like Hamas today, so why quibble over details like Palestinian home rule.

  • Traveler51

    I don’t see much reference to biblical writings and modern day beliefs by neo-cons and the “social value xians” that a promised world war with Israel as the epicenter is not only a foregone conclusion, but needs their help in becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy to rid the world of all who don’t think like them.
    I think it impossible to reason with people like this who “cling to their guns and bibles” and any effort by a sane administration that doesn’t include sending the middle east back to the stone age in anticipation of the second coming in mere Kabuki theater.
    Trying to make sense of the neo-con religious right, to me, is akin to attempting to rope a tornado.

  • SFTor1

    The day David Frum writes an honest headline on this blog is the day pigs fly.

    The intent of the article is pretty much unfathomable. The US is abandoning Israel because we acknowledge the secret Israeli nukes that everybody knows about. And Israel would have to sign the non-proliferation treaty. This is somehow inappropriate or disloyal? WTF?

  • westony

    It’s about time we stopped licking Israel “butt”. Even when they’re wrong we support them. We need to look out for our interest “first”

  • jakester

    westony
    How exactly is looking out for our interest compromised?

  • Gramps

    jakester… “…Remember, we are talking about scum like Saudi Arabia & the Sudan, yet all the Arabs ever seem to do is whine about Israel.”

    So true…

    Charles Martel…”… When America goes under in the next few years, Israel will go, too. The parasite dies with the host.”

    Nonsense, you’ve been listening to, way too much AM talk radio…

    Balconesfault…”…Of course the Arabs are anti-Jewish (I always think calling Semites “anti-Semitic” to be kind of silly)… Meanwhile, you can’t talk about the Arab world’s attitude towards the Saudis without understanding that the Saudis have been actively directing anger towards Israel to divert it from [them]selves. And they’ve got a lot of money to do it with.”

    Well stated…as jakester opined…

    Traveler51…”…I don’t see much reference to biblical writings and modern day beliefs by neo-cons and the “social value xians” that a promised world war with Israel as the epicenter is not only a foregone conclusion, but needs their help in becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy to rid the world of all who don’t think like them.

    Careful there T51, yer gettin’ close to the nub of the argument with that perception and the neo-cons and the bible thumpers, ain’t gonna like it!

    SFTor1…”… The intent of the article is pretty much unfathomable. The US is abandoning Israel because we acknowledge the secret Israeli nukes that everybody knows about.”

    Irony of ironies…

    Actually it might appear to the totally uninitiated…that this usually misunderstood situation is well in hand…?

  • msmilack

    nhthinker

    actually one of the groups that is protective of Israel is a Christian group; I’m not sure how to generalize here but I’m referring to people who believe the second coming will take place there.

  • msmilack

    I was just reading that Turkey will sever relations if Israel does not apologize for the dead from the flotilla incident. That is a worrisome development as it is hard to picture the current administration apologizing; it’s also a kind of crazy demand since what country, with everyone watching, is going to do that even when they are wrong?

  • Geprodis

    Frum did not clearly state why he thinks Israeli should have a secret nuclear arsenal. Israel’s enemies can’t be nuked out of existence because they are scattered throughout the world.

  • Ron Radosh » A Poor Historian Tries to Make a Case for the US Breaking with Israel: Where He Goes Wrong

    [...] the family and put the kids to bed, this one was supposed to be different. But now, as David Frum points out, Obama is about set to bail out on [...]

  • nhthinker

    msmilack-

    Jesus is the most famous historical figure that happened to be an Israeli.
    Christians from an early age are taught a special love/hate relationship to the people that were the kin of Jesus and rejected Jesus as their savior. It’s not really hate that is taught- Jews at the time of Christ are typically not represented as evil: actually they are represented as more stupid and unworthy for not seeing the specialness of Christ.

    It’s not surprising that many Christians feel that things are more right with Israelis in the lands that were once the Kingdom of Israel: Even those that are not looking for a literal interpretation to Armageddon.

    As to whether Americans still think Israel deserves taxpayer dollars or to be held to lesser standards than other countries as it relates to nuclear weapons, I think the pendulum has shifted substantially and feelings for granting those “special friend” benefits may no longer be held by a majority of American voters. Certainly, majority of elected American officials still feel that way.

  • Ron Radosh » A Poor Historian Tries to Make a Case for the US Breaking with Israel: Where He Goes Wrong

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