Will Obama Stand with Israel?

June 1st, 2010 at 8:53 am David Frum | 38 Comments |

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A “lynching” – that’s what the Israelis call the attack on their commandos by the waiting fighters aboard the Gaza flotilla.

But that was only the opening overture of the lynching party. The real action starts now, in the global media and the world chancelleries.

One casualty of the uproar is likely to be President Obama’s Middle East strategy. Unlike his blunt, direct predecessor, President Obama has to date followed a Middle East strategy as complex as some elegant DNA sequence.

Yet the Middle East has a nasty way of erupting into very non-complicated confrontation.

In the waters off Gaza, Hamas arranged a confrontation that was intended to break the Israeli blockade of war material.

NATO ally Turkey enabled and is now intensifying the confrontation. Now the US must decide: Will Hamas be allowed to blast itself out of isolation? Or will the US stand with Israel to enforce the disarmament of Hamas?

This morning, Jake Tapper reports an unnamed administration official promising, “no daylight” between the US and Israel. Good news if true – and a welcome departure from the previous Obama practice of showing a little daylight in hope of winning some goodwill from Israel’s enemies. (As for example happened when the US on Friday joined the resolution of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty states condemning Israel but not Iran.)

But is the news true?

Or is the Obama administration selling Israel a little protection now in the expectation of extracting some concessions to Hamas later?

The same administration official who promised “no daylight” also told Tapper: ” The president has always said that it will be much easier for Israel to make peace if it feels secure.” Meaning – first we soothe you – then we squeeze you?

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38 Comments so far ↓

  • msmilack

    what you call extractions other people call necessary compromises to live in peace instead of scorching the earth.

  • TerryF98

    “A “lynching” – that’s what the Israelis call the attack on their commandos by the waiting fighters aboard the Gaza flotilla.”

    Black is White, Up is down. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

  • ottovbvs

    ……..Jake Tapper…..please……the fact is the administration is figuring out how to square the circle…….it knows Israel has screwed up big time but can’t say so for domestic political reasons……it toned down the wording of that UN resolution but this is not going away and if Turkey keeps raising the ante then it’s going to be a tough call for the administration

  • Rob_654

    This story does not look good for Israel.

    Obama needs to put America First and decide if the amount of blood and treasure we are forced to expend due to our unwavering allegiance to Israel is worth that all of that sacrifice.

    I think we need to remain an ally with Israel, but if Israel wants to act like a lone wolf, then they can’t expect us to always stand behind them – because we have our own interests.

    From an American point of view, I don’t think it is – I don’t think we get from Israel enough to offset the costs associated with such single handed support for Israel.

  • msmilack

    David,
    You are such a smart man, and I really mean that; it is for that reason that I am baffled why your view is so Manichean when the situation is so complex. A lynching? I can’t believe you buy that when the evidence points to a situation far more complex: earlier this morning the Israeli newspapers wrote that the only guns recovered on the boat (2) belonged to the commandos. A lynching?

    Question: How would any human being respond if someone dropped from a helicopter and began shooting? A lynching requires being in control which the flotilla passengers were not; the commandos were in charge of the killing. Most of all, there were so many less hostile ways to achieve the same goal of searching for weapons; Israel really made a huge strategic error. Cameron gave them the benefit of the doubt and asked them to reconsider their behavior and find a constructive way to fix it and he was being generous giving them the benefit of the doubt; but if this is the spin they are now putting out, they obviously did not take his advice.

    They are endangering us all.

  • Smarg

    Clever use of the word “lynch” to arouse the blackness in Odumbo.

    Isrealis had better pop off a nuke at Iran before they get hit first.

    God help them.

  • msmilack

    I just had an epiphany: try this on: I think this might really be about an internecine war between Netanyahu and A. Lieberman; remember how Lieberman undermined Netanyahu by announcing the new settlement plans when Biden was visiting and how moritified Netanyahu was? So what do we have here? Look at the timing. First, Netanyahu has managed, months later, to slow down or stop the settlement expansion, and what happens when he is in Canada, feeling good about his allies, en route to Washington for a Tuesday meeting with Obama? The commandos come on board from the helicopter: it has Lieberman’s fingerprints all over it. I think any progress Netanyahu makes will be undermined by Lieberman and his faction. I wish someone would take Lieberman out. He’s like a crazy Dick Cheney who thinks he is in charge.

  • ottovbvs

    msmilack // Jun 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

    …….Certainly there’s something odd here……I’m sure Netanyahu signed off on this in a general sense but there’s no way he thought there was going to be this huge fu in execution……so who knows you may be right

  • msmilack

    “Smarg”: For my sake, would you please refrain from calling Obama by a schoolyard name? Let’s have a mature discussion in which, as adults, we treat our subjects with respect.

  • msmilack

    ottovbvs: thanks, I really do think it explains both when and how it happened; the fact that it was done not in Netanyahu’s style, and that it happened when he was travelling, tells me N had to have been as surprised as we were. But now he’s back now, hearing the lynching explanations, so the question becomes: will he be smart enough to infer the correct meanings and take action to reassert his power?

  • msmilack

    And if it felt like a lynching to the commandos, then they have Lieberman to blame for that: he put them in that situation by choosing that strategy or tactic instead of several alternatives, none of which would have led to this debacle and all of which could have searched for arms. Instead, it’s moved to the next power to make the goal harder to reach since Egypt will let them in, and Israel can now not get what they could have achieved had they used a smarter strategy.

  • mymy

    Msmilack before you talk about “mature discussions” maybe you should go and reread your comments on the Palin thread

  • msmilack

    mymy
    You are right, I was immature and regretted my tone immediately upon using it. For that I apologize. When you’re right you’re right and on that, you were right. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • mymy

    Msmilack. Good for you. I don’t like Smargs comment either and hopefully he/she regrets them also.

  • right_on

    ‘A lynching’, ‘Hamas arranged’, ‘war materials’….. really?

    Is this site trying to destroy any credibility it might have? Frum’s devolution continues.

  • easton

    “Hamas arranged a confrontation that was intended to break the Israeli blockade of war material.” Which goes to the heart of the problem, Israel is reactive, how could they allow themselves to play a role that was set out to make them look like a villain so willingly. In Israel this is described as a major “fashla” by practically everybody. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3896841,00.html This was simply not handled well. Sending elite forces with paint ball guns to intercept and board a ship full of hostile people? The forces were “surprised”? This is Shayetet 13 for God’s sake. Not the military orchestra.
    David Frum is saying there shouldn’t be any daylight between the US and Israel on this, but even in Israel they know it was a major failure (which is what fashla means).
    And what is wrong with Netanyahu that he allowed such an operation to occur when he was out of the country? Is he remotely in charge?
    It doesn’t matter whether the flotilla changed course. They’re amateurs and provocateurs — and as a naval force, unarmed. The IDF’s naval forces are well-armed professionals. If the flotilla could change course and trigger a confrontation on its own terms, all that means is that the Israeli forces surrendered the initiative to their enemies by adopting a reactionary, rather than assertive, approach.

    Which almost perfectly exemplifies Netanyahu’s style of leadership in his previous and current premierships.

  • sparse

    usually in a proper lynching the lynchee is somewhere minding their own business when the lynch mob comes to get them. seldom do they arrive in the middle of the night, armed, in helicopters, with full military support, only to get lynched by a bunch of people with sticks, kitchen knives, pocket knives and deck furniture.

    where i come from this is not a lynching. it’s just an old-fashioned ass-whupping.

    i really feel like scolding david frum for not living up to his own standards here. when the issue at hand is more neutral he is incredibly capable of seeing both sides of the issue with clarity and insight. i think maybe he should not write about israel anymore. he loses all objectivity and with it, sadly, reason. it’s a big achilles’ heel in an otherwise formidable thinker.

  • JosephP

    Even putting Israel’s actions in this specific instance, here’s the problem:

    Israel is preventing access to anyone from the ships—they are being detained and held incommunicado. All of the reports about this conflict, with the exception of the desperate brief transmissions from the ships as the commandos were boarding, have been from the official Israeli government news service.

    Israel also prevents any journalists from entering Gaza, in defiance of a ruling from its own Supreme Court. Israel does not allow any Red Cross, United Nations, or any other independent humanitarian groups from inspecting conditions in Gaza.

    In other words, the Israeli government is controlling and manipulating everything that we think we know about the situation in Gaza with an iron hand.

    A real democratic society cannot operate this way. If Israel’s blockade of Gaza is truly based on valid Israeli defense concerns, then Israel could allow independent reporting and observing organizations in to see what is happening.

    Since Israel is behaving like a police state, shrouding its actions in state secrecy, there is no justification for a democracy like the United States should be supporting it unconditionally.

  • blowtorch_bob

    What we’re all missing here is the fact Netanyahu and the people around him are nuts.

  • LFC

    A “lynching” – that’s what the Israelis call the attack on their commandos by the waiting fighters aboard the Gaza flotilla. But that was only the opening overture of the lynching party. The real action starts now, in the global media and the world chancelleries.

    David, I’m afraid that on this particular subject you have completely lost it.

    I support Israel very strongly, but this was an attack on an unarmed ship from and flagged by Turkey by rappelling commandos in international waters which was resisted by those aboard. You say this situation is just fine by you, though you would find it intolerable if it was done by nearly anybody else. You also don’t seem to care that no “war material” was found.

    Take a deep breath and try to grasp that Israel is perfectly capable of f***ing up, royally in this case. Israel does not have the right to attack any ship in international waters that they think they have a disagreement with.

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  • Smarg

    Opps, my apologies. I should have used the Kenyan/Indonesian’s real name: Barry Soreoto.

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  • JosephP

    Sorry about the occasional bad grammar in my above post—a result of cutting and pasting.

    Here’s my current thought: Why should the “no daylight” position be the desired and optimal position of the United States?

    Israel and the US are different countries. We have similar but frequently divergent interests. Does the US have a “no daylight” position with any other country? Even with our closest allies like Great Britain or Canada, there seems to be no need to emphasize a “no daylight” position. It is expected that we will have differences with them, but this doesn’t mean that we are not close allies.

    But for some reason, Israel is different.

    It is hard to come to any conclusion that this is due, not to Israel being an even closer ally than Great Britain, but because there are influential organizations (like the one David Frum formerly worked for) that are dominated by Israeli Likud Party political agents.

    Naturally, saying this will result in accusations of antisemitism. But in fact the Israeli media is having a more honest discussion about the Israeli government excesses than here in the US. Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post currently have editorials critical of their government’s actions.

  • SpartacusIsNotDead

    Frum wrote: ““no daylight” between the US and Israel. Good news if true . . . ”

    This would not be good news. It would be very bad news. Israel, as often is the case, over-reacted and the entire world knows it. What on earth does the U.S. gain by refusing to acknowledge what everyone else knows to be true?

  • Red Phillips

    America shouldn’t “stand with” anyone. We should be neutral as George Washington wisely advised.

    But this incident illustrates the major problems with the “new majority” Frum conceives. He wants a GOP that is moderate on economics, moderate on social issues, but uber hawkish on defense esp. when it comes to Israel. Well that constituency is not the building blocks for a new majority. That constituency can meet in a phone booth. People who are moderate on social and economic issues also tend to be moderate on defense. The most hawkish and the most vociferous supporters of Israel are generally the most rightward otherwise. (As a non-interventionist conservative, I think this is unfortunate and doesn’t really reflect an authentic conservatism, but it is still true.) Don’t believe me? Just check out the blogosphere.

    I actually thought Frum’s attempts to form a centrist majority might cause him to rethink his hawkishness, but it seems not to have.

  • AllenRD

    The broader problem here is that the blockade is in support of the occupation of the Palestinian territories, an occupation recognized by most observers (international organizations, other states, and NGO’s) to be in violation of international law. The ongoing collective punishment of Gaza violates the protocols of the Geneva convention. The occupation has resulted in the deaths of many civilians, the constant degradation of thousands of people forced to live in what is essentially an open-air prison, and the ongoing violation of fundamental human rights. The IDF bulldozes civilian homes (sometimes killing civilians, including Americans, in the process) and then the Israeli government bans concrete and other materials essential for Palestinians to rebuild those very homes.

    What’s more, the attack occurred in international waters, in Israeli waters that would have actually constituted the blockade. The Israeli government refuses to release the civilians who were aboard the ships and will not allow them to share the story with the press. Because of this essential media blackout, Israel has been able to spin the story as if their poor old public servants were just trying to keep the children safe and were brutally attacked in a premeditated action by terrorists posing as distinguished representatives of over 30 countries. Nothing could be further from the truth. What actually happened was that one of the world’s most powerful militaries killed as many as 19 civilians because they had the temerity to fight back with basic implements when an illegally occupying government tried to stop their humanitarian mission.

    Israel is an apartheid state. Their persecution of the Palestinian people must come to an end, and a two-state solution must be established, for the sake of Israel’s own future as much as for the Palestinians. Israel’s current course of action is not only illegal, inhumane, and morally reprehensible, but is ultimately self-destructive for their own nation as well.

  • Smarg

    “Israel is an apartheid state. Their persecution of the Palestinian people must come to an end, and a two-state solution must be established, for the sake of Israel’s own future as much as for the Palestinians. Israel’s current course of action is not only illegal, inhumane, and morally reprehensible, but is ultimately self-destructive for their own nation as well.”

    My God, sir, are you insane? Yes, Israel stole land by any means necessary, but look who they stole it from: midieval Islamic tribesmen who still piss and shit outside of their tents, strap bombs to special needs children and send them to do Allah’s work, and live in squalor.

    Look at the alternative.

  • ottovbvs

    Smarg // Jun 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    “My God, sir, are you insane? Yes, Israel stole land by any means necessary, but look who they stole it from: midieval Islamic tribesmen who still piss and shit outside of their tents, strap bombs to special needs children and send them to do Allah’s work, and live in squalor”

    ……perhaps when you grow up you’ll learn the difference between cause and effect

  • msmilack

    Smarg
    You’ve made your point: you enjoy talking like Glenn Beck, you obviously get some kick out of calling the president childish inflammatory names; I will not address you again. I am interested in talking with adults, not bigots.

  • LFC

    Msmilack, Smarg is just like GOPProud in that he spouts the dumbest Coulteresque statements imaginable, but his talking points are vastly shorter. I guess we should be glad for small favors.

  • jacobnyc

    I have two things to offer:
    One, what could have been the peaceful purpose of all of those bars being used as bludgeons? And why were there so many available on such short notice?
    Second, to add to the post above:
    1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea.

    2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.

    3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states.

    4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.

    5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.

    6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.

    7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.

    8. A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.

    9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.

    10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel’s intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.

    11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.

    12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.

  • TerryF98

    jacobnyc.

    You seem to have swallowed the propaganda hook line and sinker. Well done.

  • ottovbvs

    jacobnyc // Jun 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    “7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.”

    ……..the problem with this is that Israel doesn’t have jurisdiction outside its own territorial waters……the blockade also is considered illegal anyway

    ……..Jake…….you don’t get it……Israel mounted an armed assault at night on a Turkish flagged vessel in international waters…….they allegedly shot first but even if they didn’t they made the first move to which the activists responded and they gunned down at least 9 of them……spin all you like with your highly debatable propositions …….they’ve killed 9 people…..how many Israelis were killed?……..trust me Israel is going to regret this for a long time

  • Smarg

    Listen to the liberal fascists berate those who disagree with them.

    If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn`t buy one.
    If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

    If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn`t eat meat.
    If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

    If a conservative is homosexual, he “quietly” leads his life.
    If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

    If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
    A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

    If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he switches channels.
    Liberals demand that those they don’t like be shut down.

    If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn’t go to church.
    A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it’s a foreign religion, of course!) …yes….of course….

    If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
    A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

    If a conservative is unhappy with the government…they peacefully assemble and voice dissent…(they even pick up their trash and leave the place spotless)
    Liberals don’t voice civil dissent….they lie, cheat, deceive, scream, become violent and threatening…they don’t believe in “free speech” and they are the most intolerant people in this world….There is NO group, more intolerant of free thinking and speech than liberals.

  • ottovbvs

    Smarg // Jun 2, 2010 at 7:46 am

    ‘Listen to the liberal fascists berate those who disagree with them.’

    …….yeah…..a few years in a liberal re-education gulag would do you the world of good.

  • LFC

    JacobNYC, I’d be interested in your take on this post about the statute Israel is claiming makes their action legal.

    From my reading, it seems that interception in international waters is only legal during an international conflict, i.e. a conflict between two or more actual states. Since Israel is the only state involved, it seems like they are restricted to taking action within their territorial waters.

  • st_john_2010

    @Smarg:

    If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he [is berated by his conservative friends for his lack of manliness.]
    If a liberal doesn’t like guns, he wants [tough, well-enforced laws to keep guns out of the hands of kids, criminals, and the mentally unstable.]

    If a conservative is a vegetarian, he [is berated by his conservative friends for his lack of manliness.]
    If a liberal is a vegetarian, he [doesn't eat meat.]

    If a conservative is homosexual, he [hides in the closet, lest he be looked down upon by everyone he knows, and tries to out-homophobe everyone else].
    If a liberal is homosexual, he demands [the equal rights that are due to every human being.]

    If a conservative is down-and-out, he [blames Carter, Clinton, and Obama].
    A liberal [works hard to better himself, and then gives others a hand up when he's doing better.]

    If a conservative doesn’t like a talk show host, he [is surprised and outraged, because 99.9% of all political talk shows are extremely conservative].
    Liberals demand that [those 99.9% no longer be allowed to dish out lies and hatred without any non-conservatives being allowed sufficient airtime to rebut.]

    If a conservative is a non-believer, he [is looked down upon by his fellow conservatives.]
    A liberal non-believer wants any [endorsement] of God and religion [to come from private citizens, rather than from government.]

    If a conservative decides he needs health care, he [gets his parents to pay for it].
    A liberal demands that [we use our common wealth to provide a decent level of healthcare for all, including conservatives.]

    If a conservative is unhappy with the government…[they rant about "socialist fascism", "communist czars", "illegal immigrants", "coddled minorities", and birth certificates.]
    Liberals [almost always] voice their dissent with appropriate civility…[and condemn leftist radicals who resort to violence and extremist rhetoric, because civility and non-violence are core values of liberalism.]

    [Edited to improve accuracy.]