This is the partial beginning of an incomplete response to David Horovitz’s essay, “No Mr. President, you don’t fully understand our fears.”
I don’t have time now to respond even remotely in full. So a little bit of scattered inadequate response is hopefully better than nothing. And perhaps I can make a fuller response across several blog posts. But my response so far, due to time, is very partial–for which I deeply apologize.
But before this very partial response to David, who has my deepest respect as human being, editor, journalist, and thinker, first let me acknowledge and emphasize unstintingly that he has written this essaye with some of his deepest ever gravitas and eloquence and power.
And let me say that David seems to understand that this essay is the tone in which to write. I may be wrong here, and I have to say– in my fallible and sincerely humble opinion about a distinguished journalist and recipient of my deepest respect– that David has written some less than perfect columns on President Obama in the recent past – one-sided and intemperate — and even strikingly unfair and ungrateful.
Particularly since, first of all, everyone, including even PM Netanyahu, and also the Israeli military, and David as well, have effusively recognized that Obama’s tangible support of Israeli security needs has been unparalleled in the annals of American presidencies.
And David recently wrote a column with a list of US “offenses” against Israel the alleged number of which he has even tied to the number of years of Israel’s existence. It was in my opinion–an opinion so respectful of David’s golden character and normal penetration, fairness and nuance –replete with unfairness, imbalance, distortion.
For example accusing President Obama of not visiting Israel when he visited Egypt. As if, say, France’s President Hollande were to accuse him of not visiting France when he was visiting Britain—or, if, when he goes to any European country he has to visit them all. The limitless sense of Israeli-Rightist entitlement – and dare I say it, spoiledness — not of subtle David’s, but Rightists who say if the President goes anywhere in that colossal part of the world he has to, of all things, visit Israel too.
I’m sure that no other country in that colossal region feels remotely so entitled. As if a Jordan or Saudi Arabia or Egypt get offended if a US President visits Israel and, heaven forfend–O good heavens–not them.
Only the Israeli Right is so spoiled and feels so entitled.
The petty and elephantine entitlement is to me nothing short of staggering.
And the Israeli Right also apparently didn’t even “get it” that he was trying to pull the Arab world into a more trusting orbit toward the United States and see the United States as more of an “honest broker” so that it would make more concessions to better help bring about peace.
Someday soon I will try to analyze here President Obama’s truly magnificent and, where it touched on Israel, emphatically pulled all stops in its support of Israel.
The entitled carping has been to me a source of disbelief ever since.
David accuses Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry of warning Israel of future Apartheid if it does not withdraw from the territories or make an equitable land swap, when many Israelis including–after their occupying the office of leader — three Israeli Prime Ministers have made the same warning using the same “A-word.” So why does Obama get singled out? And this is at least the second time David has done it.
Since David knows these kinds of things, when he has said it in the past it deeply disappoints me in him and also had deeply, to me, undermined his own credibility.
But here David is temperate, nuanced, eloquent, grave, compelling.
Yet still also, I think, wrong. Not in the gravitas of his views, but about these if isolated if analyzed separately from their eminent messenger.
First of all, everyone, including even PM Netanyahu, and also the Israeli Military, and David as well, have effusively recognized that Obama’s tangible support of Israeli security needs has been unparalleled in the annals of American presidencies.
And onward: On June 2, 2015 the TOI published a fine article by Ron Campeas, “Where the Obama-Netanyahu relationship went wrong, at www.timesofisrael.com/where-the-obama-netanyahu-relationship-went-wrong/
Kampeas points out that even long before there were any “issues,” early in 2009, “David Axelrod, then a senior adviser to President Barack Obama, first learned that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly had referred to him and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel as ‘self-hating Jews’… [and] remembers feeling stung….’For people to suggest that I would be anti-Israel or worse, anti-Semitic – it hurts,’ Axelrod recalled of the 2009 episode.”
Not about “Iran.” Not about security. Not about anything at whatever.
Just sheer rightist and Likudnik spewing from PM Netanyahu against the President. (And against Emanuel himself, Obama’s choice to be his Chief of Staff, himself an Israeli-born son of a fervent Likudnik family).
David dissociates his views and most Israelis from “Obama bashers” and all their views collectively from those of Netanyahu and the hard Likud Right.
But is this credible?
Israelis have elected Likud to govern Israel (including Prime Ministers coming from Likud) for 30 of the past 38 years. Israelis have now elected Netanyahu for a fourth* term (only to David Ben-Gurion’s in length). He surprised nearly everyone in the recent election* by the extent to which Israelis re-elected him yet again. While the Knesset majority he assembled is small, this was due to opposition to himself as a personality, or to his policies from a vantage to the Right of them.
For his current long stint as Israeli-elected leader, Israelis have also elected politicians comprising his cabinet which has been even to the Right of him himself, dominated by the ilk of Israeli-elected Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Liberman and Defense Minister. His cabinet’s Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, insulted John Kerry in his Spring, 2014, unstinting shuttle diplomacy for peace, mocking the American Secretary of State that “”The only thing that can ‘save us’ is for John Kerry to win a Nobel Prize and leave us in peace.”
Where is the “ordinary,” “non-Obama-bashing,” mainstream, “Middle Israel” in all this?
This does not seem to be the Israelis who vote at the ballot box. Alas, Israelis seem to vote much more for personalities like Netanyahu and Liberman and Bennett and Ya’alon than for national leaders like David Horovitz. If only Israelis had elected Presidents Peres – and they had plenty of chances to but didn’t and which says something further about the “average Israeli”– and Reuven Rivlin their Prime Minister. Again– two could-have-been-elected-Prime-Ministers more like David Horovitz.
David says to Obama that “you know full well that the Jewish state and its people want nothing more than to live in peace and tranquility alongside their neighbors.”
But why in heavens name would Obama “know that”?
Obama may know the truth that Israel wants the settlements more than peace. Wants them much, much, more. Just as Moshe Dayan said—
“Better Sharm el–Sheikh without peace than peace without Sharm el–Sheikh“—
The Israeli Right and elected Israeli governments say:
“Better the settlements without peace than peace without the settlements.”
And Obama knows it.
Two years ago I had a letter in the International New York Times called “The Middle East Peace Gap” that made this point:
“…Doubtless Israel does want peace.
“The important question is not whether Israel does want peace — for who doesn’t — but just how much it does.”
Not whether it wants peace but how much it wants peace.
“The credibility gap here is that people who claim to want to give something back, and even complain they have no partner to help do it, usually are not also in the middle of trying to take it over. To most people, this doesn’t make any sense at all. And because it doesn’t, it raises the troublesome question of insincerity and bad faith.”
And President Obama knows this perfectly well too.
And this is not about security.
Since Israel could always have had security with peace, with the IDF but not settlers in the territories until peace came—and had come easily with King Hussein of Jordan before Jordan even relinquished the territories.
Or come easily with the 2002 Saudi Arabian-Arab League Peace Plan, or with the Geneva Accords, or on many “opportunities that were missed.”
And many more than never even entered history but would have if only the IDF and not a single settler had crossed the Green Line into the Occupied Territories.
Political pressure on Israel’s government would have been nothing, and its flexible ability to take immediate total action would have been infinite.
Contrary to what David says Obama “knows,” Israel wants peace but not enough, and this is about the settlements and continuous expansionism.
And Obama knows this perfectly well. David says to President Obama:
“What you so evidently haven’t fully internalized, however, is the extent to which we Israelis in the middle ground — the non-zealots, the ones who don’t want to annex the West Bank and subvert our democracy, and who don’t want a single binational entity between the river and the sea that puts an end to Jewish statehood — have been battered by recent history, and continue to be battered by the events unfolding all around us.”
But again, the Israeli public has elected zealously expansionist governments for the past 48 years, and especially the past 30 out of 38 years of Likud or Likud-related governments.
If non-zealots have been battered by recent history, it would seem they are looking too far to cast blame, bashing a black foreign president.
When they have been battered by the history of their own arrogant settlement expansionists and later extremists, their Dayans and Shamirs and Sharons and Netanyahus and Libermans and Bennetts.
Why does David claim to have been battered by a foreign black president when the battering has been done by his fellow Israelis’ extremist and zealous right-wing expansionist annexationist governments?
And—fundamentally–where do all these Obama-bashing Israeli zealots come from in the first place?
And why are they like this?
The talkbacks in the Israeli English-language online media about Obama have often been unspeakably atrocious ever since even in the initial campaign for president in 2008 before he was elected – and then after the election and before he was even inaugurated. BHO, Hussein, Obamanation, Chimp, Messiah Chimp, Communist, terrorism lover, Sharia lover, Muslim, supports terrorism, hates Israel, hates Jews, anti-Semite–and on and on ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
In spring 2014, when John Kerry was expending so much effort in shuttle diplomacy for Israel and the Palestinians to give them security and peace, a right-wing TOI reader wrote on the TOI page that–
She hoped ISIS would…–behead–… US Secretary of State Kerry.
I notified Facebook and suggested they remove the comment. They did.
Should I have called the United States Secret Service?
There are countless other examples. On English-language Israeli newspaper talkbacks and Facebook pages since even before Obama was first elected and ever since.
And where does this hatred and incitement come from?
And President Obama must believe that it’s another case of scapegoating of the black man, rather than non-zealous Israelis looking within—looking into their own house.
And why isn’t it also Obama-bashing to blame him–rather than Israeli’s own Netanyahus and Libermans and Bennetts and the most right-wing governments in Israel’s history—“zealous” and occupationist and settler-expansionist and annexationist-represented governments?
Who are repeatedly elected by, apparently, what David calls– “the Israelis of the middle ground”?
It has been this ultra-rightist Obama-bashing Israeli government and its public, during the entirety of the Obama administration—rather than, unfortunately, should-be Israeli statesman like Israel’s David Horovitz– with whom President Obama and the US have had to encounter, interact with, and — in short and in sum—had to deal.