American weakness and the Israeli Minister of Defense

The ongoing kerfuffle over politically incorrect Israeli Minister of Defense, Moshe Ya’alon, is instructive. Ya’alon argues that there will be no meaningful peace agreement with the Arabs and that American weakness makes the world a more dangerous place because it emboldens hostile powers. Because power abhors a vacuum it becomes more likely that we would see Putin flexing his muscles in Crimea and Iran charging ahead toward its nuclear ambitions.
In a recent Y-Net piece by Alon Pinkus, Israel’s former consul general in New York, however, we read:

The bottom line is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must fire Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon for the blatant, defiant, unbearable ingratitude he has shown the United States. At the very least, the prime minister should condemn the comments and put Ya’alon in his place…


This time, Ya’alon did not just offend the secretary of state. He inflicted direct damage on the US, on its ability to show strength in the midst of the crisis in Ukraine. Ya’alon is creating an image of an America that has no influence over its allies. And this is something the US will not take lying down.

I do not know the degree to which Obama’s weakness represents a direct cause of Putin’s behavior toward the Ukraine, but it is clear that Ya’alon is correct that there will be no meaningful peace agreement with the Palestinian-Arabs anytime soon and that Obama is enabling a nuclear-armed Iran.

Also writing in Y-Net, Hagai Segal tells us this:

Our defense establishment leader simply set the record straight when he said last week that the United States was showing global weakness and that its allies in the Middle East were disappointed with it. Every child in Damascus, Kiev or Manhattan knows that Obama’s US is pursuing a spineless global policy. The opinion pages in the American press are filled with similar indictments against the Obama administration. According to all signs, even the administration itself knows it, but it’s convenient to pull an insulted face when the Israeli defense minister joins the criticism.


Washington is now accusing Ya’alon of intentionally undermining the relationship between the two countries, no less. It is forgetting its own contribution to undermining the relations. Obama is the least pleasant American president towards Israel in the past 50 years, both in his words and in his actions. In his five years in the White House, the president insulted the prime minister more than two or three times, while the prime minister actually made sure not to throw insults back at him. Ya’alon is less strict, but is still quite polite. Despite the asymmetry between the sides, the American president should reflect on his own actions instead of imposing sanctions on our defense minister.

To say that the United States is showing global weakness is nothing other than to state what is obvious to everyone. The United States under the current administration is weak. The only question is whether or not American weakness is a good thing. As someone who despised George W. Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy,” and who regularly marched against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wanted the United States to stand down a bit. That’s part of the reason that I voted for Barack Obama in the first place. In 2008 it seemed to many millions of Americans, including me, that it was time to withdraw from the failed militaristic policies of the past.

Not only were progressives, such as myself, thrilled that we had elected an African-American president, but also a president that would ease America’s alleged imperialist tendencies. Of course, I was entirely wrong to endorse Obama the first time around and the primary difference between myself and Obama’s Jewish sycophants is that I was able to learn from past mistakes, while they are, for ideological and social reasons of their own, finding it much harder to do so.

Pinkus, however, is correct when he says that the White House will not take Ya’alon’s truthfulness “lying down.” If there is one country in this world that the Obama administration likes to smack around it is the Jewish State of Israel. After wrecking whatever small chance there might have been for peace through his racist demand for a “total settlement freeze” Obama then turned around and blamed the Israelis for the foreseeable outcome of his own misguided behavior and, furthermore, he has clearly learned nothing from his own experience and neither have his zombie-like followers.

While I cannot necessarily agree that American weakness under the Obama administration represents a direct cause for Russian aggression, it certainly seems likely as a contributing factor. It presumably represents one factor among many others that Putin took into consideration.

The only thing to do at this point is simply ride out the Obama presidency and hope for something better in 2016. The question is not whether or not the Obama administration has done damage to both the United States and Israel viz-a-viz its foreign policy, but how much damage it has done. The United States, under Obama, has made two crucial mistakes that are harmful to both the United States and her allies.

The first big mistake was in backing the misnamed “Arab Spring.” High profile progressives, and the vast majority of low profile progressives, have refused to admit their mistake in doing so. I very well remember the enthusiasm that the American Left greeted the “Arab Spring” and, thus, the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood. I was hopeful at the time, as well, but I was also considerably more cautious and took the time to read up on the history of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization that the Obama administration embraced and continues to support. Did you know, that according to well-regarded historian and political scientist, Matthias Küntzel, of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:

In Egypt for instance, Nazi Germany invested more money in the Muslim Brotherhood than in any other anti-British organization. At the same time, they supplied money and weapons to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini in Palestine.

What this means, obviously, is that the Obama administration backed a political organization favored by the Nazis. It is hard to imagine and not a matter of interpretation, but a matter of fact.

The second big mistake was in buying into the “Palestinian narrative” of pure victim-hood and, therefore, accepting the racist Arab notion that Jews should not be allowed to build housing for themselves within the traditional Jewish heartland of Judea and Samaria.

Thankfully, unlike, Mahmoud Abbas, Barack Obama is not a dictator. Abbas is an old man and he may very well die sometime within the next coming few years, but there is little question that he will remain the head of Fatah and the PLO and the Palestinian Authority until that day. This makes him entirely illegitimate as a voice for the Palestinian-Arabs because his democratic mandate to govern expired around 6 years ago.

Obama, on the other hand, is on his way out, no matter what, come 2016.

And for that, at least, we can be grateful.


Michael Lumish is the editor of Israel Thrives.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at
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