Robert Werdine

Memo To Mitt: What to say to Obama on Israel

Tonight’s the night, Governor. Please be aggressive, but duly respectful; he is still the President, after all. No mentions, please, of “apology tours,” and “leading from behind”; what’s needed are not canned zingers but a coherent rebuke of this administration’s failures and mistakes, while crediting the things they have done right, or, at the very least, not yet screwed up. Take some samplings of the cheat-sheet below, play it cool, and don’t blow it.


Mr. President, let me just say that, under your administration, the military, intelligence, and security cooperation between America and Israel have proceeded unhindered from the previous administration, and have even been increased in some areas, notably in the funding of the Iron Dome program. That you have rightly condemned the Goldstone Report, the Gaza Flotilla, UN recognition of a Palestinian state, along with scores of spurious UN resolutions and other initiatives that unfairly single out Israel for censure and condemnation.

All of this is true, and anyone would be remiss in not giving credit for these actions here where it is due. But Mr. President, these are also nothing less than the obligations of our long–standing alliance, to aid and defend any beleaguered ally, and, unfortunately, cannot disguise the fact that there has been a deepening, growing crisis of confidence and trust between Israel and America that stem directly from the actions of you and your administration from your first days in office right up until the present day.

Early in your presidency, you told a group of Jewish American leaders that during  the Bush administration’s relationship withIsraelthat there had been no “daylight” between us andIsraeland that “When there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.”

 Mr. President, during this time the Israelis, with American support, forwarded two generous offers of statehood to the Palestinians in the latter half of 2000 that were answered by a violent intifada that consumed thousands of Israeli and Palestinian lives. In 2005 Israel unilaterally conceded the Gaza strip to Palestinians sovereignty only to watch Hamas terrorists commandeer the strip, and launch thousands of rockets atIsraelwhich culminated in the Gaza War of 2008/2009. In the months leading up to the Gaza War in 2008, the Israelis, again with the active support of the Bush Administration, made a third comprehensive offer of statehood to the Palestinians which was refused.

Mr. President, any person in the street paying but a cursory glance at state of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process at the time of your inauguration in January 2009 could easily reflect upon the events of the previous decade and discern the true reasons for the deadlock and lack of progress of the peace process: the corruption and rejectionism of the Palestinian Authority, and the violent irredentism of Hamas.

Yet, in your efforts to “restart” the peace process, you ignored all of this only to somehow conclude that the problem was Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and you, the Secretary of State, and others would spend the ensuing months publicly badgering, hectoring, and censuring Israel in the most insulting and humiliating manner, all the while turning a blind eye to the obstructionism of the Palestinians, which not only continued under your tenure, but in fact intensified to the point of their refusing to come to the negotiating table and their openly declared refusal to even cooperate with your peace envoy.

In your June 2009 speech at Cairo you not only posited full blame for the stalled peace process, the “continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank” and the “humanitarian crisis in Gaza” squarely on Israel’s shoulders, without so much as a word about the role of the PA’s corruption and rejectionism, and Hamas’ terror and violence in both situations, but blamed the Palestinians’ dispossession and their continued suffering and statelessness entirely on Israel’s founding and subsequent occupation of the territories, instead of resulting from a failed war of aggression by the Arabs and the deliberate perpetuation of the refugee crisis by them to destroy Israel, and their refusal to make peace. Perhaps worst of all, you equated the Arab-created refugee crisis with the Holocaust, once again betraying confusion between victims and perpetrators.

While the Palestinians continued their obstructionism, Netanyahu agreed to talks without preconditions, had risked his center-right coalition by breaking with Likud tradition and recognized a Palestinian state, removed scores of security roadblocks to facilitate greater movement in theWest Bank, and agreed to an unprecedented settlement freeze. Yet this was not enough to save the Israeli Prime Minister from a hysterical blast of censure by you and your administration at the building of an apartment complex in Jerusalem, and your insulting snub of him when he visited afterward, all of which occurred alongside your forgiving indifference to Mahmoud Abbas’ rejectionism, and his continuing refusal to even negotiate, about which you and your administration continued to be blind, deaf, and dumb.

This pattern of hostility and barely concealed contempt continues:  your insistence in your 2011 AIPAC speech that future negotiations should begin with an Israeli withdrawal to the 1949 Armistice lines; your blaming of the price of oil on Israeli talk of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities in your 2012 AIPAC speech; the statement by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that he would not want to be “complicit” in an Israeli strike at Iran’s nuclear facilities, and your failure to rebuke him; the statement, communicated by Administration insiders through European channels to Iran that America would refuse to back an Israeli strike if Iran agreed not to retaliate on us, which coincided with an IAEA report that Iran had expanded its uranium enrichment;  your solid, unmistakable conviction, evinced in countless actions and statements of this administration, that the admittedly punishing sanctions put on Iran will somehow browbeat the Mullahs into foregoing their nuclear program despite all past evidence to the contrary, and the belief that  an Israeli strike against Iran’s facilities is a greater danger than Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon.

Mr. President, by wasting time, credibility, and precious capital focusing the weight of your criticism and diplomatic censure on Israel, you have given comfort and sustenance to the forces of Palestinian rejection and terror at the very time when a President of the United States needed to be rallying the international community and focusing attention on exactly these problems, which alone has hitherto been stunting and impeding a meaningful settlement. Since you have been President, Israel has found itself blamed, by its strongest ally no less, not only for the absence of peace in the region, which has only served to aid and abet Mahmoud Abbas’ intransigence and the continuing dysfunction of the Palestinian Authority, but also for the situation in Gaza, which has served only to strengthen the image of Hamas’ victimhood, and legitimize their violent oppression and war on Israel that are themselves the true cause of Gaza’s plight and suffering.     

 Mr. President, let’s face it: there has always been a subordination of foreign affairs to domestic considerations such as your political standing and reelection;   in your words and actions you have demonstrated that you do not care much for what occurs beyond our borders, and you have always been wont to stress the importance of “nation building at home.”  The diplomacy of your Administration has seen the mishandling of one diplomatic-strategic initiative after another, alternately alienating, confusing and dispiriting our allies, emboldening our enemies and adversaries, and negating our interests—these are a just a few examples of the growing peril that weak American leadership provokes and makes possible in this dangerous world. For whatever may be said of the men in Terhan, they are one thing in their pursuit of a nuclear weapon that you, in attempting to stop them, are not: they are serious. Your stewardship of our foreign policy is a record of folly and error whose signature achievement has been the isolation and abandonment of a crucial, faithful ally facing an existential threat, and the strengthening and appeasement of a dangerous and avowed enemy.

Time to step aside, Mr. President, and make way for new management.    



About the Author
Robert Werdine lives in Michigan City, Indiana, USA. He studied at Indiana University, Purdue University, and Christ Church College at Oxford and is self-employed. He is currently pursuing advanced degrees in education and in Middle Eastern Studies.