Obama’s Viability Factor and Hamas

First, President Obama tells the people of Israel that there is no viable alternative to his nuclear deal with Iran. Then, less than a week later, his State Department declares that they expect Israel to adhere to the concept of a West Bank Palestinian state. But the question arises: How can it be that these two positions are viable as a whole?

Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran will most likely expire within a decade of its initial implementation. At that point, Iran will have no restrictions on an industrial-level nuclear program. At the same time, Obama’s nuclear deal would not limit (in any way) Iran’s regional behavior. Yet this American administration expects Israel to withdraw from vast amounts of vital territory on the security-crucial West Bank. The administration also anticipates that its proposed Palestinian state must become a democracy of some sort. But the last time elections were held on the West Bank, it was the terrorist group Hamas which garnered the most Palestinian votes. Could it be that within a short decade, citizen Barack H. Obama could very easily live with a Hamas-dominated Palestinian state on the West Bank? And in a future region dominated by a nuclear Iran, is this scenario a viable option for the people of Israel?

Of course it is not. Yet the Obama administration proceeds on these two tracks as if one had nothing to do with the other. This policy is either complete and total ineptitude, or it’s something more sinister. But either way the policy can’t possibly pass the threshold of any criteria within a rational viability analysis. No one in Israel could possibly believe that Israel’s national security would be viable with a nuclear Iran dominating the hills above Tel Aviv. Israel must have a viable alternative to Obama’s policy projections, or she must hope that either Iran’s leader rejects the nuclear deal or the US Congress weighs in against it. But what if the deal goes forward with Tehran, and the Republican Party is unable to override a series of Obama vetoes?

Unfortunately for Israel, the issue of the Iran nuclear deal has become more and more partisan with each passing day. The latest political controversy in the US is over the open letter to Iran signed by 47 Republican senators. While this letter was technically correct (that without Senate approval any agreement signed solely by Obama has no standing in law and can be withdrawn by the next president), its effect was to create a political chasm between the political parties. Instead of the Republicans working together with independent Democrats to override Obama, the letter’s timing and threat has meant that nearly all Democrats have now begun to circle the wagons around their leader. This is not good news. In order for Congress to break the back of the Iran nuclear deal, it’s going to take more than a dozen Democrats to stand with their Republican colleagues. But partisanship aside, the next Israeli government must make it perfectly clear to all of Washington that they can’t have it both ways. Either Iran’s regional behavior is part and parcel of any nuclear deal or, if it is not, the two-state solution concept for the West Bank is completely dead.

It’s the totality of the region that now accounts for the worth of any prospective deal with Iran. There is no getting around the viability of this issue. Whether Obama recognizes it or not, Iran is on the march in the Middle East. All of the current US allies in the region are seeking alternatives to Obama’s piecemeal approach. In fact, unlike his glib and arrogant retort about the Netanyahu address to Congress, Obama offers no viable alternative to Iran’s hegemonic designs. It is the supremacy of the regional dimension that makes this American president’s current approach seem so facile. Hamas and Iran together pose an existential threat to both Israel and Jordan. The Muslim Brotherhood (Hamas) is politically situated on both sides of the Jordan River. As Iran gets stronger in the next ten years, the Iranian connection to Hamas will only deepen. Has anyone in the Obama administration really thought these connections through?

Certainly King Abdullah of Jordan must have thought through the connections. But you wouldn’t think so by recent comments made by His Majesty on US television. On discussing ISIS and Iran before a national audience with the PBS Charlie Rose Show, the King stated flatly that Israel feels more surrounded than ever, so it needs to solve the problem of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as soon as possible. In other words, after the current Israeli elections.

Oh really? What good would a geographic retreat do when a country feels surrounded and threatened? Perhaps the King of Jordan is only anticipating that his proposed Palestinian state would become a PLO-Fatah dictatorship whose political direction could be controlled by Washington and Amman in perpetuity. But the likelihood of that political scenario is zero. In fact, as Iran’s position advances through Iraq (with American air support), Jordan’s regional position can only be diminished. The Hashemites have already suffered from one “Black September”; what makes them think that there won’t be others? Does the King really want Israel to leave the West Bank with Iran knocking on his eastern door? And what makes the King think that the Palestinians (in Jordan) won’t immediately call for another “Hamas democracy” east of the Jordan River? Once one is established on the West Bank, this demand would make complete sense. I doubt very much that the King’s late father would ever have told him that such an Israeli retreat was a good idea. Certainly the late Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, would have thought through every possible connection to Obama’s proposed nuclear deal. Then, like Netanyahu (not Herzog), General Rabin would have politely declined to accept anything that this current US administration is proposing.

Once again, Obama is weakening his allies while allowing his enemy, Iran, to get stronger. He’s done this in Iraq twice (now, and when he completely pulled out all US troops in 2011). And he’s continually strengthened Iran by allowing its terrorist surrogate Hezbollah to do anything it wants in Lebanon and Syria. In fact, it is Obama’s inability to develop any kind of coherent Syrian strategy which allowed Iran and Syria’s Assad to offer ISIS a safe haven in the first place. The very growth of ISIS has the fingerprints of Damascus and Tehran all over the crime scene. And now, Iranian proxies and their own Quds Force troops have set up positions directly across from Israel on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. But in Obama’s mind, it is ISIS and not a nuclear Iran that poses the greatest danger to the region. Is it any wonder that the Republican-led US Senate is chomping at the bit to stop this ill-fated nuclear deal?

But the more partisan and political the Iran issue becomes, the more difficult it will be to stop. Obama has compared the 47 Republican senators as making “common cause” with the hardline factions in Iran. This has become a political war cry for Democrats of all stripes. Even Israel-stalwart and Democratic leader, Harry Reid, chastised his Republican colleagues for such a partisan move. So too has Hillary Clinton. Again this is not good news for Israel. And because Bibi never completely understood the level of partisan division in the US, this unprecedented negativity (by the political parties toward each other) has only been exasperated by the Prime Minister’s Congressional address. But what the Democratic Party must remember is that the Obama nuclear deal (if not overturned by Iran or Democrats in Congress) will become the most charged issue in both the 2016 Presidential and Senate elections. And the latest NBC/Wall St. Journal polling shows that a robust 71% of the American people oppose Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran.

Whether the hardliners in the Iranian Parliament believe it or not, Obama’s nuclear deal is certainly in their interest. It is Obama who has made “common cause” with Iran, and not the Republican Senate. But the president can’t have it both ways; he can’t propose an unbalanced nuclear deal with Iran and expect any regional cooperation from Israel. Iran’s hegemony over the Middle East is completely unacceptable. On the vital issues of Jerusalem, Palestinian statehood, the very future of the PA, and even the final direction of the Syrian civil war and the Hezbollah-Iran axis in the Levant, Israel cannot follow this president. Hopefully, it will be the hardliners in Tehran who squelch the current nuclear negotiation. If not, then the Democratic Party must decide whether or not they want to position themselves with this lame-duck president in the upcoming elections, a president whose legacy could best be described as “Iran before Israel, and Israel off the West Bank”. There are very few American politicians who would think that such a foreign policy legacy could be construed as a viable electoral platform, and even fewer who would dare to stand on such a platform.

About the Author
Steven Horowitz has been a farmer, journalist and teacher spanning the last 45 years. He resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. During the 1970's, he lived on kibbutz in Israel, where he worked as a shepherd and construction worker. In 1985, he was the winner of the Christian Science Monitor's Peace 2010 international essay contest. He was a contributing author to the book "How Peace came to the World" (MIT Press).
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