Israel Will Ride Out the Obama Doctrine

The U.S. president appears to be giving Iran some slack at the expense of Israel and Saudi Arabia, but his influence will wane as the U.S. election cycle heats up.

Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York September 21, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations in New York September 21, 2011.Credit: Reuters
Moshe Arens
Moshe Arens

There is no doubt that U.S. President Barack Obama is disappointed with the results of the Israeli election. Rather than being pleased to see a fair and open democratic election in the only democracy in the Middle East, the outcome seems to have made him angry and even vindictive.

He had set in sights on the establishment of a Palestinian state, and evidently was hoping that if Isaac Herzog was elected Israel’s next prime minster, that objective would be obtained. But he must have noticed that the “two-state solution” was not even raised as a major issue in the election campaign. It obviously was not viewed as realistic by either of the two leading candidates.

So why is he angry? Is it just personal dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu? Has that taken the upper hand in determining Middle East policy in the White House?

He seems to have concluded that the two-state solution is not achievable at present. In a recent statement referring to it, he said: “We can’t continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen.”

In response, The Washington Post commented: “The curious thing about Mr. Obama’s statement is that he portrayed this state of affairs as a recent development, attributing it to an election-eve statement made by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The premier said pretty much what the president did: For now, the conditions don’t exist for creating a Palestinian state.”

Besides, Obama, a seasoned politician, must be aware that a basic tenet of politicians everywhere at election time is football coach Vince Lombardi’s famous saying: “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Caution is thrown to the wind in order to win.

Obama’s reassessment of U.S. policy toward Israel may actually be part of a new doctrine that according to Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations is intended to “downgrade ties to Israel and the Saudis while letting Iran fill the vacuum left by U.S. retreat."

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Boot adds: “Mr. Obama is attempting to pull off the most fundamental realignment of U.S. foreign policy in a generation .... He is trying to transform Iran from an enemy to a friend. He is diminishing the alliance with Israel, to lows not seen since the 1960s.”

The impending agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear project — in total disregard of the reservations of Israel and Saudi Arabia — and American cooperation with Iran in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq are evidently part of this new doctrine.

Obama will be in office for another 22 months. Does that mean that Israel will have to contend with the consequences of this new doctrine during that period? Not likely. During much of that time America will be preparing for the presidential elections and the elections for the House of Representatives and a third of the Senate in November 2016.

Ten months from now the first presidential primary will be held in New Hampshire, and then in quick succession in most states, leading up to the Democratic and Republican conventions in July 2016. During that time Obama’s leeway to enforce his new doctrine over the opposition of Congress will gradually decrease.

It is not at all clear that as the elections approach all Democrats will lend their support to this doctrine. The heir to Harry Reid as the Democratic leader in the Senate is Chuck Schumer, who has expressed his reservations about the impending agreement with Iran and is a strong supporter of Israel. Most Democrats running for Congress are not likely to back Obama’s new doctrine, while Hillary Clinton, at the moment the Democrats’ leading contender for the presidency, has so far not voiced support for Obama’s position.

It seems that Israel will be able to ride out this deviation from traditional American policy during the next few months.

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