During the 2008 campaign, there were many Jewish Democrats who said — and probably believed — that Barack Obama would be a better friend to Israel than would John McCain. They argued that Obama would cement friendships with moderate Arab states and extricate us from the Iraq adventure that had done so much to antagonize the Arab street. More than anything else, they said, he would put American diplomacy behind a broad effort to push Arabs and Israelis toward some kind of lasting peace agreement, based roughly on President Clinton’s model of active engagement.
Now, a bit more than 100 days into Obama’s presidency, what do we know? Were Jewish Democrats right to predict a beneficent, pro-Israel President Obama?
It’s early yet, but we know a lot. Obama and his emissaries have been predictable on the issue of a two-state solution (like Bush, in favor), ending the expansion of settlements (like Bush, in favor) and engagement with Iran and Syria (unlike Bush, in favor).
It’s not unusual for an American president to urge Israel not to build settlements in the West Bank — that has been American policy from 1967 to the present. What is noteworthy is this: Obama has, in his few months in office, given every indication that Israel’s most critical existential threat — the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb — will be addressed according to America’s timetable, not Israel’s. And his administration has often seemed more willing to play hardball with Jerusalem than with Tehran.
Whereas Prime Minister Netanyahu says the threat posed by Iran should be handled separately from the discussion over some future Palestinian state, Obama appears to disagree — his advisers have repeatedly been quoted linking the two, signaling that it would be a lot easier to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions if only Israel would agree to terms with the Palestinians. The Obama administration has let it be known that it expects Netanyahu to be a good soldier as it pursues an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Read it all here.