Israel: Obama's Other Capitulation

12/08/2010 02:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Andrew Levine Author of "Political Keywords" and "The American Ideology"

Obama's main capitulation this week, his surrender to Mitch McConnell, was so egregious that even liberal Democrats are up in arms; all power to them and shame on the media hacks and spin doctors who are desperately trying to make the case that Obama actually got a backdoor "stimulus package" past the Republicans. Sure he did, if you think that keeping the tax concessions that the first stimulus package included -- in a vain attempt to garner Republican votes -- counts as a victory for "the middle class" and if, for that matter, you think, as Reaganites do, that the way to stimulate the economy is not by stimulating the economy but by cutting taxes and hoping for the best. It's so absurd that it is easy to overlook Obama's equally egregious capitulation yesterday -- to Israel.

You have to give the Israeli government credit: they realized Obama was a total pushover even before Jim DeMint did. They've been pushing him around ever since. By now, they're so good at it that even Mitch McConnell doesn't hold a candle.

Of course, Israel didn't do it alone. Hats off too to the Clintonites, whom Obama brought back into the State Department, and to Hillary Clinton above all. Thanks to WikiLeaks, many of the State Department's dirty little secrets are becoming known. But, in this case, exactly what Clinton offered Netanyahu isn't yet clear; all we know is that there were offers pending of substantial diplomatic support and several billion dollars worth of weapons. In exchange, Clinton got a promise: that Israel would behave, that it wouldn't expand settlements, for a whopping ninety days. It was never clear exactly how East Jerusalem fit into that promise, and it was always obvious that Netanyahu had the excuse that his government is so full of die-hard ethnocrats and "G-d"-fearing zealots that he might not be able to live up to his end of the bargain. Neither was it ever clear just what miracle the U.S. thought would surely come in ninety days. Now we'll never know. To no one's surprise, except perhaps Hillary Clinton's, this latest example of diplomatic inanity has gone kaput.

Needless to say, the Obama administration could impose a two state solution at any time. This would be in accord with American interests, and it would do more for "homeland security" than a thousand airport gropers. But if Obama can't or won't stand up to Blue Dog Democrats or Republicans, how he must quake at the thought of irritating AIPAC! Doing what is necessary to get done what Obama says he wants done was therefore out of the question from the get-go.

Instead, Obama was in sync with State's shenanigans. And when, finally, he had no choice but to enter into the fray, he began by conceding almost everything. At least he's consistent: that's what he did with the health care profiteers and that's what he did with Senate Republicans. As a negotiator, Obama's ineptitude is monumental. They should use it as a case study at Harvard Law -- in Negotiation 101, a class Obama evidently missed.

Thus in a diplomatic venture in which he had staked so much of his own prestige, he let the likes of Bibi Netanyahu hand him an embarrassing defeat. In this respect too, the Israelis bested their Tea Party friends, and since Obama held all the cards, his humiliation is all the more spectacular.

Two major capitulations in as many days! Does Obama blame himself? No way -- the problem is us, we "purists" demanding "perfection," or as Rahm (glad to see the back of him) Emanuel put it, we " retards." We just don't get what a good job Obama is doing against all odds, what an improver he is.

Oh, but we do, Mr. President -- we see that for every step forward, you take two or more backward, and therefore that you're improving us to ruin. And when it comes to Israel, a nuclear power armed to the teeth and always on the ready to go to war, we see that you're playing with fire, and letting the pyromaniacs have their way.