It really must be understood how ridiculous it is for Elliott Abrams -- whose incompetence bears as much responsibility as any American official's for the current sad state of affairs in Israel-Palestine -- to presume to criticize the Obama administration for its handling of the Israel-Palestine file. That's certainly not to say that there's nothing to criticize. It's just that when you're the guy whose (possibly illegal) attempt to reverse the outcome of Palestinian elections (that your own administration insisted on having!) blew up in your -- and Israel's, and Palestine's -- face, resulting in a Palestinian civil war that left Hamas in control of Gaza and Israel targeted by its rockets, you might have the decency to think twice about bad-mouthing the current administration to anyone who will listen.
Not Abrams, who seems to relish the opportunity to tell Israelis how bad President Obama is for them. (Apparently it's okay now for former U.S. officials to criticize the current administration in foreign media. Something tells me this will change when a Republican is president.) Writing in the Weekly Standard, Abrams is unsatisfied with the Obama administration's statement of solidarity with Israel and its watering down of the United Nations statement on the flotilla attack, insisting that the Obama administration has left Israel to "stand alone":
On the Gaza flotilla, the Obama administration waffled and straddled. It agreed to a statement in which the United Nations condemned the "acts" that led to loss of life but did not say "We condemn Israel." Presumably White House congratulated itself on this elision, but no one is fooled: the world media keep repeating that the Security Council condemned Israel, and in this case it is hard to argue. Yet it would have been simple to stop the mob had the White House wanted to. [...]
No doubt the administration will claim it avoided a worse result, a Council resolution condemning Israel. To which the answer is, "not good enough." The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises.
So why did we agree to the presidential statement? The White House did not wish to stand with Israel against this mob because it does not have a policy of solidarity with Israel. Rather, its policy is one of distancing and pressure.
In Abrams' view, it's "not good enough" for the U.S. to continue to support Israel while also working to manage other important relationships. For Abrams, and those who think like him, it must be Israel over all.
But we have to remember that, for eight years under George W. Bush, this was U.S. policy, a policy overseen by Abrams himself: No space between Israel and America, unquestioning support for all Israeli actions, no matter how provocative, blatantly violative of past agreements or harmful to American goals and interests, and a deep concern for the realities of Israeli politics coupled with a failure to recognize that Palestinian politics even exist. And we know the result: vastly diminished U.S. influence, greatly empowered Islamic extremism, and Israel as much of an international pariah as it ever has been. This is Abrams' legacy (well, in addition to the Iran-Contra thing), and he, and those he's attempting to preach to, shouldn't be allowed to forget.
Cross-posted from Wonk Room
Follow Matthew Duss on Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattduss