President Obama will not be thwarted on the START Treaty by Republicans, regardless of Sen. Lindsay Graham’s caterwauling. Today’s Republicans bear no resemblance of their hero Ronald Reagan, as Sarah Palin’s recent Iran op-ed proves. Reagan was a leader on nuclear zero, but today would be run out of his own party. Playing politics with national security is one thing the Right does best, but which the media never seems to call them on. While looking across to Pres. Obama’s foreign policy plate, even beyond the depressing reality in Afghanistan he won’t acknowledge, as well as the Special Operations ground raids in Pakistan, the reality is far more worrisome. Nowhere more so than in the Middle East.
After Pres. Obama’s adamant policy against further Israeli settlements being built, a WikiLeaks cable now points to a “secret accord” for “natural growth” to be allowed. No one who follows the Middle East will be surprised, but it does once again reveal the importance of transparency. When your president and his administration is preening one policy with cables pointing to something else, it goes against what our democratic republic is all about. No wonder PM Netanyahu has ignored Pres. Obama on settlements.
No doubt feeling empowered, Mr. Netanyahu’s very public campaign to free convicted spy Jonathan Jay Pollard puts more pressure on Obama, who soon has to think about his reelection.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel will officially and publicly appeal to President Obama in the coming days for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American serving a life term in a North Carolina prison for spying for Israel, Mr. Netanyahu’s office announced Tuesday.
A public request, as opposed to Israel’s discreet efforts in the past, would constitute a new approach in the campaign for Mr. Pollard’s release and an additional twist in a long and painful chapter in Israeli-American relations. …
Last week I wrote about the realities in East Jerusalem after a forum held by Daniel Levy at New American Foundation. His guests were attorney Tali Nir and Hagai El-Ad, both of The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which is Israel’s oldest and preeminent civil and human rights organization. The findings reveal a chilling reality. Children between 8-13 are being arrested. Israeli security guards help Israels versus the Palestinians. There is little health care, plumbing, water, or schools. As for the PLO, they’re not allowed to operate, but don’t exactly make an effort either, many people feeling the “PA has deserted” the people, according to Nir and El-Ad.
Then there was the State Dept.’s nonchalance over the detention of Adeeb Abu Rahma, which you can see in this video, which reveals another weakness in the Obama administration’s policy. The happy ending here is that Abu Rahma finally, at long last been released after 17 months in prison. The State Dept.’s deplorable diplo ducking gives a window into just how important the unveiling of secrets by Wikileaks was, because it reminds us that our government treats its citizens like children while conducting foreign policy that ignores peaceful dissidents. There is simply no good excuse for State or the Obama administration for their handling of this other than Pres. Obama doesn’t want to rile the Right, his new best friends in deal making. After all, what would it look like if the American President was seen being fair to a Gandhi style Palestinian? More importantly, what would it mean to his reelection, which must be protected above doing what’s right,
Now, aid groups sound off against the Israeli government over their difficult reality in Gaza, which sounds very similar to what the Israeli government is doing in East Jerusalem, especially in the thwarting of building schools. Evidently Netanyahu’s government is shockingly clueless as to what breeds terrorism, which can begin with young people with no hope and no future. The Israeli government continuing to be stunningly short-sided.
Instead, aid groups say, Israeli bureaucracy and bottlenecks at border crossings are snarling the delivery of materials to international relief organizations struggling to build much-needed housing, schools and infrastructure projects.
“The United Nations, who have a responsibility to help, we’re the ones that are held up,” John Ging, director of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency’s Gaza operations, said in an interview. “We’re held up from building schools. We’re held up from our other infrastructure projects, from the housing people need. And, yet, for the other parts of society here – be that either those with ulterior agendas or people who just have money – they can get on with it.”
… Securing Israeli approval of projects requires weeks or even months of negotiations and the sign-off of up to six Israeli agencies, according to Gisha, an Israeli nongovernmental group that tracks movement and access problems between Israel and the Gaza Strip.
“Hundreds of hours of staff time and millions of dollars are spent on documenting each nut and bolt – as if we were supervising the transfer of highly specialized weapons, and despite the fact that steel, concrete and gravel enter Gaza quite freely via the tunnels,” said Sari Bashi, Gisha’s executive director. …
… But Ging says his main concern is schools. Israel has approved six out of 100 the agency says it needs to build to accommodate 40,000 eligible children. “Overcrowded classrooms, tens of thousands of children failing academically, all of these things, they have long-term detrimental consequences,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury to deal with that after the peace process.” …
Since demanding the stoppage of settlement building, which has been unmasked by Wikileaks, Pres. Obama has lost all leverage against the self-defeating policies of the Netanyahu government. What began with great promise two years ago with Obama hasn’t amounted to squat.
Long-time activists working for a Palestinian state will never give up, many of them Jews, because they know that demographics are not on Israel’s side. The alternative to moving forward unthinkable.
But whatever Pres. Obama once hoped to do in the Middle East is gone. Democrats respect him, but in the hard boiled land of Middle East politics he’s proven himself very weak, with the midterms rendering him even weaker as the tax scheme deal demonstrated. Going forward it’s the Right who has the might in the Middle East and that’s not good for the Palestinians, which means it’s also bad for Israel.
This essay has been edited and cross-posted at Huffington Post.