Saturday, March 13, 2010

Elliott Abrams: Obama is mishandling the relations between US and Israel

(ELLIOTT ABRAMS-in Washington Post)...The current friction in U.S.-Israel relations has one source: the mishandling of those relations by the Obama administration. Poll data show that Israel is as popular as ever among Americans. Strategically we face the same enemies -- such as terrorism and the Iranian regime -- a fact that is not lost on Americans who know we have one single reliable, democratic ally in the Middle East.

The two problems that bedevil relations with Israel are Iran policy and Israeli settlements. On Iran, we say nuclear weapons would be "unacceptable" but want to rely solely on sanctions to stop them -- and administration officials go out of their way to say any use of force would be catastrophic. Not surprisingly Israelis wonder if we're serious -- and if, as is likely, sanctions prove too weak to succeed, so will many Americans.

On settlements, the Obama administration demanded a 100 percent construction freeze, including in Jerusalem, something never required before even by the Palestinians as a precondition for negotiations. This stance cornered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who could demand no less, and led the U.S. administration last week to "condemn" the announcement of plans for Israeli construction that is years away. The verb "condemn" is customarily reserved by U.S. officials for acts of murder and terrorism -- not acts of housing.

As this example shows, the Obama administration continues to drift away from traditional U.S. support for Israel. But time and elections will correct that problem; Israel has a higher approval rating these days than does President Obama.