Friday, June 1, 2012

'Obama Gave Israel Weapons in Place of Sympathy and Embrace'

As President Obama is running for reelection, Martin Indyk, who served twice as US ambassador to Israel and was one of the senior members of the peace process team, wrote a comprehensive book (Bending History: Barack Obama's Foreign Policy), examining the Obama administration's foreign policy achievements and failures from a inside look.

Following are excerpts from Martin Indyk's interview with by Nahum Barnea, Yediot Ahronoth:
“‎The vision he presented was great, the promise huge. But his cold, analytical and aloof attitude didn't suit the Middle Eastern climate. Middle Eastern leaders, Israelis and Arabs alike, rely on the personal relations they develop with the president. Obama doesn’‎t develop personal relationships. It’‎s his character.” 

“‎Clinton sought to convince the Israelis he was one of them, that he understood them and felt like them. At the same time, he sought to convince the Arabs that he was taking solving their problems seriously.” 

“‎Obama adopted an opposite approach. He wouldn’‎t be Clinton, he wouldn’‎t be Bush. Bush, Obama said, was close to Israel. That didn’‎t help America and didn’‎t help Israel: Israel didn’‎t get the peace it so needed, and America’‎s relations with the Arab world were ruined. I will take another path.” 

“‎He didn’‎t understand the Arabs. As far as the conflict is concerned, the Arabs don’‎t believe the US is on their side. Its alliance is with Israel. They expect the president to extract concessions from Israel, due to his close relations with it.” 

“‎He didn’‎t understand the Israelis either. He gave Israel aid and security cooperation at an extent and depth hitherto unknown in previous administrations. Netanyahu and Barak admit that. He didn’‎t understand that the Israelis need sympathy, an embrace. The moment he made them feel he didn’‎t care, that his heart was not with them, he lost the ability to affect public opinion. And the moment he lost the public opinion support, he lost the government. Netanyahu understood it: when he confronted President Clinton, in his first term of office, he lost ground in the polls; when he confronted Obama, he soared.” 

 “‎Before Cairo came Riyadh, Obama demanded that Netanyahu freeze settlement construction. Netanyahu said, if Saudi Arabi gives something, it would help. Obama decided to land in Riyadh on the way to Cairo. The Saudis would agree to take in a number of Yemenite prisoners detained in Guantanamo; they would make a public goodwill gesture to Israel to help Obama secure a freeze on settlements. The meeting was not prepared properly. To his dismay, King Abdullah responded negatively to both requests. “‎Morocco, Qatar and the Gulf emirates that were willing to respond with goodwill gestures for an Israeli decision to freeze settlements, recanted after the Saudi refusal. Obama lost his ability to sway the Arabs. And then came the Cairo speech, and Obama lost his ability to sway the Israelis.” 

 “‎The demand to freeze the settlements was not new: previous presidents had made it and in certain times the Israelis complied. Obama demanded that natural growth not be taken into consideration. It was a new demand. Then he gave George Mitchell plenipotentiary authority to negotiate a compromise [that would produce less than a complete settlement freeze]. In doing so, he put Abu Mazen in an impossible position: he couldn’‎t have agreed for less than what Obama had demanded. Obama, Abu Mazen complained, put me on a high horse. I have no way to get off it.” 

“‎That is how Obama operates. First, he sets a far-reaching goal. Then he looks for a compromise. At the end, no side is pleased.” ‎