If nothing else, both parties — and allies and foreign foes — have learned not to take anything this administration says very seriously. Red lines come and go. Secretary of State John F. Kerry says there’s “progress” in the Hamas truce talks, but he had said there had been progress in the “peace process.” Time and again, we’ve seen hypocrisy or intellectual dishonesty (or both) from this crew:
• President Obama gets far more worried about fewer than 1,000 Gazans than about 160,000 Syrians who’ve been killed by a dictator he said “must go” if his level of involvement in the two wars is any indication. Could it be that he has no impact on Syria’s leader but thinks he can boss around Israel’s?
• He is playing detective when it comes to the downed Malaysian airliner but doesn’t evidence much curiosity about the conditions under which Israel is fighting. His ever-spinning aide Ben Rhodes (the one who was playing politics immediately after the Benghazi, Libya, attack) insists Israel “can do more” to protect civilians. How would he handle terrorists who operate out of hospitals?
• Obama has enacted minor sanctions against Russia and given sanctions relief to Iran — but has, as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) put it, enacted in essence a travel boycott against Israel for no discernible security purpose. (“Obviously, no one wants to place civilian travelers in harm’s way, and the recent downing of [Malaysia] Airways flight 17 by pro-Russian militants in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the dangers posed by regional unrest. But security concerns in Israel are hardly breaking news, and given the exceptional challenge Israel faces, Ben Gurion has rightly earned the reputation as one of the safest airports in the world due to the aggressive security measures implemented by the Israeli government.”) Cruz pointed out:
Given that some 2,000 rockets have been fired into Israel over the last six weeks, many of them at Tel Aviv, it seems curious to choose yesterday at noon to announce a flight ban, especially as the Obama Administration had to be aware of the punitive nature of this action.
Tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel, which is in the middle of a summer high season already seriously diminished by the conflict initiated by Hamas. Group tours have been cancelling at a 30% rate. This FAA flight ban may well represent a crippling blow to a key economic sector through both security concerns and worries that additional bans will down more flights and strand more passengers. It hardly matters if or when the ban is lifted. At this point, the damage may already be done.
Even given the remarkable resilience and prosperity of its economy, Israel has always been vulnerable to economic blackmail. In the 1970s, we saw the Arab League boycott, which tried to punish any financial institution that did business with Israel.
Today we have similar noxious efforts by the Boycott, Divest, Sanction or ‘BDS’ movement, which seeks to punish Israel for the fact that the militant terrorist elements embraced by the Palestinian Authority make any peace deal an intolerable security risk to Israel at this time. But the Obama Administration has refused to robustly denounce this effort to undermine our ally.
Instead, Secretary of State John Kerry issued a veiled threat last February when he encouraged boycotts of Israel and said that absent serious Israeli concessions at the negotiating table, Israel’s economic prosperity was ‘not sustainable’ and ‘illusory.’ Secretary Kerry unfortunately reprised this theme just this April, when he threatened that Israel risked becoming an ‘apartheid state’ if Israel did not submit to his chosen solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis.
• Obama wants Israel to deal with the Palestinians’ government unity because Mahmoud Abbas is a “man of peace,” ignoring the Palestinian Authority’s public cheering for Hamas to hold out for favorable truce terms.
• He keeps insisting the “peace process” is the only way to go but doesn’t mention Israel gave up Gaza and got a decade of war.
• He says Israel has a right to defend itself but objects when it does just that. Did he think Israeli national security policy is like his own — all bark and no fight? Surely, he understands that the “right to defend itself” includes the elimination of dozens of tunnels from which Hamas can operate and stage attacks.
• Obama insists the United States has never been more engaged and influential, yet he had to send his secretary of state, uninvited and unpopular, to butt into truce talks. And even MSNBC chides him for sticking with fundraisers rather than attending to multiple international crises. He is, as in so many international incidents, impotent — yet certain there is no problem with his policies.
Now might be the time for Republicans who want to replace him to make the case openly and aggressively, as Cruz did, about the president’s double talk and double standards. It would show they are ready to engage on foreign policy beyond issuing empty platitudes.