Schizophrenic Diplomacy

Updated at 2:45 on 4/30/10.

If this blog seems to be primarily focused on news about Israel, it’s not because I want it to be primarily focused on politics. In fact, I want it to be a good mix of theology and current events. It’s just that the relationship between Israel and America is very much in the news lately, and deserves some comment.

We saw yesterday indications that the Obama administration is trying to topple Benjamin Netanyahu. Today, we’re apparently trying to play both sides of the fence, without even trying to be subtle about it: On the one side of the mouth, we’re publicly warning Iran and Syria that America remains committed to Israel, while on the other, we’re telling Abbas that we’re willing to stop vetoing U.N. condemnation of Israel over the settlement issue.  And now it comes to our attention that the Obama administration wishes to impose some truly absurd restrictions on Israel as a prerequisite to talks even taking place.

To be sure, there is always a certain amount of duplicity in politics and diplomacy (“How do you tell if a politician is lying? See if his lips are moving.”), but while previous Presidents have put pressure on Israel to make concessions in order to push forward the Middle-east “peice” process, they did not send signals to the Muslim world that America’s very support of Israel was on the table.

An editorial by the Jewish Press sums up the situation:

During the course of the 2008 presidential campaign, candidate Obama said many times that central to his plan of bringing change to the way the U.S. conducts its affairs would be a sustained outreach to those in the Third World who have been our adversaries and a more robust involvement in attempting to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
He argued that much of the difficulty the U.S. has had in the international arena – and he singled out the country’s relationship with Iran as one example – was attributable to the sense that America had sought to impose its will on the world in pursuit of what was perceived to be America’s national interests.

In retrospect, it now seems a clash with Israel was inevitable.

Their outlook is perhaps a bit more rosy than my own would be, but also bears mentioning:

Mr. Obama at last seemed to acknowledge Israel as a partner rather than a pawn. Perhaps the abject failure of his outreach approach around the world has sobered him and made a difference. Perhaps he has come to appreciate that even a president cannot just arbitrarily blow inconsequential things like Ramat Shlomo out of proportion. And perhaps he now realizes he has to be sensitive to members of Congress and their reelection concerns.

I’m not sure how much sensitivity one can ultimately expect from an administration that insists on local SWAT teams being called out on retiree Tea-Partiers. I also think there’s a danger in depending on political expedience for support. Political expedience is always in flux and only controls the outward expression of an agenda; it does not prevent back-door dealing, which is certainly taking place.

We know that one day, a man will come and confirm a treaty with Israel for a seven-year period which will allow Israel to feel at peace and result in the removal of the walls she now needs to protect her (Dan. 9:27, Isa. 28:15, Ezk. 38:8 & 11). The President of the United States is not that man. However, by weakening Israel’s ability to rely on the United States, this administration may be setting the stage for Israel to look elsewhere for assistance, leading into what the Holy One calls “making a lie your refuge.”

Shalom.

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