After The Jerusalem Fiasco, Obama’s Acceptance Speech Ambiguous

September 7, 2012  

Even the staunchest advocates of President Barack Obama conceded that his acceptance speech was a bit of a letdown. They had heard better speeches from Obama and better speeches at the convention.

Maybe it was difficult to see Obama come down from the Olympian heights of 2008 and now asking for more time for handing in his incomplete assignment.

Following the telltale deletion of a United Jerusalem from the Democratic platform and its clumsy reinsertion, presumably on orders from the president himself, Obama’s acceptance speech was naturally scrutinized in terms of what it had to say about Israel and the Middle East.

Obama took pride in ending the war in Iraq. He may not have had any other choice. given war weariness in the United States but his claim should have displayed a bit more humility and less triumphalism. By withdrawing American forces, the United States has left an uncertain situation in Iraq and the vacuum is already being exploited by Iran.

The same applies to Afghanistan, where Obama claims to have blunted the Taliban. Once American forces are withdrawn in 2014, the Taliban will be back and it is already happily beheading Afghanis for the crime of participating in mixed parties (not political ones).

The rise in the killings of NATO troops by presumably loyal Afghanis presages the realignment of forces in the country, as Afghanis make the simple calculus that tomorrow the Americans will be gone and the Taliban will remain.

Israel figured directly in one sentence in Obama’s speech: “Our commitment to Israel’s security must not waver, and neither must our pursuit of peace.” It is hard to fault Obama for emphasizing security, after Israeli governments have been emphasizing security to the detriment of legitimacy and rights.

The second half of the sentence creates ambiguity: Is the pursuit of peace complementary to that unwavering commitment, or is it intended to propitiate the Arab side by saying that the United States will not be influenced by Israeli security arguments in pursuing peace –  that in Obama’s playbook, means a retreat to the 1967 lines.

The Obama approach to Israeli security usually begins and ends with hardware. This is epitomized in aid for the Iron Dome project (actually begun under Bush), that features in the Obama campaign advertisement targeted at Jewish voters.

No one denies that the Iron Dome project is both a technological breakthrough and an important contribution to Israeli security, but it also has a flip side. By its ability to intercept missiles from Gaza, it allows Israel to absorb more missile attacks and statistically reduces the probability that one of these missiles will cause massive civilian casualties.

Therefore, instead of fully backing an Israeli assault in Gaza that would remove the intolerable situation, Iron Dome is intended as a sop to Israeli decision-makers and public opinion that will allow them to practice greater “restraint”. In the end, it is the Obama administration that wants to decide whether Israel is secure or not and how much security it is entitled to.

The phrase about Iran is also troubling. What will deter Iran from proceeding with its nuclear military program is not world unity, but what the world intends actually intends to do in order – in the immediate future – to stop that nuclear program.

By making policy on Iran captive to world unity, Obama is signaling that he wants to march in unison first with the Europeans and more importantly, with the Chinese and the Russians, who have already announced their objection to more severe sanctions against Iran.

The writer is a political scientist and Arutz Sheva’s political analyst and main Global Analysis newswriter. He is featured regularly in the Hebrew and English Israeli press, lives in Tekoa.

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