Current Administration Stance on Israel
The relationship between the United States and Middle East has been prickly over the years, with Israel many times being the only ally the US has in that region. As such, it has been in the interest of the US to be supportive of Israel in most, if not all matters. This has complicated matters for the US, which heavily relies on oil from the Middle East to meet its energy requirements. Past administrations have generally taken a supportive stance on Israel. This paper looks at the stance taken by both the Obama and Bush administrations.
Initially, the Bush administration tried not to take a very active role in the peace process in the Middle East. However, as time progressed and the Palestinians became very aggressive in their attack of Israel, they became very active in the same (Freedman, 2005). After the terrorist attack of 9-11, the US found itself on the same side as Israel, fighting Muslim terrorists. The fact that Yasir Arafat was linked to terrorism groups caused them, in a way, to unite against a common enemy.
Additionally, Iraq, whose president has called for the annihilation of the Israeli people and the dismantling of the State of Israel, also became a common enemy of the two States. As such the US became an avid supporter of Israel and indeed Bush enlisted Ariel Sharon to a campaign he had for developing a National Missile Defense System (Freedman, 2005). Bush was urged by Sharon as well as 300 congress members not to invite Arafat for a visit unless he made it publicly clear that the violence against Israel would stop. To that effect, President Bush made a very strong speech in which he said:
The Palestinian Authority should speak out publicly and forcibly in a language that the Palestinian people [understand] to condemn violence and terrorism … The signal I am sending to the Palestinians is stop the violence and I can’t make it any more clear (Freedman, 2005). When President Bush and Vice President Chenney were running for the presidency the first time, they had both been very critical of the fact that Clinton had been excessively involved in the Middle East peace efforts. That is why they had taken their initial hands off policy.
Indeed many in the Jewish community were concerned that because of the interest in Middle East oil the Bush administration would support their Arab enemies. Thirdly, the fact that his father’s administration had been the least supportive of Israel had been worrying to them. When he took office, Jewish supporters were pleasantly surprised by his supportive stance (Cooperman, 2002). When Israel attacked Palestine, President Bush said that he understood their need for self defense and did not reprimand Israel as some would have expected.
In fact, Palestinian organizations or groups such as the Islamic Jihad and Hamas were added into the list of terrorist groups by the State Department (Cooperman, 2002). In addition, the US refused to send a delegation to the UN World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. The reason for this was because they were considering making Zionism a form of Racism. That action made it very clear, that the US stood with Israel (Cooperman, 2002).
Many have speculated on President Bush’s connection with Israel and many have concluded that his deep Christian faith has caused him to have affection for Israel that caused him to stand in support of it (Cooperman, 2002). The Obama administration has sent mixed signals. On the one hand it seems they are sympathetic to Israel but at the same time they are sending signals that seem sympathetic to the Palestinians. According to the White House, it is in the best interest of the United States to ensure that the partnership with Israel stays strong as that is their strongest ally in the Middle East (Whitehouse Foreign Policy).
In fact, they go on to say that the US will ensure that it never distances itself from this State. Secondly, the Whitehouse states that Israel has a right to defend itself and that America supports that right. Third, the Obama administration is in support to the giving of foreign help to Israel. This package of foreign aid includes both economic and military help going as far as to ask for increased aid for Israel. The US is also continuing to work with Israel to develop missile defense systems.
The fourth point made by the Whitehouse is that it is committed to the resolution of the Middle East conflict and will be very involved in the peace process (Whitehouse foreign policy). Regardless of what the Whitehouse has stated as its foreign policy on Israel, other actions of the Obama administration point towards lack of commitment to help Israel. In fact, it seems that President Obama is undoing all that Bush had put in place. Obama’s advisors on the Middle East include Samantha Power, Chas Freeman and Zbigniew Brzezinski who are known to be anti Israel (Hasner, 2009).
It is important to note that whereas Bush refused to give Arafat an audience, Obama’s first interview as president of the USA was on Al-Arabia TV network. Secondly, his first phone call as head-of-state was to Mahmoud Abbas and thirdly, that he has allocated $20 million for the resettlement of Palestinians who are directly linked to Hamas, which the Bush administration listed as a terrorist group, in America (Hasner, 2009). These actions have been viewed as a means of legitimizing terrorist groups and being lenient on them by taking the pressure off them.
The Obama administration has also approved that Hamas join the governing Palestinian Authority, and even aided Gaza, controlled by Hamas, with 900 million dollars to aid in settling Palestinians there. What this will do is make it so that the terrorist group does not have to spend money doing so. This will only free their own finances to do more harm than good (Hasner, 2009). Whereas the Bush Administration would not send a delegate to the conference that was considering making Zionism a form of racism, the Obama administration is sending a delegate to the Durban II conference that will also be debating the same.
The silence of the US as Zionism is vilified speaks volumes to both Israel and those that hate Israel (Hasner, 2009). Some speculate that Obama is taking the approach of talking and helping the Arab Nations and the terrorist groups in a bid to get them to see reason. However, from past experience, it has been seen that Islamic extremist groups, of which Hamas is one, do not change their mind over coffee and around negotiation tables. The charter written by the Hamas states that: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.
” (Troubling Early Indications, 2009). President Obama has even gone ahead to ask Israel to open up the Gaza borders to the Palestinians, but would America open its borders to Al Qaeda? Israel’s response has been as expected, that should there be a chance that Hamas would be strengthened by the opening of the border, Israel shall not do it (Troubling Early Indications, 2009). The Obama administration has taken a much more lenient stance on terror groups that have in the past threatened the well being of Israel.
Even though the talk is for Israel, the actions are perceived to be anti Israeli. The President has pledged to Muslims that the relationship of America with them would be one of mutual respect and interest (Black, 2009). That in itself is a great thing, but it is yet to be seen if they will take the same attitude towards America. The differences between the Bush and Obama administration are clear. Whereas Bush was for Israel in both his talk and his walk, there is a disparity with the Obama administration, such that their actions are contrary to their words.
Where the Bush Administration stood firm for Israel, the Obama administration seems to have more support for the Palestinians. Where Bush registered groups like Hamas as terrorists, Obama gives them aid to the tune of hundreds of millions in dollars. One can only hope that the Obama administration will do what is best for the American people and that this administration does not shoot itself in the foot by supporting and helping groups that are sworn enemies of anyone that is not Muslim or sympathetic to the Muslim agenda.
Black, I. (2009, March 20). Arab world fears Barack Obama’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is just more of the same. Retrieved March 31, 2009. http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2009/mar/20/ian-black-middle-east Cooperman, A. (2002, April 4). Bush stance pleases u. s. jewish groups. Washington Post. p. A14. Retrieved March 31, 2009. http://www. washingtonpost. com/ac2/wp-dyn/A58147-2002Apr3? language=printer Freedman, R. O. (2005, March). The bush administration and the arab-israeli conflict: The record of its first four years.
The Middle East Review of International Affairs. Vol. 4, No. 1, Article 4. Retrieved March 31, 2009. http://meria. idc. ac. il/journal/2005/issue1/jv9no1a4. html Hasner, A. (2009, March 10). Obama: Pro-israel talk, anti-israel walk. American Thinker. Retrieved March 31, 2009. http://www. americanthinker. com/2009/03/obama_proisrael_talk_antiisrae. html Troubling early indications of barack obama’s stance regarding israel. (2009, January 22). Retrieved March 31, 2009. http://www. stevelackner. com/2009/01/obama-chooses-mahmoud-abbas-as-first. html