The White House’s Latest Slight to Israel’s Supporters

Upon reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, the administration dispatched Colin Kahl, national-security adviser to Joseph Biden, to reassure prominent American Jewish leaders about the deal. The choice of representative, argues Lee Smith, was a deliberate slight and a sign of the downgrading of U.S.-Israel relations:

Kahl was the administration official who removed the recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel from the 2012 Democratic platform. And it was as a scholar at the . . . Center for New American Security that Kahl floated a 2013 trial balloon hinting that the administration’s policy [toward Iran] was, contrary to President Barack Obama’s promises, not prevention of an Iranian nuclear bomb but containment and deterrence of it. As it turns out, this was the exact same policy Kahl outlined to American Jewish leaders last week, in what amounts in policy circles to a victory lap. . . .

But even if Kahl didn’t have a long personal history as the administration’s point man on the downgrade-Israel beat, the fact that President Obama sent the vice president’s aide to brief Jewish leaders on an issue of vital concern to them suggests how little the commander-in-chief now respects or fears the power of a community he once courted so assiduously. . . . [Y]ou can bet it didn’t take President Obama six years to comprehend the political import of James Baker’s famous observation about the Jewish community’s voting patterns. . . . The president could stick it to the Jews since they’d vote for Democrats no matter what.

President Obama was able to hammer away at AIPAC and the pro-Israel lobby largely because the liberal segments of the Jewish community found it convenient to believe that the president’s target was just Benjamin Netanyahu, the stubborn and arrogant right-wing prime minister who drove decent people crazy. . . . What these community leaders seemed not to have fully understood is that American Jewish political power is linked not just to the financial power of Jewish donors or the influence of Jewish voters in a few key cities but more fundamentally to the strategic importance of the America-Israel relationship. What they certainly did not see is that tension with Bibi served President Obama very nicely in a much bigger strategic move, which was the main aim of the president’s Middle East policy since 2009: namely, to downgrade the U.S. alliance with Israel in order to make room for America’s new can-do regional partner, Iran.

Read more at Weekly Standard

More about: AIPAC, American Jewry, Barack Obama, Iranian nuclear program, Israel & Zionism, US-Israel relations

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood