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March 19, 2010: Who Is the Enemy?

July 8, 2010

 am writing this before Shabbat to set the record straight.  I have acquired information that is important and wish to share it broadly. 
 
There has been a general impression in recent days — certainly here in Israel, and in some quarters in the States as well — that General David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Control, is our enemy.  Several statements have been attributed to him regarding the fact that the US is not going to receive cooperation from Arab states because they see the US as weak and unable to push Israel to negotiations. 
 
One version has him saying that American troops are dying in Afghanistan because of Obama’s inability to get Israel to toe the line.  This is a nonsensical statement devoid of any rational sense.  He never said this and we can dispense with it.
 
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As to what is being said, I want to share with you, succinctly, background and insights I received last night in a conversation with a highly reliable contact in the US who has military connections.
 
[] The Arab states do speak to Americans on occasion about waiting for the US to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  But those in the know, including in the military, understand how to read these remarks. 
 
The Arab states, which do not want to work with the US, are NOT saying, “We are very disappointed in you because the Palestinians don’t have a state.  As soon as you make this happen, you will have our full cooperation.”
 
Rather, they are brushing off the US politely, knowing full well that the conflict will not be solved. What they are saying is, “In your dreams, are we going to work with you.”  They could just as easily say, “When you put a man on Mars, we will work with you.”
 
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[] The Arab state ARE worried that the US is weak.  However — and this is CRITICAL — what they are worried about is not that the US is failing to push Israel hard enough.  They are worried because Obama refuses to get tough with Iran.  States such as Saudi Arabia are terrified of Iran, and grievously disappointed in the US.  The result is diminished respect for the US and a decreased willingness to cooperate with Americans in other spheres — they are giving the US the cold shoulder (all Obama’s courting of them aside).
 
You’ve been reading material that reflects this very perspective in these postings in recent weeks.
 
Whenever you hear charges that the US is not getting cooperation with the Arab states because they don’t think Obama is tough enough on Israel,  PLEASE, take the time to set the record straight: Obama is preventing cooperation with the Arab states because he courts Iran.
 
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[] Lastly, we see that the very reverse of what is being claimed is true in yet another way:  The Arab states are less willing to work with the US because they see how the US treats Israel.  They wouldn’t publicly admit this, but the reasoning is, “Israel is a solid and long time US ally, and yet look how Obama treats her.  We must not ally with him, and must not put trust in his words.”
 
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[] Obama wishes to put the screws to Netanyahu.  He draws on the situation to what he believes is his advantage, foolishly, and without understanding the serious repercussions of his policies.  Thus does his administration utilize this material in distorted fashion. 
 
We’ve been hearing for many months about how Israel must cave on certain matters (“settlements”) if the US is going to get cooperation from the Arab states on Iran.  This is utterly ridiculous. 
 
I read a slightly different version this week, in which it was claimed that Biden told Netanyahu that “If you want us to give you the favor of helping you with Iran, you have to give us the favor of making concessions to the Palestinians.”
 
I don’t believe Biden ever said this.  But in any event it is a statement breathtaking in its lack of logic.  Taking on Iran is not something that constitutes a favor to Israel.  It is something that the Arab states want the US to do, and that will improve US interactions with those Arab states.  Taking on Iran will also diminish terrorism in the region (and disruptions in Iraq), which should be a primary US goal. Lastly, taking on Iran would demonstrate to the world that the US is strong and honors its (constantly stated) commitment to Israel’s security.
 
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Just a week ago, an article addressing these issues appeared in Foreign Policy magazine, written by one Mark Perry.  My source said that Perry is pro-Palestinian.  Arutz Sheva, even more directly, says that Perry was once an Arafat advisor. Perry distorted the facts in his article, in order to put pressure on Israel.  A great deal of the misunderstandings that have ensued in the press in recent days have this article as its source.
 
Here, then, is an enemy.  (Although I wouldn’t exactly call Obama a friend.)  The villain is not Petraeus.
 
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More will follow, hopefully, after Shabbat.  We are in a fluid situation right now, with Netanyahu scheduled to fly to the US after Shabbat to address the convention of AIPAC in Washington (where Clinton will also speak). 
 
Rumors — informally confirmed — have it that Obama has declared that if Netanyahu has not made concessions on construction then he will not meet with him.  Nothing would be better than for Netanyahu to say, “Well, your loss, I’ll do without your meeting.” He should fly in, give his talk, and fly out, with dignity in tact, without groveling.
 
I had heard that this was what he was going to do (and essentially he may do). But what our prime minister seems to be doing is trying to give some impression of making concessions without really making any that would enrage his coalition and a good part of the country.  And, quite honestly, that I believe he does not want to make.  I would wish that he would walk away clean, but he has another style:
 
This morning’s Post says Netanyahu, who consulted by phone with Clinton last night, has offered the secretary of state (unspecified) “mutual steps by Israel and the PA.”  I have full confidence that he did this knowing that the PA will scoff and say only Israel has to make concession.  This puts the ball back in the PA court, and he will be able to say, “We were willing, it’s the other side that’s intransigent.”
 
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Forty-eight MKs have sent Netanyahu a letter telling him not to cave on Jerusalem when in Washington.
 
Mitchell is due back here on Sunday.
 
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A Thai agricultural worker on a moshav in the Negev was killed by a Kassam shot from Gaza yesterday.  We have not heard the last of this.
 
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