Elliott Abrams to Maariv: Obama’s policies bad for Israel, prospects for peace slim
Last weekend, Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom featured Newt Gingrinch warning Israelis that Obama’s policies could lead to “a second Holocaust.” Now, Elliott Abrams is in Israel for an event organized by Dore Gold’s neoconservative institute, the JCPA, and the competition, Maariv, interviews him on Obama’s Israel policies.
Abrams is brutally critical of Obama. This is not surprising, since he is seems to be developing a habit of using the opportunity provided by every crisis to tell Israelis how bad the President is for them.
This type of behavior — criticizing the policies of an administration on the soil of the foreign country in question — was deemed tantamount to treason by many US conservatives when Bush was in power. Chris Suellentrop, for example, reported for the new York Times in 2006 that:
As House Democrats David Bonior and Jim McDermott may recall from their trip to Baghdad on the eve of the Iraq war, nothing sets conservative opinionmongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil. Al Gore traveled to Saudi Arabia last week, and in a speech there on Sunday he criticized “abuses” committed by the U.S. government against Arabs after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. A burst of flabbergasted conservative blogging followed the Associated Press dispatch about the speech, with the most clever remark coming from Mark Steyn, who called the former vice president “Sheikh al-Gore.” The editorial page of Investor’s Business Daily accused Gore of “supreme disloyalty to his country.”
Any charges of Republican double-standards could be dismissed with the argument that there is a profound difference between a speech and an interview or an op-ed. I fail to see it, however.
Ben Caspit, Maariv, June 2 2010 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
“The current American administration made two crucial mistakes this past week: the first was its vote in the UN Review Conference, which called on Israel to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and open its installations for inspection. The second was its vote today in the UN Security Council’s condemnation of Israel, following the raid on the Turkish ship Marmara” — says the deputy national security adviser under the Bush administration Elliott Abrams, one of senior officials of the Republican administration, and the man charged with Israeli affairs at the time. In a special interview to Ma’ariv, Abrams says that under the Bush administration this would not have happened and that the chances of an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians are negligible under the current policy.
Abrams arrived in Israel yesterday in order to take part in a special conference of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs directed by Dore Gold. He is expected to deliver a blunt speech and to harshly criticize the Obama administration. This opinion was also reflected in the interview he gave us yesterday: “The United States today supported a condemnation by the UN Security Council concerning the naval operation,” says Abrams, “without having provided any opportunity to check the facts. I read that President Obama asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to conduct an extensive inquiry of the facts, and I have no problem with this, but how is it that the next day he’s seen supporting a condemnation, before such an inquiry? Should not time be allowed to understand what actually transpired there, before a condemnation is voted on?”
Abrams says, “the United States ought not have voted for the resolution that called on Israel to open its nuclear facilities to inspection. This is unacceptable. In 2005 we thwarted a similar resolution, and were right to do so. Last week’s resolution singles out Israel, while ignoring countries like Iran, Pakistan and India. I read that President Obama promised Netanyahu that the United States would not vote for such a resolution. I don’t know if this is true, but in any event America must not allow such a thing to occur. This is what we did in 2005 and we also informed our Arab allies that such a thing would not stand.”
Abrams is extremely critical of the fact that Obama has ignored President Bush’s letter to Ariel Sharon, in which he stated that the US would recognize demographic changes in the territories when concluding the final status arrangement (the letter essentially recognizes the settlement blocs). “This is an extremely dangerous course of action,” he says. “It is a grave mistake not to honor the letters of President Bush. Each American president will cause damage to both himself and his successors if he leads people to understand that an unequivocal letter in print by the American president is not to be honored. President Bush’s letter was not merely a dispatch, it was phrased and signed following long negotiations between the two countries, and was endorsed by large majorities in both houses of Congress. The message we are sending the Israeli public is that it’s not worth believing us, and this is a grave mistake, because also polls in Israel show that there is a lack of trust among the Israeli public towards the American administration. How does the Obama administration expect to convince Israelis to believe him as he seeks to advance the peace process, after he has broken a clearly worded presidential commitment?” asks Abrams, “and this happened twice within one week, both on the nuclear issue and the flotilla. This is a recipe for extremely difficult problems.”
I asked Abrams what Bush would have done in similar circumstances. “On the nuclear issue I don’t need to guess, because he acted, and thwarted a similar resolution five years ago. As for the flotilla,” says Abrams, “I can only speculate. I remember the uproar that ensued after Israel killed Rantisi, and then Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. In both cases we checked the facts and stated that Israel had a right to defend itself.”
Abrams expressed pessimism as to the prospects of a peace process under Obama, Clinton, and Mitchell. “The settlement construction freeze was also a grave mistake,” he says, “this was a completely impossible demand, I have no idea what was going on in the heads of Obama, Rahm Emanuel or George Mitchell when they introduced this idea. Everyone knows there’s no way you can attain this. At the time we realized that the most important thing was to prevent expansion of the settlements, and we therefore resolved with the Sharon government, as well as with Olmert, that there would be no construction beyond the present settlement’s master plan boundaries. This makes sense, this is reasonable, this ought to satisfy the Palestinians as well so long as there are negotiations. The demands on the part of the Obama administration, have caused damage to all parties,” he says.