EDITORIAL: Nice hat, but where’s the cattle?

The president’s words in Israel were warm, the reality cold

Israel is a land of symbols. It’s fitting then that President Obama’s arrival in the Holy Land on Wednesday was bedeviled by a breakdown. The wrong fuel for the president’s limousine (diesel instead of gasoline) was quickly remedied, but four years of U.S. policies that have fueled turmoil in the region won’t be fixed so easily. With a persistence that suggests design, the White House has provoked the rise of the Islamic extremism endangering the Jewish nation.

Mr. Obama’s words upon arrival evoked the image of reliable ally: “The United States of America stands with the state of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel. It makes us both stronger. It makes us both more prosperous. And it makes the world a better place.” However heartening such affirmations of friendship may sound, Israelis aren’t likely to forget the acts that have sent a contradictory message. These include numerous snubs of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, condemnation of the construction of new homes in existing West Bank settlements and even a recent White House map drawn to divest the Jewish state of Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, northern Israel and areas around the West Bank.

Shortly before Mr. Obama talked peace with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday, rockets rained down on southern Israel, a sobering reminder from Hamas that the terrorist organization’s objective isn’t to accommodate Israel, but take possession of it. Palestinian extremists have become emboldened by ascendance to the presidency of a sympathetic Mohammed Morsi in neighboring Egypt, thanks to Mr. Obama’s cheerleading for the “Arab Spring.” His recent gift of jet fighters and tanks worth $250 million to Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government belies his pledge to “stand with Israel.”

Not content to play with fire in an ally’s backyard, Mr. Obama has fanned the flames of unrest in the region by cheering uprisings in Libya and Syria. Feeding extremism can be dangerous, though, and apparent carelessness in Washington cost four Americans their lives in Libya in September. There are suggestions that the Americans were in Benghazi to secure weapons left over from the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, prompting congressional investigators to investigate whether U.S. ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was arranging arms transfers to Islamist rebels fighting the Syrian government when he was killed. About three-dozen other Americans were present during the attack, yet no survivors have spoken about the deadly event. Silence suggests a cover-up. Israelis can be forgiven for wondering whether the man who says he has their back is actually backing their adversaries.

Overshadowing the task of sorting friend from foe in the Middle East remains the unambiguous threat posed by the coming Iranian bomb. Mr. Obama spent his first term trying to wish it away, but now concedes an Islamic nuke is hardly more than a year away. There’s little chance that Mr. Netanyahu can win the president’s backing for military action to deal with such a weapon. When Air Force One lifts off Friday, the Israelis will likely be on their own just as they were before Mr. Obama arrived to see the sights.

The Washington Times

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