The election is over, President Obama has just been sworn in for a second term, and cold treatment of Israel is already firmly in place. Mr. Obama has signaled during the past two months what lies ahead for U.S. relations with Israel through several actions.
First, he chose three senior figures — John Kerry for the State Department, John Brennan for the CIA and Chuck Hagel for the Defense Department — who range from clueless to hostile about Israel.
He also approved a huge gift of advanced weapons — 20 F-16 fighter jets and 200 M1A1 Abrams tanks — to the Islamist government in Egypt. This is despite Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who calls Jews “blood-suckers warmongers, the descendants of apes and pigs,” becoming increasingly despotic.
Reiterating the patronizing, 35-year-old tactic relied upon by anti-Israel types to condemn Israeli policies while pretending to be concerned for the country’s welfare, Mr. Obama said: “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”
He ignored evidence of Cairo importing Scud missile parts from North Korea. He rebuffed the 239 House members who called for closing the Palestinian Liberation Organization office in Washington in response to the Organization’s drive for state-observer status at the United Nations.
Asked about Mr. Obama’s nomination of Mr. Hagel, Ed Koch, the former New York City mayor who, despite his astringent criticism of Mr. Obama, nonetheless endorsed him for re-election, offered an astonishing response: “I thought that there would come a time when [Mr. Obama] would renege on his support of Israel, [but this] comes a little earlier than I thought.” Even Mr. Obama’s pro-Israel supporters expected him to turn against the Jewish state.
These anti-Israel steps raise worries because they jibe with Mr. Obama’s early anti-Israel views. We lack specifics, but we know that he studied with, befriended, socialized with and encouraged Palestinian extremists.
For example, a picture from 1998 shows him listening reverentially to anti-Israel theorist Edward Said. Mr. Obama sat idly by as speakers at an event in 2003 celebrating Rashid Khalidi, a former Palestinian Liberation Organization public relations operative, accused Israel of waging a terrorist campaign against Palestinians and compared “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden. Ali Abunimah, an anti-Israel agitator, commended Mr. Obama in 2004 for “his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” code words for distancing the U.S. government from Israel. In turn, Mr. Obama praised Mr. Abunimah for his obsessively anti-Israel articles in the Chicago Tribune, urging him to “keep up the good work.”
Mr. Abunimah also reveals that, starting in 2002, Mr. Obama toned down his anti-Israel rhetoric “as he planned his move from small-time Illinois politics to the national scene.” Mr. Obama made this explicit two years later, apologizing to Mr. Abunimah: “Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up-front.”
Mr. Obama dutifully made the requisite policy changes, if in a cramped and reluctant manner. (“I have to deal with him every day” he whined about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.) He supported Israel in its 2008-09 and 2012 wars with Hamas. His administration called the Goldstone Report “deeply flawed” and backed Israel at the United Nations with lobbying efforts, votes and vetoes. Armaments flowed. The Israeli exception to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty remained in place. When Ankara canceled Israeli participation in the 2009 “Anatolian Eagle” air force exercise, the U.S. government pulled out in solidarity. If Mr. Obama created crises over Israeli housing starts, he eventually allowed these to simmer down.
Returning to the present: Mr. Netanyahu’s likely re-election on Tuesday as Israeli prime minister will mean continuity of leadership in both countries. This does not imply continuity in U.S.-Israel relations, however. Mr. Obama, freed from re-election constraints, can finally express his early anti-Israel views after a decade of political positioning. Watch for a markedly worse tone from the second Obama administration toward the third Netanyahu government.
Recall what Mr. Obama said privately in March 2012 to then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev: “This is my last election and after my election, I have more flexibility.” There is every reason to think that having won that re-election, things have now “calmed down” and, after a decade of caution, he can “be more up-front” to advance the Palestinian cause against Israel.
Mr. Obama has won his second term, and Israel’s troubles have really begun. Jerusalem, brace for a rough four years.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org) is president of the Middle East Forum.