Recently, the Obama Administration picked a fight with Israel because a bureaucrat announced the approval of the fourth of seven stages for 1,600 housing units to be built in Jerusalem, even though construction won’t begin until at least 2013. Let me repeat: this unspeakably horrendous affront was over the middle stage of an approval process for housing that might be started three years from now. Is it any wonder that Israelis consider Obama to be their least favorite U.S. President in the country’s history?
It’s pretty clear that the Obama administration has pursued a different policy toward many of our traditional allies, including England, Japan, France and Israel. Why the Administration has taken these positions has been the subject of great analysis and speculation. Israel’s American supporters are justifiably disturbed about the administration’s treatment of the country, but it doesn’t even come close to what Israelis themselves think about Obama.
Most of us rely on the American viewpoint of the U.S.-Israel relationship, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year getting the Israeli perspective. Both former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had particularly good relationships with Israel, and you will find little criticism of either in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. But Israelis are not nearly as reticent about criticizing Obama and they have several reasons for their attitude.
The principal concern stems from Obama’s attempt to dictate Middle East policy. Israelis believe The administration appears to have concocted an agenda – making assumptions about what is best for all stakeholders – without taking the time to listen and learn. Israel, like any other sovereign country, rejects outside attempts to dictate her security and domestic policies. In fact, they regularly reject Jewish-American efforts to influence Israeli policy even though some of those parties have in-depth knowledge of the Israeli experience. The recent brouhaha is over a perfect example of this behavior: Mr. Obama has in a very confrontational manner determined that there will be no construction in any area that he deems to be in dispute.