Funny, President Obama was supposed to be against an arrogant foreign policy. Remember his speech in Strasbourg, France last spring? There had been times, he told the European students, "where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." Those days are over, he assured them.
Leave aside the question as to whether this characterization of past American arrogance was justified. President Obama now has a year of foreign policy under his belt and in that time he has managed to snub the British prime minister, alienate the president of France, insult the nation of Honduras when it successfully defended its young democracy from a Chavez wannabe, and undercut the people of the Czech Republic and Poland by tossing aside a hard-won agreement to build a missile defense shield.
But in no case has his own arrogance been more transparent than in his treatment of Israel. It didn't begin with the recent spat over housing units in Jerusalem. In formulating his policy, the president could have focused his energy on the problem of a terror regime racing toward acquisition of nuclear bombs. He could have noticed the civil war raging between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. He might have addressed the venomous anti-Semitism and race hatred offered as daily fare in Palestinian media and textbooks.
But from its inception, this administration has signaled that it regards Israeli behavior as the chief obstacle to peace in the region. Israel must halt settlements, the president told Prime Minister Netanyahu, or the relationship between the U.S. and Israel would suffer. Seeing the United States acting as its lawyer, the Palestinian Authority, which in the past had negotiated with Israel without preconditions, could not then set the bar lower than the U.S. president.
Though it received little attention at the time, Obama's rebuke of Israel at the United Nations last October was, particularly in that venue, a deeply unfriendly act. "We continue to emphasize that America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," the president intoned. As former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton noted at the time, the use of the phrase "continued" rather than "new" potentially delegitimized every inch of land on which Jews reside. That nuance would not have been lost on the Palestinians, who regard all of Israel as "occupied territory."