Obama and Dalai Lama: Why Israel Worries about U.S. President

Posted: Oct 20, 2009 12:02 AM
Obama and Dalai Lama: Why Israel Worries about U.S. President

According to the Jerusalem Post, as recently as six weeks ago, just 4 percent of the Jews of Israel regarded President Obama as pro-Israel. Even if exaggerated, it is likely the most negative Israeli view of an American president since Israel's creation.

If you think Israelis are irrational in this matter, perhaps Tibet will help persuade you otherwise.

Yes, Tibet.

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Whereas every Democratic and Republican president since 1991 has met with exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visited the United States, President Obama has decided that he will not do so during the Tibetan leader's visit to the United States. The president does not wish to annoy China's dictators prior to his upcoming visit to Beijing. As US News & World Report reported, "The U.S. decision to postpone the meeting appears to be part of a strategy to improve ties with China that also includes soft-pedaling criticism of China's human rights ..."

This is particularly troubling to Israelis because it means that an American president is placing appeasement of strong dictators above America's traditional defense of embattled small countries. (One assumes that the Taiwanese are equally worried; and the Iranian fighters for liberty have come close to giving up on Obama's America.)

The line between selling out Tibetans and selling out Israelis is a direct one. Even liberal New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was disturbed by the president's snubbing of the Dalai Lama:

"Dissing the Dalai was part of a broader new Obama policy called 'strategic reassurance' -- softening criticism of China's human rights record and financial policies to calm its fears that America is trying to contain it ... the tyro American president got the Nobel for the mere anticipation that he would provide bold moral leadership for the world at the very moment he was caving to Chinese dictators. Awkward."

The world is quite aware of the importance of Mr. Obama's snubbing the Dalai Lama. Dowd noted that:

"In an interview with Alison Smale in The Times last week, Vaclav Havel … pricked Barack Obama's conscience. Havel (who led) the Czechs and Slovaks from communism to democracy, turned the tables and asked Smale a question about Obama … Was it true that the president had refused to meet the Dalai Lama on his visit to Washington?"

Those who worry about good and evil know that if America decides that the world's approval is important, evil will increase exponentially. Only an America willing to be disliked, even hated, will consistently support the smaller good guys against the bigger bad guys.

If America starts shaping its foreign policy based upon getting along well with everybody, it will become less tenable to support Israel. The number of people and countries that want Israel destroyed are far more numerous than tiny Israel and its people. The price of supporting free, democratic, tolerant Israel against its death-loving, totalitarian and authoritarian enemies is reduced popularity of America in those countries. And if America now values getting along well with everyone above moral considerations, the days of strong American support for Israel are numbered.

They may indeed be numbered for additional reasons. Having been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama may be even less inclined to consider an American attack, or in any way countenance an Israeli attack, on Iran's nuclear weapons facilities. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate isn't supposed to support, much less initiate, first strikes.

Additionally, the president, given his yearning for a nuclear weapons-free world, may support an Iranian offer to disband its nuclear weapons program if Israel is forced to abandon its nuclear arsenal.

All this combined with the economically weakest America in memory -- increasingly dependent on other countries to help prevent the dollar from becoming more like Monopoly money -- means that the 96 percent of Israelis who do feel they cannot rely on this president of the United States as they have on prior presidents is, unfortunately, not irrational.

This president characterizes his presidency as essentially the opposite of that of his predecessor, George W. Bush. He may be right, as reflected by this note from the Washington Post: "The last time he (the Dalai Lama) was here, in 2007, George W. Bush became the first sitting president to meet with him publicly, at a ceremony at the Capitol in which he awarded the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal, Congress's highest civilian award."

If you were Israeli, which American president would you feel more secure with -- the first one in 18 years who refused to meet with the Dalai Lama or the first one ever to meet with him publicly and give him a public honor?