After Obama’s Cairo speech last June, I had blogged that if Obama were a doer and not just a talker, he would do some serious arm twisting to force Israel to give up the occupied territories. And just before Obama took over the Presidency in January 2009, I had blogged as follows:
“Obama realises that the Palestinian dispute is poisoning the West's relations with the Islamic world at a global level. However, I doubt if he will be able to solve this since it would require a tremendous amount of pressure to be exerted on Israel, including the actual withholding of US aid, in order to force Israel to give up all control over not only the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but also over East Jerusalem, a pre-requisite for creating a viable Arab Palestinian State. The American public is still very much pro-Israel and politician that Obama is, he will not be able to exert the necessary pressure on Israel.”
Unfortunately, recent events seem to be proving my predictions right. A week ago U.S. Vice President Jose Biden was in Israel, trying to do the usual stuff that western politicians do in Israel: to reignite the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. While he was at it, an Israeli government department (which is part of the interior ministry) announced its approval for building 1,600 new homes for ultra-Orthodox Jews in disputed East Jerusalem. Instead of throwing a tantrum and flying home on Air Force One immediately (as respected NY Times journalist Tom Friedman says he should have done), Joe Biden threw a tantrum and continued with this trip. Obama is yet to read the riot act to Israel, not an easy job since most Americans, especially the evangelicals, still support Israel. Hilary Clinton has accused Israel of ‘insulting’ Joe Biden. I found Clinton’s position curious. The insult from Israel was not to Joe Biden, but to the United States as a whole. If it were not for US support, the Israeli state would have folded up ages ago.
It is time for Obama to read Israel the riot act. However, I doubt he will.