Haggai SegalThe writer is a well known Israeli journalist, broadcaster, satirist, editor and author. His book "Dear Brothers: The West Bank Underground" has been translated into English and his most recent book is "Land for Dreams", published in 2013. He has a popular column in the Makor Rishon weekend edition.
Autumn 2013 in Washington is a season in which not only the deciduous trees are losing their leaves. It is hard to recall such a massive shedding of leaves from the giant American tree that once cast its shade over most of the globe, and now stands bare and shrunken, awaiting a cruel winter.
The shutdown of federal offices last week because of the Obamacare controversy is just an example of the government's weakness during the Obama era, a weakness that is both internal and external.
Obama is the first American president since the end of the Cold War to blink first when facing Russia. Vladimir Putin taught him a lesson in the Syrian affair and thoroughly humiliated him in the Snowden saga. Although Russia is far from achieving the level of power it had in the past, it it is once more beginning to gain the image of a superpower equal to Washington. Putin not only dares to say "no" to Obama, he manages to squeeze "yesses" from him.
Putin's victory is one thing, but even wounded and bleeding Syria has managed to stare down Obama. He set a red line for Syria, announced his intentions to punish her when she crossed that line in broad daylight, concentrated warships and other deadly weapons in her proximity, but ended up not launching even a solitary Tomahawk in her direction.
Assad seems to have agreed to give up his WMD 's, but from a comparison of the beginning of the affair with its bottom line, it is clear that Obama capitulated more than Assad did. The Security Council decision on the matter does not allow for American action in the event that Assad does not fulfill his part of the bargain and hoodwinks the UN inspectors, and there is almost no doubt that this is just what he intends to do. The United States frightens him much less than it did in the past. After all, before the poison gas attack in Damascus, Obama demanded that the premier resign, but Assad just laughed at him and is alive to tell the tale.
Then take Hassan Rouhani, Assad's ally, who has also stopped being afraid of America. Tehran is confident that the president who backed off at the last minute from bombing Syria will never attack them. Iran's current reconciliation "attack" is based on the premise of Obama's continued weakness. The telephone conversation between the two presidents created a false moral symmetry between the two countries, and pushed Obama into a phychological and diplomatic corner from which he will have a hard time extricating himself. He will have to give up the sanctions weapon without forcing Iran to shut down its nuclear industry. Instead of Washington pushing Tehran into a corner, Tehran outmaneuvered Washington.
Another Middle East ruler, Egyptian General Sisi, didn't bother to answer the telephone when Obama called. The US president telephoned him the morning after the last revolution, but Sisi spammed him. Just like that. Despite the desperate situation in Egypt, the new Cairo government conducts itself with pride with regard to its policy towards the United States. Egypt has much to lose, but obviously believes that she will profit by her behavior, and that seems to be borne out so far. Sisi is rapidly establishing his power base despite a cold shoulder from Obama.
Only one Middle Eastern country continues to fear Obama – Israel. Israel is strong, stalwart and successful, but still does not believe it has the power to refuse him. The weak American president and his hallucinatory Secretary of State have succeeded in forcing Israel to enter impossible negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. They demand that Israel accept an insane time limit, insist that she retreat to borders that endanger her future and desecrate her history. Longtime psychological blocks prevent her from telling them "no, thanks". Still imprisoned by outdated, subservient psychological syndromes that are the vestiges of a dispersed people's powerlessness, Israel acts as if she still has no choice but to acquiesce to the Americans in order to survive. Much water has flowed in the Hudson River since that was true, but on the River Jordan's shores it is as if time stood still (a takeoff on a popular Hebrew song by Naomi Shemer) ; it is as silent there as it has been for millennia and the old "give in to them " mode still rules the day.
Israel remains the acquiescent lapdog of America. Maybe it's time to see a good psychologist and break free.
Haggai Segal is a well known Israeli journalist, broadcaster, editor and author. His book "Dear Brothers: The West Bank Underground" has been translated into English and his most recent book, still available only in Hebrew, is "Land for Dreams", published in 2013. He has a popular column in the Makor Rishon weekend edition.
Translated from the Hebrew Makor Rishon newspaper by R. Sylvetsky