When it comes to United States President Barack Obama’s stance towards Israel, one is often left wondering how the U.S. President can continually attempt to alienate the country’s closest ally in the Middle East.
Yoram Ettinger, an insider on U.S.-Israel relations, and a former Ambassador who served as Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel's Embassy in Washington, explained some of the inner workings of Obama’s policy towards Israel.
“One has to be acquainted with President Obama’s overall worldview in order to begin to understand his plan with regard to the Jewish state.”
Ettinger says that Obama is really focused on the third world and sees Israel as the aggressor as it represents the Western World.
“Obama feels that the third world has been wronged by the west. In his view, Israel is the West and the Arabs are the third world. Therefore we are wrong and they have been wronged. Additionally, Obama is a United Nations oriented person. He firmly believes that the UN must play a central role in shaping global policies. He therefore takes the UN stance, and the UN stance is determined mainly by the third world over the West.”
With regards to the Palestinian issue in particular, Ettinger said that Obama believes that this is the lynchpin to all of the problems that are occurring in the Middle East, therefore he is continually pressuring Israel.
“He is convinced that the Palestinian issue is the core cause of Middle East turbulence, and that it is the crown jewel of Arab policy makers and the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Therefore if you can crack the Palestinian nut you can solve all of those issues as well.”
Obama has shown from his campaign in 2008 that he is determined to pursue this world view irrespective of the reality. “All of his policy in the region is connected. This has to do with Arab Spring, with Iran, with Syria, and even Libya. This worldview affects U.S. affairs on a global front.”
Ettinger admits that Obama has failed on each and every one of these fronts, but he said that Obama has shown that these failures will not change his worldview.
Another thing to take into consideration, according to Ettinger, is that “Obama believes that engagement rather than confrontation is the best way to deal with a rogue regime.”
It is due to this belief in particular, according to Ettinger, that Obama has no real need for Israel as an ally in the Middle East or at all. “Because he believes that negotiation is better than flexing military muscles, he does not have much need for Israel as a beach head of the west in the Middle East.”
According to Ettinger once you put the entire package of that belief system together, one can understand why President Obama has acted the way he has. “If you combine all of that you get your own roadmap on how to deal with Israel.”
Luckily, in the US the Executive Branch of government controlled by the President is only one of the three branches of government, and they are co-determining. “A President may have a worldview but he cannot act unilaterally on it because Congress has the power to stop him if they wish. Despite his worldview, we have seen U.S. and Israel cooperation reaching an all time high when it comes to Intelligence sharing.”
Ettinger said that U.S. sources believe that Israel has never played such an important role to US intelligence as they are now.
“The intelligence that the US gets is greater than the amount that they get from the rest of NATO combined,” Ettinger added.
Additionally, Ettinger said that anytime Israel uses or purchases equipment from the U.S. defense industry, that system gets a hefty boost in international sales, since countries know that whatever Israel buys, works. Thus, as Ettinger pointed out, “By Israel using US military equipment such as the Arrow system, or parts for Iron Dome, it is a major boost to US exports. Other countries look to Israel as a major recommendation when it comes to the shopping mall of defense technology.”
Israel is also the the most important pipeline for the American high tech industry. “We have in Israel over 250 Research and Development (R&D) centers that belong to the leading companies around the world. Most of the companies are situated in the U.S., while some are located in Europe, “ he said.
“It is there, in those R&D centers, that the research is done which then feeds the high tech industry back in the U.S.”
When it comes to Israel’s role in U.S. international relations over all, one can turn back to a statement made by Rep. Robert Pittenger who said the following:
"Israel is an aircraft carrier for the U.S., which doesn't require a single American boot on board. Israel has assisted in training US special ops forces before going to Iraq and Afghanistan, provided tactical advice, and shared its armored-plating technology to help save the lives of US soldiers. They provide America more intelligence than all NATO countries combined, further helping to protect our men and women in foreign combat and our families here at home from sleeper cells in the United States."
Israel has also played a strategic role in combatting terrorism in the region and restricting terrorist capacities to threaten the United States.
“The US system is unique, where the president is not a semi-monarch like that position is in other countries,” said Ettinger. “He is only one of three branches. So when he submits a budget that includes a certain amount of money for the Arrow project or Iron Dome, Israel always gets hundreds of millions of dollars more, because Congress raises it. Congress understands that by helping Israel they are not only helping themselves but also saving themselves money and gaining an increase in sales of their own systems.”
To put it plainly, Obama and Israel do not agree on the Palestinian issue or on the Israeli-Arab conflict. However, U.S.-Israel relations transcend, by far, the Palestinian issue or the issue of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Ettinger reffered to these as “tumbleweeds on the road compared to the wild sandstorms of Islamic terrorism, of Iran, or the inherent instability of pro-American Arab regimes”.
“With regards to those bigger ‘sandstorm’ issues,” Ettinger explained, “Israel plays a cardinal role in those areas for the U.S. So the question for the U.S. is then: do you cut off your nose to spite your face?”
“Apparently, even Obama doesn’t want to cut his own nose off, and Congress certainly does not want to allow him to do that.”
Ambassador Ettinger is an insider on US-Israel relations, mideast politics and overseas investments in Israel's high tech arena. He is a member of the American-Israel Demographic Research Group (AIDRG), which has documented dramatic flaws behind demographic fatalism on one hand and a Jewish demographic momentum on the other hand.
He is a consultant to members of Israel’s Cabinet and Knesset, and regularly briefs US legislators and their staff on Israel’s contribution to vital US interests, on the root causes of international terrorism and on other issues of bilateral concern.
Ambassador Ettinger served as Minister for Congressional Affairs at Israel's Embassy in Washington (with the rank of ambassador), as Israel's Consul General in Houston and as Director of Israel's Government Press Office. He is the editor of Straight From The Jerusalem Cloakroom and Boardroom, newsletters on issues of national security and overseas investments in Israel's high-tech.