Friends and enemies scour speeches a president makes overseas for clues
as to what the United States might do.
The most significant message in President Obama's 56-minute speech to
Muslims from Cairo last Thursday is that he will not try to stop Iran
from acquiring nuclear weapons:
"No single nation should pick and choose which nations hold nuclear
weapons," Mr. Obama said. "Any nation including Iran should have
the right to peaceful nuclear power if it complies with the
responsibilities under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty."
In this he backed away not only from the Bush administration, but from
the United Nations Security Council. This should send a chill down the
spines not just of the Israelis, but of the Saudis and the other Sunni
sheikdoms in the Gulf. Mr. Obama speaks of "the Muslim world" as if it
were a unitary whole, but Sunni and Shia tend to regard each other the
way Protestant and Catholic regarded each other during the Reformation.
And Arabs regardless of their religion tend not to be fond of
Persians, and vice versa. An Iranian bomb likely will set off a
desperate quest for a Saudi bomb and an Egyptian bomb.
The other significant message from Cairo is that as far as this
president is concerned, the special relationship between the United
States and Israel is over. President Obama appeared to accept the Arab
view that Israel is an interloper in the region, and expressed a moral
equivalence between the Holocaust and the plight of the Palestinians,
which he blamed on the Israelis, rather than on Palestinian "leaders"
more interested in terror and Swiss bank accounts than in improving the
lives of their people.
Though Barack Obama sets no preconditions for talks with America's
enemies in the region, he insisted in Cairo that Israelis must stop
building in their settlements in the West Bank and the suburbs of
Jerusalem as a precondition for renewed negotiations on a "two state
And while Mr. Obama opposes regime change in countries like Iran, he and
his aides appear to working to undermine the democratically elected
prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu.
"It may be that the Obama administration has concluded that they cannot
achieve the two-state solution with the Netanyahu government and perhaps
want another Israeli prime minister," Aaron Miller, a former State
Department official, told the Saudi owned newspaper A-Sharq al Awsat.
"And the best way to do this is to make Netanyahu appear incapable of
managing Israel's most important relations in the world, which is its
relations with the United States."
If the president believes it's the Israelis who are the obstacle to
peace, he should recall it's the Palestinians who rejected the two-state
solution. When offered a state at the end of the Clinton
administration, then PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat chose to start the
intifada instead. Mr. Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, rejected every
peace proposal offered by Mr. Netanyahu's feckless predecessor, Ehud
"Blaming Israel and picking a fight over 'natural growth' may curry
favor with the Muslim street," said columnist Charles Krauthammer. "But
it will only induce the Arab states to do like Abbas; sit and wait for
America to deliver Israel on a platter. Which makes the Obama strategy
not just dishonorable but self-defeating."
If I thought the president and his aides were much more clever than I
think they are, I'd suspect the Cairo speech was part of a devious plot
to induce the Israelis to do the world's dirty work and take out the
Iranian nuclear program, as they did with Iraq's in 1983.
An Iranian bomb is an existential threat for Israel, since Iranian
leaders have vowed repeatedly to wipe their country off the map. Mr.
Obama has made it clear he'll do nothing about it. And Mr. Netanyahu
needn't worry about offending Mr. Obama, because the president already
has made it clear he's out to get him.
If President Obama wants to
convince the Israelis they've no one to rely on but themselves, he's off
to a good start.