by Micah Halpern
Congress has sent a clear message to the White House. When they passed President Obama’s health care plan, the members of Congress were telling him that they have his back. They will support him. They will side with the president on crucial issues. They will put aside their individual and collective conscience, push away threats from their home constituencies, ignore potential and probable electoral repercussions because, when to comes down to the wire, they will be there to support the president.
Congress gave the president more than a health care package. They have emboldened him and his cadre of strategists. And it is the White House strategists who are pushing the president to push Israel.
In politics, like in sports, there is no distinction between a blowout victory and a nail-biter win. A win is a win; victory is victory. In Washington, D.C., the winners of legislative battles and national elections move on with the strength of 100 percent support. It never matters how large or how small the spread — the only thing that matters to the victor is victory itself. And victory is sweet. And victory is heady.
Barack Obama has been re-invigorated. And Israel has already begun to feel the impact of the heightened power now felt by the president of the United States. Congress cannot and will not stand up to their president and the president knows it. That explains why Israel’s prime minister was met with more pressure and fewer diplomatic niceties on his last trip to Washington and the White House than on any previous trip. It was not only the embarrassment over the Biden/Shas fiasco that prompted the president and his staff to act and speak as they did, it was Obama health care bravado.
Ironically, in many ways, the Obama administration is mimicking the Clinton administration in terms of rhetoric and pressure on Israel. On the one hand they are asserting that their friendship with Israel is unfaltering and unwavering. On the other hand they are pressuring Israel to engage in activities and adopt attitudes that are dangerous and that compromise Israel’s long and short term security needs and defenses.
Washington is belittling and berating Israel and making clear demands because they can — and because they have no other option for change. There is nothing else the United States can change in the region other than Israel. There is no Middle Eastern country besides Israel that will even entertain the notion of complying with the demands of the United States.
The United States knows it cannot change the Palestinians, Egypt or Syria. It cannot change Iran or even Iraq. So what does the United States do? Force change on Israel. And under the influence of the excitement of health care victory — consciously and subconsciously — Israel is forced even harder.
The Obama administration, like every other American administration before it, really wants a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Every new president wants to be “the one,” to broker the peace. Obama and his strategists know that they can pressure Israel. They also know that the bond between the countries is strong and can withstand the pressure. They know that that the ties that bind Israel and the United States, whether under Obama and Netanyahu or under their predecessors or successors might fray a bit, but will not break.
The major flaw in this administration’s new approach is that the risks they are demanding that Israel take just are too great, the dangers too grave. But the administration wants victory. Hopefully, the president and his strategists will stop their victory dance and the danger before it is too late.
Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.