Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told the Politico that President Obama doesn’t seem to be a “true friend” of Israel. When you think about it, it’s a pretty odd charge for an American legislator to be making about a foreign country. What the congressman from Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A should be asking is whether Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a true friend of America.
Given Netanyahu’s continuing intransigence on settlements, President Obama’s decision to move past the U.S. request for a settlement freeze in order to begin outlining a final status agreement is the right one. But it’s still very much worth highlighting how central Israel’s intransigence is to the current difficulties — and how shameful it is that so many American neoconservatives have been openly supporting this intransigence against the Obama administration’s attempts to hold Israel to its past commitments on settlements.
In light of the neocon nervous breakdown over Obama’s canceling of the Eastern European missile defense program, which the neocons claim (as they do about pretty much everything) shows weakness and damages U.S. credibility, it’s pretty interesting that we’ve never heard a peep from them about the damage to U.S. credibility by relentless Israeli settlement building in the face of repeated U.S. requests to stop. Not only have successive Israeli governments continued to construct these illegal colonies, they have often done so in ways that seem calculated to humiliate the United States, such as announcing new construction moments after high-level U.S. diplomatic visits.
In his speech to the United Nations today, President Obama strongly reiterated the U.S. commitment to a secure Israel and Palestine, but also repeated that the U.S., like the rest of the world, “does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”
Marc Lynch is right to point out, in response to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s claim that “Israel is interested in the peace process led by Obama, based on an agreement with the Palestinians,” that an Israel which actually wanted such a process “would seek to work with the administration rather than seeking every possible opportunity to poke fingers in the administration’s eyes.” This should be of real concern for anyone who is genuinely concerned about U.S. credibility. Yet it has never seemed to bother the neocons.