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Obama’s foreign policy options were continually limited by Netanyahu and the lobby — Ben Rhodes

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Ben Rhodes’s memoir of serving as a top foreign policy aide to President Obama, titled The World As It Is, came out in June to highly favorable reviews. I got the book to scratch my itch on Israel/Palestine and was surprised by how candid Rhodes is about the power of the Israel lobby in a Democratic administration down to the fact that chief of staff Rahm Emanuel nicknamed Rhodes “Hamas” for speaking up for Palestinian human rights.

The memoir documents that at almost every turn, Barack Obama was painted into a corner by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with the engaged support of the organized Jewish community. In doing so, it echoes a book Rhodes never dares to cite, but surely read, The Israel Lobby, by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and backs up their most serious charge, that the lobby helped get us into the war in Iraq in 2003.

The book is hardly flattering to the former president. Obama emerges as a magnetic/enigmatic personality, but not very strong when it comes to international and intellectual challenges. He’d rather play cards than read a book. And he prefers the company of a cold young cipher/sycophant like the author to a mature thinker.

Rhodes shows that Israel’s American friends had access to the Obama administration at all times.

As Obama prepared his famous speech to the Muslim world, delivered in Cairo in 2009, the lobbying was “intense,” Rhodes says. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “and other organizations friendly to Netanyahu had established themselves as the adjudicators of what was pro-Israel, and they had zero tolerance for any pressure on the Israeli government.”

In the days before the speech, “I was asked to sit down with Lee Rosenberg”– the Chicago recording executive who had cultivated Obama for years and was freshly minted as AIPAC’s president. Rosenberg “wanted to make sure we weren’t breaking new ground in our support for the Palestinians,” or worse, suggesting that Israel/Palestine was a root cause of “all problems in the Middle East.” Rosenberg also urged Obama to call on the Muslim world to recognize Israel as “a Jewish state.”

The author has misgivings about how much he had to listen to Rosenberg. “The Israelis were by far the stronger party in the conflict, but we were acting as if it was the reverse.”

Some pressure came from within. When Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel got tired of hearing Rhodes argue for empathy to the Palestinians, “he started calling me Hamas.”

“‘Hamas over here,’ he’d say, ’is going to make it impossible for my kid to have his fucking bar mitzvah in Israel.’”

Later Rhodes himself relayed the pressure to the president while going over edits in the speech. “There’s a lot of discomfort with using the word ‘occupation,’” he said.

Obama pushed back. “What else are we supposed to call it? … If we can’t criticize settlements, then we might as well go home.”

That speech early on in the administration contained Obama’s sharpest criticism of Israel. The president slammed the “humiliations” of the “occupation,” hit the settlements in no uncertain terms (“The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements… It is time for these settlements to stop”), and didn’t refer to the Jewish state as such. (And Rahm Emanuel did celebrate a son’s bar mitzvah and a daughter’s bat mitzvah in Israel.)

But Obama spent years climbing down. In February 2011, Obama did Netanyahu and the lobby a giant favor by vetoing the UN Security Council resolution against settlements. Soon after that, the president gave a speech calling for peace negotiations based on the 1967 lines, bringing about the signature moment of his relationship with Netanyahu, when the prime minister lectured the president in the Oval Office the next day on why Israel could not accept such lines.

Obama was humiliated, but the organized Jewish community took Netanyahu’s side. The lecture, Rhodes says, “was the perfect way to mobilize opposition to Obama among the leadership of the American Jewish community, which had internalized the vision of Israel constantly under attack.”

That community used financial pressure on Obama: donors to his reelection campaign.

“Netanyahu’s smack at Obama came just as the 2012 presidential campaign cycle was cranking up, and it succeeded in igniting a firestorm of criticism,” Rhodes relates. “A number of congressional Democrats distanced themselves from the speech. I was given a list of leading Jewish donors to call to reassure them of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides. It was far too painful to wade into these waters with no prospect of success. Netanyahu had mastered a kind of leverage: using political pressure within the United States to demoralize any meaningful push for peace just as he used settlements as a means of demoralizing the Palestinians…”

A leading White House policy aide is calling Jewish donors, and surely telling them that he has a Jewish mother, grew up with Israel as a “secular religion,” and was once a member of AIPAC. But he feels he has “no prospect of success” up against the Israeli PM.

Obama then had to speak to AIPAC, and rebut Netanyahu by demonstrating his support for Israel.

“This is as annoyed as I’ve been as president,” Obama vents to Rhodes. “Dealing with Bibi is like dealing with the Republicans.” And the president cited his own bona fides as an Israel supporter. “I came out of the Jewish community in Chicago… I’m basically a liberal Jew.” (Obama once joked that his early liberal Zionist backers in Chicago made up the “cabal” that enabled him to become president.)

At AIPAC, Obama warned about coming threats: Israel’s growing diplomatic isolation, and the growing tension between having a Jewish state and having a democracy “if the occupation endured.”

That was in 2011. And nothing changed for five years. “This is where we’d find ourselves throughout the administration: unable to nudge Israel in the direction of peace, and left holding up a mirror that showed the necessity of doing so.”

The biggest foreign policy story of the administration was the late, lamented Iran deal of 2015. As Rhodes comments mordantly, the Obama administration was involved in “multiple wars in which thousands were killed, and yet nothing in our foreign policy was as fiercely contested as the nuclear deal with Iran.”

Again, the lobby played a large part, as Israel’s agent in the US capital.

“In Washington, where support for Israel is an imperative for members of Congress, there was a natural deference to the views of the Israeli government on issues related to Iran, and Netanyahu was unfailingly confrontational, casting himself as an Israeli Churchill…. AIPAC and other organizations exist to make sure that the views of the Israeli government are effectively disseminated and opposing views discredited in Washington, and this dynamic was a permanent part of the landscape of the Obama presidency.”

Rhodes says pressure to attack Iran came from experts who had been “wrong on Iraq,” but were still influential.

“You have to bomb something,” one unnamed expert tells him.

“What?” Rhodes ask.

“It doesn’t matter. You have to use military force somewhere to show that you will bomb something.”

Again, money plays a part: Rhodes describes “a well financed and relentless effort to undermine the deal.” AIPAC “and other opposition groups” committed up to $40 million.

“They sent out long anti-Iran deal documents that would shape the arguments we’d hear made back at us from deal opponents on the Hill or in the media.”

The critics used Netanyahu’s talking points– “Iran’s non-nuclear behavior—its support for terrorism, its belligerence in the Middle East” — just as Trump has done in tearing that deal up.

And the organized Jewish community was key to that pressure.

“I was meeting regularly with Democratic members of Congress to try to convince them that we were pursuing a good deal, one that would roll back the Iranian nuclear program and avert a war,” Rhodes relates. “This included a standing meeting with the Jewish Democrats in the House. These were occasionally raucous meetings….

“[T]he Israeli government and AIPAC were focused on lawmakers who dreaded taking a position against them.”

Rhodes told his wife, “I’ve never been this stressed before.” And he told Obama’s Jewish liaison officer, Matt Nosanchuk, “I want you to talk to every Jewish person in America.”

The Obama administration tried to fight back by echoing the assertion by Walt and Mearsheimer, that the Israel lobby had helped get us into Iraq.

“[W]e pointed out that the same people who got us into Iraq wanted to take us to war in Iran. ‘Wrong then, wrong now’ became our mantra,” Rhodes says. For instance, after Scooter Libby penned an op-ed attacking the deal, Obama held a conference call with antiwar activists, and “noted that the same people who supported the Iraq War were now opposing the Iran deal.”

“That’s when things began to take an ugly turn,” Rhodes writes. “These were anodyne and accurate statements.” Yet the other side charged that Obama and his team “were anti-Semites, conjuring up stereotypes of moneyed Jewish interests propelling us into war.”

Rhodes bristles at the dishonesty of that smear campaign.

Even to acknowledge the fact that AIPAC was spending tens of millions to defeat the Iran deal was anti-Semitic. To observe that the same people who supported the war in Iraq also opposed the Iran deal was similarly off limits. It was an offensive way for people to avoid accountability for their own positions.

(Ben, can you do a piece for Mondoweiss?)

Obama also became angered. “Come on… This is aggravating… This isn’t about anti-Semitism… They’re trying to take away our best argument, that it’s this or war.”

On August 5, 2015, Obama pushed back against the lobby in his speech at American University. It “would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty” to side with Netanyahu and Israel, he said, and again cited the Iraq war errors.

I know it’s easy to play on people’s fears, to magnify threats, to compare any attempt at diplomacy to Munich.  But none of these arguments hold up.  They didn’t back in 2002 and 2003; they shouldn’t now.  The same mindset, in many cases offered by the same people who seem to have no compunction with being repeatedly wrong, led to a war that did more to strengthen Iran, more to isolate the United States than anything we have done in the decades before or since.

Rhodes relates, “The reaction was fierce.” Tablet lamented Obama’s “anti-Jewish incitement” as a “sickening new development in American political discourse.” Rhodes read it cringing.

Support for Israel had been central to my own sense of identity as I was coming of age… Now that kind of attachment was being cynically manipulated to discredit a profoundly unbiased president, destroy a diplomatic agreement, and once again avoid any reckoning with the actual legacy of Iraq.

That’s a lot of power.

The Obama team sought to shoot down the opposition by appealing to Jewish leaders. The team marshaled the views of Israeli generals and former ambassadors to Israel, cited Jewish public opinion (highly supportive of the deal) and worked on Jewish pols.

“We also wanted to secure a healthy majority of Jewish Democrats in the House so the deal would be less polarizing,” Rhodes says. He places particular emphasis on winning then-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. “When Debbie finally called me… we both ended up in tears.”

Rhodes notes that the day they secured the deal, Dick Cheney gave a speech against it at the American Enterprise Institute, “the heart of neoconservatism.”

Later Rhodes made a decision he regretted, to crow to New York Times writer David Samuels in a long profile about having created an “echo chamber” in the media in favor of the deal. By doing so, Rhodes admits that he “managed to pick fights with some of the most powerful interests in Washington: the media, the foreign policy establishment, the organized Jewish community, opponents of Iran.” He ended up writing “lengthy apologies” to several groups who had helped him cement the deal, including “the Jewish Democrats in the House.”

In sum, Rhodes has documented the power of the lobby over presidential decision-making as no former aide has done before. Dennis Ross once said that the lobby has power only over Congress, but this book makes clear that Obama was stressed by leading Jewish organizations in ways that damaged his legacy.

Not that Obama is about to reverse course. When Robert Gibbs asked who all the Arab leaders were who called the president to rally support for Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, Rhodes responded tartly:

“I don’t know,” I said to Obama, “but they’re not going to be paying for your presidential library.”

That exchange is a poor reflection on both author and hero. It echoes the worst scene in the story, when Rhodes and the president meet Palestinian students in Ramallah and one rises to describe the imprisonment of friends and denial of freedom of movement before concluding:

“Mr. President, we are treated the same way the black people were treated in your country. Here, in this century. Funded by your government, Mr. President.”

Obama and Rhodes are both stunned by the statement. “That last kid… got his courage up,” Rhodes reflects. “Yes, it took a lot of guts for him to do that,” the president agrees. Then they go on their way.

 

philweiss
About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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49 Responses

  1. Kay24
    Kay24
    August 31, 2018, 5:04 pm

    A great article Phil. I found it extremely interesting to have an insight into what really went on within the Obama administration, and what seemed to be his reluctant support for Israel. This simply shows what we have known all these years, that the US President’s hands are tied, when it comes to Israel, and supporting, or not supporting it. Obama did the right thing, by pushing hard for the Iran deal, wanting to avoid yet another disastrous war, and preventing the deaths of millions, and the decimating of another Muslim nation. Obviously the zionists have not given that up, in fact it has got another partner in crime, the wealthy Saudi Arabia, to conspire with, and getting slimy Jared to manipulate his father in law.
    The dud in the White House, is merely the tool they need, to achieve their objective. It seems the zionists have spread their poison by arming and training Salman’s Kingdom, and looking at Yemen, and the endless massacre of children, and civilians, it seems the zionists have not done such a great job. We were given the impression that Obama and Crooked Bibi did not get along, but it seems deeper than that. Our zionist lobbies seem to hurt this country, exerting pressure on president, and weaponizing the US to fight their wars. They are instrumental in sabotaging US policies. Patriotic to the US? Not at all. It is, and always will be, Israel first.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      September 1, 2018, 11:36 am

      @Kay24, et al

      https://orientxxi.info/magazine/how-israel-spies-on-us-citizens,2598

      “How Israel Spies on US Citizens – The Truths that Won’t Be Heard”
      Orient XXI, by Alain Gresh, 29 August 2018

      “A never-shown Al Jazeera documentary on the pro-Israel lobby in the US reveals possibly illegal Israeli spying on US citizens, and the lobby’s fear of a changing political mood.”

      EXCERPT:
      “An investigative documentary by Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera scheduled for broadcast earlier this year was expected to cause a sensation. Its four 50-minute episodes centred on the young and personable James Anthony Kleinfeld, British, Jewish, an Oxford graduate who speaks six languages including Dutch and Yiddish and is well informed about Middle East conflicts – seemingly a natural fit for a western foreign ministry or a major thinktank.

      “The documentary showed Kleinfeld being enthusiastically recruited for his skills by The Israel Project (TIP), which defends Israel’s image in the media, and associating with senior members of organisations that support Israel unconditionally, especially the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac), the powerful US lobbying group. For five months, he mixed with them at cocktail parties, congresses and conventions, and on training courses. He won their trust and they opened up to him, abandoning doublespeak and official lines. How, he asked, did they go about influencing the US Congress? ‘Congressmen don’t do anything unless you pressure them, and the only way to do that is with money.’ How did they counter Palestinian rights activists on university campuses? ‘With the anti-Israel people, what’s most effective, what we found at least in the last year, is you do the opposition research, put up some anonymous website, and then put up targeted Facebook ads.’

      “Kleinfeld’s contacts told him they were spying on US citizens with the help of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, founded in 2006, which reports directly to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. One official said: ‘We are a different government working on foreign soil, [so] we have to be very, very cautious.’ And indeed some of the things they do could be subject to prosecution under US law.”

      • Kay24
        Kay24
        September 1, 2018, 12:37 pm

        Thanks for the link Misterioso, it is unfortunate that in the land of free speech, a documentary like this is was prevented from being shown here. Anything to keep the naive American people in the dark, so that the dollars and support will keep flowing. As long as Israel keeps being looked upon as a victim….

  2. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes
    August 31, 2018, 7:35 pm

    After Mearsheimer and Walt’s book was published, it was rumored that many in Washington carried a copy of it in a paper bag. It sounds as though whenever Obama and Rhodes resisted pressure from the Israel Lobby, they were accused of having read/believing the book.

    • Boomer
      Boomer
      September 1, 2018, 7:52 am

      Before Mearsheimer and Walt’s book there was “The Passionate Attachment” by George and Douglas Ball. I discovered it in a used book shop in DC a few years after it came out, in a part of town where many foreign embassies are located. It’s a good book, but I had the feeling that it was the sort of book one wouldn’t want to be seen reading on the Metro, at least not without having replaced the book jacket with something less risky for one’s reputation.

      https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1662732.The_Passionate_Attachment

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        September 1, 2018, 10:53 am

        @Boomer

        Thank you for referencing “The Passionate Attachment.” (“The Passionate Attachment: America’s Involvement with Israel, 1947 to the Present,” by George W. Ball, undersecretary of state in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, US ambassador to the UN, and his son, Douglas, W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York, N.Y., 1992)

        I bought it several years ago and highly recommend it as an accurate and well written analysis of the Israel -Palestinian/Arab conflict.

        A few gems from the book:

        William A. Eddy, an aide to Secretary of State George C. Marshall: The creation of a Jewish state in Palestine would result in “a theocratic racial Zionist state….” (p. 316)

        George and Douglas Ball:
        “Having no written constitution, Israel also has no Bill of Rights but only readily amendable fundamental laws, augmented by regulations, some of which were promulgated by the British during a time of social and military crisis (1933-48.) As there is no presidential veto and only a limited provision for judicial review, its parliament, the Knesset, functions practically unchecked. The lack of a written constitution does not, of course, preclude a democracy, as the United Kingdom demonstrates. But the unwritten British constitution (consisting of precedents accumulated over a millennium) is reinforced by a homogenous
        society, conditioned by common values.”

        The title of the book comes from America’s first president, George Washington’s famous Farewell Address in which he admonished his fellow citizens to steer clear of a “passionate attachment” to another nation, as it could create “the illusion of a common interest…where no common interest exists.” If only America had followed his sage advice, especially regarding “Israel.”

  3. Citizen
    Citizen
    August 31, 2018, 7:57 pm

    So how’s Obama’s library coming along?

  4. Donald
    Donald
    August 31, 2018, 11:10 pm

    On a different topic, in this book Rhodes tells how he didn’t want Al Nusra designated as a terrorist group since they were fighting alongside the groups we supported in Syria. Al Nusra is the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2018/07/23/the-world-according-to-ben-rhodes-hypocrisy-in-obamas-foreign-policy/

    I didn’t read the book myself— I skimmed a library copy and saw the Al Nusra part, just to see it for myself after reading the article above. You can also find it if you use the search function at the Amazon site.

    Asad AbuKhalil also says Rhodes says nothing about Yemen.

  5. Boomer
    Boomer
    September 1, 2018, 7:41 am

    Obama was more frustrating than Bush Jr. to people like me to the extent that our expectations for him were higher. He did, it’s true, avoid invading another country with large numbers of ground troops, though he expanded the use of drones and special forces around the world. But he happily deferred to Wall Street as well as to the Lobby. And he picked Emanuel. Thanks for the excerpt, which shows his priorities:

    “When Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel got tired of hearing Rhodes argue for empathy to the Palestinians, “he started calling me Hamas.”

    “‘Hamas over here,’ he’d say, ’is going to make it impossible for my kid to have his fucking bar mitzvah in Israel.’”

  6. guyn
    guyn
    September 1, 2018, 9:56 am

    “Obama emerges as a magnetic/enigmatic personality, but not very strong when it comes to international and intellectual challenges. He’d rather play cards than read a book. And he prefers the company of a cold young cipher/sycophant like the author to a mature thinker.”

    That would explain in part the humiliation of Obama by Netanyahu in the Oval Office.

  7. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    September 1, 2018, 11:17 am

    Some good news:

    “Jewish Voice for Peace,” Aug. 31/18

    “BREAKING News! Thanks to you, Lana Del Rey has just announced that she’s canceling her concert in Israel!

    “Today on twitter she announced: ‘It’s important to me to perform in both Palestine and Israel and treat all my fans equally. … therefore, I’m postponing my appearance at the Meteor Festival.’”

    “This is HUGE – and it is all because of YOU!”

    “It really seemed Lana had dug in her heels around performing in Israel despite the call from our friends at PACBI (The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) and other activists to respect the Palestinian picket line and not go.

    “But you made your voice heard! 14,500 signed on to JVP and PACBI’s shared petition, and over 5,000 people tweeted at her directly from the petition. That’s no small thing. It shows (once again) that targeted, strategic, principled cultural boycott campaigns work!

    “We look forward to the day when Lana Del Rey can be welcomed to a concert that all people in Israel/Palestine can freely attend, when occupation and apartheid end. Thank you for taking this action and all you do to move us toward the day when all Palestinians are free.

    “Onward,
    Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director Jewish Voice for Peace

    ALSO:
    https://truthout.org/articles/trumps-disapproval-hits-record-high-after-manafort-and-cohen-news/

    “Trump’s Disapproval Hits Record High After Manafort and Cohen News,”
    By Matthew RozsaSalon Published August 31, 2018, Salon, (and truthout)

  8. brent
    brent
    September 1, 2018, 11:43 am

    The case is beautifully here made why Palestinians strategic thinkers should be calculating how to change the fundamental narrative that Israel is the victim, subject to planned destruction. Campaigning for human rights, equality and peaceful co-existence in a secular democratic state, or in two states with good neighborly relations, sweeps that victim foundation away. It would undermine AIPAC, enable peace activists to make headway with the Congressman who resent the bit in their mouth and build bridges to the most valuable ally to have, humanist Jews. Challenge is how to effectively overcome all the humiliation and actions designed to create rage and prevent co-existence and put Netanyahu and his calculations on the defensive.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 1, 2018, 6:12 pm

      “The case is beautifully here made why Palestinians strategic thinkers should be calculating how to change the fundamental narrative that Israel is the victim, subject to planned destruction.”

      Maybe the Palestinians could disarm, and never allow kite-flying again. At the very least the Palestinians should get rid of their nuclear weapons.

      • Boomer
        Boomer
        September 2, 2018, 10:57 am

        re: “the Palestinians could disarm, and never allow kite-flying again”

        Yes, exactly. It’s all due to those terrible kites. Aren’t they banned by the Geneva Convention? No civilized people would dream of using such a weapon, or want to possess them.

        Back when Palestinians were blowing themselves up, and sometimes killing Israelis in the process, I recall Tom Friedman fulminating with disgust and contempt at people who would be so low as to kill themselves to make a mostly impotent protest of what had been done to them. “How is Israel supposed to deal with that?” he asked. He sagely advised Palestinians to emulate Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. As far as I recall, he didn’t actually promise that such a strategy would accomplish good results for them, but it was right thing to do, you know. Morally speaking.

        Today, it’s the damned kites. And the prisoners in Gaza who walk within rife shot of the fence, brazenly, in daylight, within sight of the people of Israel.

    • dionissis_mitropoulos
      dionissis_mitropoulos
      September 1, 2018, 9:55 pm

      Hi brent

      You said:

      ” Palestinians strategic thinkers should be calculating how to change the fundamental narrative that Israel is the victim, subject to planned destruction. “

      It’s very easy for the Palestinians (or anyone else) to prove that the Palestinians do not have a plan to destroy Israel. All they need to do is quote former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin (June 2015):

      https://www.timesofisrael.com/palestinians-giving-up-on-statehood-ex-security-chief-says/

      ““I don’t think that the Palestinians have some big plan today about how to act,” Diskin says.”

  9. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    September 1, 2018, 12:20 pm

    The Zionists have stopped anything that would ever have limited their room to manœuvre every step of the way. They have murdered opponents and destroyed dissidents.
    In nature this does not work. There is always balance. Zionism will collapse when something comes at them out of left field. All controls have been abandoned so the motherfuckers deserve it.

    • inbound39
      inbound39
      September 1, 2018, 10:36 pm

      The Big Problem is Britain and America at the end of WW2 saw Zionists as the ones who could control the Palestinian and Arab problem in the Middle East and so they armed and trained them. Problem was the Zionists differed from the intended plan. Britain and America cannot afford the full truth to come out because it will make peoples heads spin and leave them open to ridicule and criminal charges. Britain and America also have to maintain support of Israel for their own political survival. We the people have never been told the full sordid story of Palestine and that is why we can’t make sense of why Britain and America stick with the Special Relationship. But Yeah….Zionism has to be stopped.

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        September 1, 2018, 11:52 pm

        The British Empire was bankrupted by WW2 and followed by US Empire. In both cases the hegemon chose sides all over the world. The consequences of British imperial realpolitik are still being fought in Kashmir, Cyprus, Zimbabwe, Northern Ireland and Palestine/Israel.

        The Americans are no different.

        Let’s just say that Israel didn’t turn out according to the brochure. I think there are 2 key factors

        1. Trauma is much more powerful than Herzl or Rothschild or anyone involved in the project pre 1948 thought. Ben Gurion and others in the 40s saw the Holocaust as a golden opportunity to give israel the start it needed. They didn’t foresee how it would drive the mindset of Yossi Israeli.

        2. Jewish Zionist political leadership is atrocious. This goes back to the point about “the unwritten British constitution (consisting of precedents accumulated over a millennium) is reinforced by a homogenous
        society, conditioned by common values.”

        Israelis have no base of common values or a sense of the common good. Instead there has been a hijack of the state by a project that will more than likely destroy it. At various points along the road good leadership could have brought the country back to equilibrium. But there has never been any leadership either in Israel or the US.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        September 2, 2018, 12:25 am

        @dumbfound

        “The Big Problem is Britain and America at the end of WW2 saw Zionists as the ones who could control the Palestinian and Arab problem in the Middle East and so they armed and trained them”.

        The Big Problem is that you’re an idiot who spouts fake history.

        Britain didn’t arm Zionists, they armed Egypt and Jordan, who used those arms to attack Israel.

        The United States didn’t arm the Zionists after WW II. The United States enforced an arms embargo against Israel, who skirted the embargo by buying weapons from Czechoslovakia and the black market.

        You are an idiot.

  10. Interested Bystander
    Interested Bystander
    September 1, 2018, 12:39 pm

    The judgment of Rhodes as “a cold young cypher/sycophant” strikes me as right. I took a close look at Obama’s 2009 Cairo Speech in December ’14, and it struck me that the speech was naive, it overpromised, and it amateurishly raised false expectations.

  11. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    September 1, 2018, 1:48 pm

    “There’s a lot of discomfort with using the word ‘occupation,’” he said ”

    There certainly is a lot of discomfort, because BDS, Mondoweiss, et al, don’t differentiate between Israel’s occupation of Judea and Samaria, and Israel’s occupation of all of ‘Filastina’.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      September 1, 2018, 4:16 pm

      Judea and Samaria? Wow, I always thought it Israel only occupied Gaza, East Jerusalem and the Westbank according to international law. But Judea and Samaria is far more. Who knew?!

    • inbound39
      inbound39
      September 2, 2018, 7:15 pm

      I am an idiot Jackdaw when history backs me up. Jews served in the British Army in WW1 and WW2. Fact is the British trained the Zionists. Jews assisted the British in Palestine to keep the peace and squash the Arab revolt. When the British Army left they passed all fortifications, hospitals and weaponry over to the Zionistsd…Fact. And Jackdaw. Westbank, Gaza and East Jerusalem and Golan Heights are occupied. You might want to deny the fact but that is what you habitually do.

      • inbound39
        inbound39
        September 2, 2018, 7:32 pm

        Here we go Jackdaw…..sit and wrap your mark one eyeballs and selective hearing around this and we shall see who is the idiot.

        https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/specialseries/2013/05/20135612348774619.html

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        September 3, 2018, 12:27 pm

        @dumbfounded

        You’re an idiot.

        The Irgun and Stern gangs targeted the British. Stern exclusively targeted the British with assassinations and terror bombings.

        Yes, the British trained Jews during the Arab rebellion, 1936-38, ten years before the War of Independence.

        Many Brits deserted and joined the Arabs during Israel’s War of Independence.

        More forts and weapons were turned over to the Arabs than were turned over to the Jews.

        The Jordanian Legion was officered by the Englishman, notably Glubb Pasha.

        No idiot résponse regarding ‘American aid’?

        Jews trained by the British during World War II were trained to fight against Italy, not against the Arabs.

        How about a cite or two?

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        September 3, 2018, 3:03 pm

        Jackdaw: “@dumbfounded

        You’re an idiot.

        The Irgun and Stern gangs targeted the British. Stern exclusively targeted the British with assassinations and terror bombings.”

        According to Jackdaw the people in Deir Yassin (and al-Dawayima) were British when they were massacred by Irgun and Lehi members.

        And because he fails to tell the truth and how many Arabs were targed by Irgun:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Irgun_operations

        So much for being an idiot. Every time, Jackdaw, every time … is this really necessary?

  12. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    September 1, 2018, 1:53 pm

    ” That community used financial pressure on Obama: donors to his reelection campaign ”

    More bullshit.

    American Jews overwhelmingly voted for, and supported Obama during both elections.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      September 1, 2018, 5:00 pm

      Jack$$

      Don’t confuse “Jews” and US dollars, you antisemite.
      1 Jew= 1 gentile = 1 vote = worthless.
      1 dollar = 1 real vote.

      • Jackdaw
        Jackdaw
        September 4, 2018, 4:26 am

        @intestinal tapeworm

        Money doesn’t win elections, votes do.

        Trump was outspent in 2016 and he won the election.

        BTW, you wouldn’t have the stones to call me an anti-Semite to my face.

        Coward.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 4, 2018, 12:55 pm

        “BTW, you wouldn’t have the stones to call me an anti-Semite to my face.”

        Mind your blood pressure, “Jackdaw”. You wouldn’t want to pop an aorta.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        September 4, 2018, 3:20 pm

        Jackdaw: “@intestinal tapeworm”

        Do you think that Zionists suffer from borderline personality disorder? Most if not all of them seem to have huge problems with accepting boundaries and are always overstepping.

  13. Jackdaw
    Jackdaw
    September 1, 2018, 2:17 pm

    Oh, and BTW, the Iran Deal succeeded despite pressure from the all powerful Lobby.

    Oh, and BTW, the United States abstained from a UN vote that condemned Israeli settlements, despite pressure from the all powerful Lobby to veto the resolution.

    Obama was a great President, but he was weak on foreign policy and everyone knows it.

    Blaming ‘The Lobby’ for Rhodes own personal failure to motivate and guide his boss, POTUS, is self serving and unfair.

  14. captADKer
    captADKer
    September 1, 2018, 6:33 pm

    what a wonderful piece. every quote is echo chambered crap. obama and all of his treasonous rats-kerry/rhodes/jarrett/rice and the most heinous samantha power will soon have more than their legacies damaged after the DOJ is sanitized and Mueller’s “witch hunt” is ended. my patience is being severely tested.
    bless the president and the boldness of his advisors.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      September 1, 2018, 7:54 pm

      “after the DOJ is sanitized and Mueller’s “witch hunt” is ended. my patience is being severely tested.
      bless the president and the boldness of his advisors”

      Uh-oh “CaptADKer” patience is being tested. Severely tested. And he’s gonna do something!

      Gosh, how is Mueller getting all those “guilty” please and judgements? Witchcraft, wicked witchcraft? Hey, but you stick with Trump, “Capt”. Can’t lose with Trump.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        September 2, 2018, 1:05 am

        Don’t want to continue performing witchcraft, Mooser? Then you should perhaps turn to science and start bringing solid proof regarding the well-defined Mueller objective, according to the rules of evidence in positive sciences, for your nonsense –or at least enough to support your winkwink-nudgenudge game, no?
        That’s got zilch to do with Trump or Schmump.

      • Mooser
        Mooser
        September 3, 2018, 4:06 pm

        “according to the rules of evidence in positive sciences”

        Oh, I’ll settle for “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. That’s the usual legal standard.

        Someday you must tell me what Trump has done for you, besides not starting the life-on-earth-ending WW3 which Hillary had scheduled for the first 100 minutes of her Presidency.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus
        September 3, 2018, 4:26 pm

        Again, what’s this got to do with any trumps or mumps? Don’t keep bringing in unrelated BS and enjoy your remaining few weeks, insh Allah, when you don’t have to crouch under the dinner table.

    • amigo
      amigo
      September 3, 2018, 4:41 pm

      “and the most heinous samantha power ” captADKer

      Geez such unfettered ingratitude.After all she did for Israel.

  15. JWalters
    JWalters
    September 1, 2018, 11:26 pm

    Jimmy Carter’s “White House Diary” chronicles a string of stalls and betrayals by Israeli PM Menachem Begin. These led Carter to understand that the Israelis had no interest in peace, only in continuing to take more land and get rid of more Palestinians. All else was an act.

  16. Maghlawatan
    Maghlawatan
    September 2, 2018, 12:40 am

    I think this is the definitive assessment of Obama

    https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2011/07/14/obama-his-words-his-deeds/

    For Obama, protracted moods of extreme abstraction seem to alternate with spasmodic engagement. The blend is hard to get used to. His detachment from congressional negotiations on health care and cap-and-trade was resented by Democrats, while leaders of the Palestinian Authority were at a loss to account for the dissociation from active pursuit of a settlement that followed his Cairo speech of June 2009.

    , it was clear that after the failure of the most recent shuttle diplomacy and the resignation of George Mitchell on May 13, Obama personally planned to initiate no further negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. He trusted that under the visible pressure of an Arab Spring of their own, now gathering on both sides of Israel’s borders, most Israelis would eventually see his words as a kindly prophecy.

    Netanyahu struck back as if Obama had mounted a deliberate assault with a threat of lasting enmity. Yet Netanyahu’s speech to AIPAC was emollient compared to his speech to Congress on May 24. There he made a conquest that can have few precedents. He began with brash familiarity, in a backslapping salute to Joe Biden; spoke with boyish humor about his early years as a diplomat within the Beltway, and his knowledge of an America beyond it; reestablished, with passion and simplicity, the close ties between America and Israel that Obama had sought to view with an impartial loyalty; in short, pulled out all the stops to undercut President Obama on his native ground. The speech itself was a tissue of clichés, anecdotes, and half-truths, but delivered with dramatic buoyancy and urgency as if his life depended on it.

    Congress gave Netanyahu twenty-nine standing ovations. How did he do it? By presenting himself to his audience as an all-but-American politician—one less lucky than they, and more brave, a leader with a fight on his hands; a real fight, in his own backyard and not six thousand miles away.

    Considered as a response to this predicament, Obama’s speech at the State Department, with its broad-gauge pronouncements and its candor regarding Palestine, was utterly overmatched by Netanyahu’s speech to Congress. It is an unhappy fact of politics that victory goes to the pressure that will not let up. Netanyahu’s belief in his immoderate purpose is stronger than Obama’s belief in his moderate purpose.
    Obama’s real trouble has come, however, in his attempts to inhabit the present. He is slower to react than most people, far slower than most politicians. He gave away six months of the health care debate without pressing his initial advantage while the resistance sprang up all around, the Tea Party was created, and congressional enemies gained on him. He let the controversy over his birth certificate blow up to absurd proportions over two and a half years before dispelling all doubts at a stroke in a press briefing that was hastily called and testily managed. At present, he is waiting for Afghanistan to calm down and let him withdraw troops on a deliberate schedule. But things can flare up while you are waiting, or flare up elsewhere and set back every cautious preparation.

    The position of a moderate who aspires to shake the world into a new shape presents a continuous contradiction. For the moderate feels constrained not to say anything startling, and not to do anything very fast. But just as there is trouble with doing things on the old lines, there is trouble, too, with letting people understand things on the old lines. At least, there is if you have your sights set on changing the nature of the game. Obama is caught in this contradiction, and keeps getting deeper in it, like a man who sinks in quicksand both the more he struggles and the more he stays still. This is one lesson of his passage from inaction in Egypt to action in Libya, and from his summons of reform in Cairo in June 2009 to the guarded speech from the sidelines in May 2011.

    • uh...clem
      uh...clem
      September 3, 2018, 6:53 pm

      Maghlawatan: I’m really surprised by your comment – you’re normally one of the really critical thinkers on MW. I think this is the “definitive assessment of Obama” – https://www.paulstreet.org/obama-hollow-man-filled-ruling-class-ideas/

      • Maghlawatan
        Maghlawatan
        September 4, 2018, 2:40 am

        Obama was put in place to prevent economic reform. Macron in France would be similar

        https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/30/financial-crash-capitalism-banking-crisis

        “September 2008 was a near-death experience for global capitalism. At one point there were fears for the entire western banking system; when the recession was at its worst, industrial production was collapsing more quickly than it had in the early stages of the Great Depression. It was that bad. The moment was ripe for politicians brave enough to state the obvious: that the crisis was the result of removing all the shackles on global financial capitalism put in place for good reason in the 1930s. But social democratic parties failed miserably to come up with a progressive response to the crisis that would have involved redressing the imbalance between capital and labour. They were timid when they should have been brave, and have paid a heavy price as a result.”

        $6trillion in debt is pumped into the global system every year. There are no limits on debt.

        According to the FInancial Times the ratio of global debt to GDP went from 179% in 2008 to 217%.

        40% of Americans earn so little that the recent tax cut was wiped out by the rise in oil price it provoked. The anger of the losers under neoliberalism was harnessed by Trump and is now aimed at the media.

        This is the legacy of Obama.

        The next crash will be Biblical.
        Israel is a substory of global plutocracy. When plutocracy collapses Israel will be left very exposed.

        The only way to change the system is to develop a policy program, put it to the electorate and win.
        The next few years are going to be wild.

  17. James Canning
    James Canning
    September 2, 2018, 1:08 pm

    Yet more confirmation of the ability of the Israel lobby to prevent the US from acting in the best interests of the American people, in matters pertaining to Israel. Sad, and very dangerous.

  18. annie
    annie
    September 2, 2018, 11:29 pm

    phil, this is an incredible article. you at your best. traveling, as you know. i started it days ago — and just finished it. wow. thank you, from me, you biggest fan.

  19. Atlantaiconoclast
    Atlantaiconoclast
    September 3, 2018, 8:32 pm

    Obama, the cruel hoax, only has himself to blame. It wasn’t Netanyah who chose NEVER to apply any meaningful pressure against Israel for its continuous violation of numerous UN Sec Council resolutions. It wasn’t Netanyah who agreed to give Israel 40 billion over 10 years. It wasn’t Netanyahu who chose to give American support to Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria in a twisted attempt to violently oust a secular Baathist regime there. Obama should get NO cover.

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      September 4, 2018, 1:25 am

      Obama should get NO cover

      Not only he should get no cover, he should get bed and cover for life for being the most egregious criminal against peace and war criminal or the current century, that far is obvious.

      But then, he’s not only getting cover but free propaganda here on this site.

  20. Qualtrough
    Qualtrough
    September 5, 2018, 1:38 am

    “You have to bomb something,” one unnamed expert tells him.

    “What?” Rhodes ask.

    “It doesn’t matter. You have to use military force somewhere to show that you will bomb something.”

    As cold and evil as any word or act by MS 13, Al Qaeda, or ISIS.

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