Saturday, March 13, 2010

What Israel understands

by Bernie Quigley

- for The Hill on 3/15/10

What Israel understands: When they send a hall monitor to do the job of a diplomat, there will be advantages. Was Secretary of State Clinton really shocked (shocked, again) at the announcement of new building in East Jerusalem, “accidentally” (strategically) announced during the visit by Vice President Joe Biden? Fool her twice. She and President Obama were played the very same way in Copenhagen by the Chinese. Most everyone who reads the journals (or my blog in the past three weeks) knows new political dynamics are awakening in Israel. Did the State Department forget to renew Secretary Clinton’s library card again?

Israel is a small country living on the knife’s edge, says Aaron David Miller in a Washington Post survey of experts this past Saturday. (Are America and Israel drifting apart?) And any American who doesn’t understand this doesn’t get very far. Kissinger, Carter and James A Baker, Secretary of State in the George H.W. Bush administration, each “made clear that there was a cost to saying no to a superpower . . .”

But this is an administration that has shown itself vulnerable. Hillary was “shocked.” As Obama and the Secretary were shocked at Copenhagen when the Chinese took the initiative in talks without even inviting them to the table. It put the opponent (us) at a psychological disadvantage (the object of war, says Sun Tzu) and began to establish a new relationship in world authority and a new global paradigm.
Obama has already backed down from Israel last year when he called for “an unrealistic comprehensive freeze on settlement, including natural growth” (Miller). This is how you get to know your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses; his or her threshold of will and believability.

Only Joe and Hillary would actually believe that the announcement of the settlement during Biden’s visit was accidental.

Like the Chinese in Copenhagen, the Israelis have judged the strengths and weaknesses of the “superpower” – a phrase we don’t hear that much now – which is America and has learned to leverage its advantage. America has both hindered and helped their progress these past 50 years. But in spite of what Bill and Hillary think, they are not existentially necessities to the world. And when they become irrelevant, the world moves on. But a flaky State Department – and one with political patronage rather than a diplomat at the top – presents opportunities. The Israelis and the Chinese have three more years to take advantage.

“There is a generational shift underway, driving apart post-Zionist Israel and 21st-century America,” says Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute in the Post survey

Perhaps we are at another breach. The Clintons, cultural missionaries more than states persons, seem to be unaware of this. And Obama too is a cultural emissary as well and not a statesman. Both the Chinese and the Israelis seem now to have correctly sized up this administration.