Sunday, March 14, 2010

What Israel understands in a year “gone to waste”

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 3/14/10

Israel understands that when America sends a high school hall monitor to do the job of a diplomat, there will be advantages. Was Secretary of State Clinton really shocked (again) at the announcement of new building in East Jerusalem, “accidentally” (strategically) announced during Joe Biden’s visit? 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) is aware that new political dynamics are awakening in Israel. Did the State Department forget to renew Secretary Clinton’s library card again?

American diplomacy is fatally flawed with Secretary Clinton at the helm. She is as she said she would be in her campaign, a cultural emissary for Global Clintonism. To paraphrase Eleanor Roosevelt, “I am my husband’s scold.” The season has long passed.

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. 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 administration has shown itself to be vulnerable in Copenhagen. Hillary was shocked and called the Israeli announcement “insulting.” As she and Obama were shocked at Copenhagen when the Chinese took the initiative in talks without even inviting them to the table. It strategically put the opponent (us) at a psychological disadvantage (the object of war, says Sun Tzu) and began to establish a new Chinese relationship in world authority and a new global paradigm.

Only Joe and Hillary would actually believe that the announcement of the settlements during Biden’s visit was completely accidental. Like the Chinese, the Israelis judge the strengths and weaknesses of the “superpower” – a phrase we don’t hear that much now – by its performance and personnel. Real Superpowers have real State Departments.

America has both hindered and advanced the progress of Israel and China these past 50 years. But in spite of what Bill and Hillary think of themselves, they are not existential necessities to Israel and China. And when they and the America they represent become obsolete, 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.

As NY Times columnist Tom Friedman wrote this Sunday, what the Israelis did “. . . played right into a question a lot of people are asking about the Obama team: how tough are these guys?” Not tough.

Relations with China entered a breach at Copenhagen. I am convinced that we are seeing a similar breach with Israel. Israel today finds two basic American attitudes toward Israel: Tom Friedman’s and Pastor Hagee’s. Success in the war in Iraq may have made one of those positions historically irrelevant to Israel’s immediate needs and interests. Both the Chinese and the Israelis seem to have correctly sized up this administration in, as Senator Scott Brown said this weekend, an entire year that “has gone to waste.”