Obama’s diplomacy


John Bolton and the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg may not agree on whether it’s a good thing, but both see major changes taking place in U.S. foreign policy.

In what we hope is turning into a weekly column, Goldberg asserts that "in the space of one week, President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have knocked down no fewer than five long-standing pillars of American foreign policy from the Bush years and earlier, leaving Israel and other countries affected to confront a transformed world of diplomacy."

Jewish groups, several of whom embraced Bush’s approach, are trying to adjust:

It was a tour de force that breached red lines against dealing with those deemed terrorists or terrorist supporters that pro-Israel advocates had long maintained under the protective black-and-white umbrella of the preceding Bush administration. Yet mainstream Jewish reaction has been muted, in part, perhaps, out of a reluctance to break with the new administration.

Jewish leaders also perceive that almost all these actions include among their goals an effort to weave a new and intricate web around Iran, seen as a primary strategic, even existential, threat to Israel. They appear prepared to give the administration’s new approach some time, albeit a limited amount.

Bolton, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and darling of neoconservatives, points to signs of stepped up focus on Israeli-Palestinian talks — and thinks it will ultimately translate into pressure on Israel and legitimization of terrorist groups. In his column Friday in The New York Post, he cites the emphasis on achieving a Palestinain statehood:

In this very European view, failure on the Arab-Israeli front presages failure elsewhere. Accordingly, the Obama adminstration has created a negotiating dynamic that puts increasing pressure on Israel, Palestinians, Syria and others.

Almost invariably, Israel is the loser – because Israel is the party most dependent on the United States, most subject to US pressure and most susceptible to the inevitable chorus of received wisdom from Western diplomats, media and the intelligentsia demanding concessions. When pressure must be applied to make compromises, it’s always easier to pressure the more reasonable side.

How will diplomatic pressure work to change Hamas or Hezbollah, where even military force has so far failed? If anything, one can predict coming pressure on Israel to acknowledge the legitimacy of these two terrorist groups, and to negotiate with them as equals (albeit perhaps under some artful camouflage). The pattern is so common that its reappearance in the Mitchell-led negotiations is what is really "inevitable" and "inescapable."

Why would America subject a close ally to this dynamic, playing with the security of an unvarying supporter in world affairs? For America, Israel’s intelligence-sharing, military cooperation and significant bilateral economic ties, among many others, are important national-security assets that should not lightly be put at risk.

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