Sunday, August 09, 2009

Robinson Medal of Freedom Nomination Part of the Obama Campaign to Pressure Israel

In a column published in the Jerusalem Post, Richard Baehr and Ed Lasky of the American Thinker explain why they have concluded that President Barack Obama is no friend of Israel. Now one might think that the President's policy toward Israel has little or nothing to do with nominations for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor that a President may bestow.

That would be naive. The recent and controversial nomination of Mary Robinson, the first female President of Ireland and the former UN high commissioner for human rights, for the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is part and parcel of the continuing campaign by the Obama Administration to pressure Israel into dangerous concessions in peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Ms. Robinson, during her UN tenure, presided over the infamous 2001 Durban conference on racism, which descended into an anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate fest. The late Congressional Representative Tom Lantos (D-California), the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, and a member of the U.S. delegation to the Durban conference that walked out of the event, ascribed much of the blame for what transpired at Durban on Ms. Robinson. "To many of us present at the events at Durban," Lantos wrote, "it is clear that much of the responsibility for the debacle rests on the shoulders of U.N. High commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who in her role as secretary-general of the conference failed to provide the leadership needed to keep the conference on track."

That criticism might amount to little more than a critique of poor management and administrative skills. However, Ms. Robinson has also been a harsh public critic at Israel's defensive actions against terrorist missile attacks from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Max Brooks, the Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, writing in an op-ed appearing at JTA, notes that according to Michael Rubin writing in National Review, Robinson’s U.N. Human Rights Commission voted on a decision that condoned suicide bombings as a legitimate means to establish Palestinian statehood shortly after Robinson pushed for investigation of the “Jenin massacre” -- a massacre that never actually happened.

It is probably not coincidental that another Obama Medal of Freedom honoree is Bishop Desmond Tutu, also a fierce and unrelenting critic of Israel. Bishop Tutu and Ms. Robinson appear together in the photo above, along with Graca Macel, the wife of Nelson Mandela. The three were attending the inaugural meeting of "the Elders," a group of world figures organized by Sir Richard Branson. Charter members also included Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter. While one assumes that an anti-Israel bias is not a formal criteria for membership in the Elders, it seems to help establish one's credibility.

The organized Jewish community has generally restrained itself from public criticism of the Bishop Tutu honor, probably for fear of alienating African Americans. But the Los Angeles Times reports that Jewish congressional leaders (who are almost entirely Democrats) and many mainstream Jewish organizations have expressed dismay at the award to Ms. Robinson. Ms. Robinson, herself a model of consistency, has blamed the controversy on "a lot of bullying by certain elements of the Jewish community. They bully people who try to address the severe situation in Gaza and the West Bank," she told a radio network, according to an account in the Belfast Telegraph.

Some critics have suggested that the nomination of Ms. Robinson represented no more than an unfortunate breakdown in the White House vetting process. Such a gaffe would be too incredible to be believed. As Tevi Troy, a former White House senior aide in the George W. Bush administration, points out in a column co-authored with his brother, McGill University History Professor Gil Troy, in the New York Post:

The White House has careful procedures for selecting winners of awards like this, and for running these names by key White House offices to avoid trouble.
This process of "clearing" the 16 Medal of Freedom recipients surely allowed officials such as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senior Adviser David Axelrod, both savvy political operatives, to sign off or object before the list became final.

Incidentally, the Troys criticize the nomination on account of Ms. Robinson's anti-American views, not just her attacks on Israel.

So if poor vetting is not an explanation, what is the purpose of the Medal of Freedom nominations of Bishop Tutu and Ms. Robinson? It would be an inaccurate oversimplification to say that President Obama is "anti-Israel." Rather, President Obama has made a Palestinian-Israel peace treaty, resulting in the creation of a Palestinian state, his first-priority foreign policy objective, and will allow nothing, including Israel's legitimate security concerns, to stand in the way. Because the Palestinians will not move off their maximalist positions, in order to achieve its objective the Obama Administration has no choice but to apply more pressure for Israeli concessions.

To thwart potential domestic political opposition to this approach from the mainstream American Jewish leadership, the Administration is trying to drive a wedge between American Jewish voters, whose basic instinct is to support a Democratic President, and their traditional organizational leadership. As the American Jewish community has become increasingly secular, its ties and traditional support to Israel have markedly attenuated. President Obama and his advisers are aware of this, and intend to exploit the trend. Consequently the Obama Administration has gone to great efforts to increase the White House access and visibility of left-wing Jewish organizations such as J Street and Peace Now, even though they represent a fringe of the Jewish community. I wrote about this campaign previously in a post entitled "How J Street Aids and Abets Obama's Anti-Israel Policies." Ed Lasky, in a post at the American Thinker, concurs.

This domestic campaign will be coupled with a continuing effort to pressure, delegitimize and perhaps even remove the Netanyahu government in Israel. This tactic has a precedent from the Clinton Presidency, when Bill Clinton became frustrated at the insistence by an earlier Netanyahu government that the Palestinians halt terror attacks before Israel made additional territorial concessions. President Clinton dispatched James Carville to Israel to advise the 1999 political campaign of Labor Party opposition leader Ehud Barak. When Barak unseated Netanyahu in the Knesset elections that followed, President Clinton remarked that he felt like "a kid with a new toy." The Obama Administration is now initiating a similar campaign against poor Bibi Netanyahu, who once again finds himself in the cross-hairs of a Democrat in the White House.

The Medal of Freedom nominations of Ms. Robinson and Bishop Tutu are a not-so-subtle message to both the Netanyahu government in Israel and American Jewish leaders who might be inclined to come to its defense. There is a new sheriff in town, and some of his good friends aren't friends of yours.

Fortunately, the Good Lord watches over fools, drunkards, the United States and the Jewish people. Ironically, what will ultimately will rescue Israel will be the Palestinians, who can't take "yes" for an answer. Already they are encouraged by the public rift between the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu government, and are reacting in typical fashion. Ha'Aretz reports that at the recently concluded convention of Fatah (the so-called moderate Palestinian faction), Fatah rejected interim agreements with Israel and adopted a position paper that called for Jerusalem to be "returned free of settlements and settlers." The position paper does not differentiate between the areas of Jerusalem (including the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter) captured by Israel in 1967 and the areas of the City that have been part of Israel and its capital since the ceasefire that ended the 1949 War of Independence. In other words, Fatah is demanding that all of Jerusalem, including the seat of the Knesset, be "judenrein," cleansed of Jews.

Thus Fatah seems to be following the path previously taken by the late Yassir Arafat (may the name of the wicked be erased), who rejected Bill Clinton's offer at Camp David in August 2000 of a Palestinian state covering 95% of Gaza, Judea and Samaria, with additional territory in Israel to be ceded to make up for the loss of the other 5%; and Arab sovereignty over East Jerusalem, including the Moslem and Christian Quarters of the Old City and the Temple Mount. Had Arafat accepted, the Palestinians could have used the resulting "peace agreement" as a tangible interim step toward the eventual destruction of Israel, just as Hamas has used the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza to increase the military threat to Israel. Arafat's response, however, was to repudiate the deal proposed by Bill Clinton and Ehud Barak, and initiate the Second Intifada.

If the Palestinians react similarly now, Israel and the Jewish people will once more quite literally have God to thank for the resoluteness of their enemies.

8/10/2009 Update: At Commentary's Contentions blog, Jennifer Rubin concurs that the Robinson nomination was not a vetting error, but comes to an even more sinister conclusion:
One can’t help but conclude that Robinson was chosen precisely because and not in spite of her worldview, which differs not that appreciably from Obama’s. Yes, Obama chose not to attend Durban II—that was a bridge too far. But let’s get real—is it more likely that the Obama team “missed” the entire focus of Robinson’s career or that she embodies in meaningful ways their vision of the world and underlying unease with American exceptionalism? They would have us believe the former—pleading incompetence. But the more one recalls Robinson’s career, the weaker that excuse seems.


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