The Hill invites two established bloggers from either side of the political spectrum to sound off on a designated topic in original commentary each Saturday. This week, two bloggers known for writing on Mideast issues take on the White House reaction to the controversial May 31 Israeli raid on an aid flotilla headed for Gaza, in which nine of the flotilla workers were killed and seven Israeli commandos were injured:



Weak response a reminder that Obama hasn't changed Israeli-Palestinian policy for better

by Adam Horowitz

For many, the Obama administration's response to the recent Israeli attack on the flotilla bringing humanitarian supplies, and political attention, to the besieged Gaza Strip only confirms what they have come to fear in the past year: Not much has changed in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the George W. Bush administration. Although President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaSaagar Enjeti rips Buttigieg for praising Obama after misquote Steyer scores endorsement from key New Hampshire activist Saagar Enjeti dismisses Warren, Klobuchar claims of sexism MORE raised many hopes a year ago with his landmark speech to the Muslim world in Cairo, his administration's apparent unwillingness to apply meaningful pressure on Israel shows the status quo remains.

The administration's tepid statements on the flotilla attack serve as a disappointing reminder of then President-elect Obama’s deafening silence during the Israeli attack on Gaza, know as Operation Cast Lead, in the winter of 2008/09. Like Cast Lead, the administration’s lack of criticism of Israel seems to offer an implicit stamp of approval. In a way, this is even more surprising in the case of the flotilla attack because a U.S. citizen, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, was among the activists killed, in Dogan’s case shot in the head at close range. Despite this tragic loss, Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDemocrats worry they don't have right candidate to beat Trump Trump threatening to fire Mulvaney: report Giuliani pens op-ed slamming 'unprecedented' impeachment inquiry MORE was quoted by Politico as asking “What's the big deal here?” in response to the attack.

The U.S. support of Israel has continued this past week with the adminstration’s endorsement for Israel’s internal investigation into the attack. Israel has attempted to rebuff calls for an international investigation by setting up a tribunal, which leaves serious doubts as to whether it will lead to meaningful accountability for the deaths of the aid workers. The investigation is led by Yaakov Tirkel, a retired Israeli Supreme Court justice who is on record saying he “opposed bringing in foreign observers and made clear that he is not a devotee of drawing conclusions about individuals and dismissing those responsible for failures.” I doubt Judge Tirkel will have a problem with the international observers the Netanyahu government has lined up which includes David Trimble, who recently helped initiate an international “Friends of Israel” campaign. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz couldn’t have summed it up better: “The government's efforts to avoid a thorough and credible investigation of the flotilla affair seem more and more like a farce.”

For many, this U.S. policy only reaffirms what seems to be the nature of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, best summarized by U.S. peace negotiator Aaron David Miller as the U.S. serving as “Israel’s lawyer.” The continuity with the Bush administration has not gone unnoticed. Speaking at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace at the beginning of June, Christopher Heffelfinger remarked, “[Since Cairo] in reality none of the policies have changed. . . And the situation in Gaza, with Israel and the Palestinian question, is no closer to being resolved," and a recent Bloomberg article, "Obama’s Israel Policy Showing No Difference With Clinton-Bush,” made a similar point.

These policies have also hurt U.S. standing as a result. According to a McClatchy report on the anniversary of Obama’s Cairo speech, Gallup surveys in the first half of 2010, before the flotilla attack, already showed a dramatic decline in Arab approval of the U.S. administration, much of which was tied to U.S. inaction on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The U.S. response to the flotilla attack will undoubtedly only further this deterioration. McClatchy quotes Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at the Cairo-based Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, "The American administration's response was in no way appropriate. . . It did not show its other allies how much they cherish their relations. If the situation were reversed and Turkey had attacked Israel, the American response would not have been so passive."

The lack of U.S. pressure on Israel to seriously investigate the flotilla account has brought renewed attention to one of the major conclusions of the Goldstone Report into Operation Cast Lead -- there is a grave need to hold Israel accountable. The report warned “to deny modes of accountability reinforces impunity, and tarnishes the credibility of the United Nations and the international community.” Although the U.S. is unwilling to exert pressure on Israel, international civil society is stepping into the void with the growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS). This is an effort to apply moral, economic and political pressure on Israel to adhere to international law and respect Palestinian human rights. Not surprisingly, the flotilla attack has served as a strong catalyst to this effort. As Stéphane Hessel, former ambassador, Holocaust survivor and participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, recently wrote in the Huffington Post, “global citizens must respond where governments have failed.” 

Adam Horowitz blogs at Mondoweiss.


Obama defends jihad and hurls stun grenades at U.S.-Israel relations

by Jim Hoft

Do you remember when Jesse Jackson said that under Obama Jews would lose all of their clout?

He was right.  In truth, Jews will be lucky if they only lose their clout during the Obama years.

We have never witnessed a more anti-Israel administration in U.S. history. Since President Barack Obama took office he announced a shift in U.S. relations with the Jewish state, and he wasn’t kidding. Obama reportedly refused to dine with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he has refused all military requests since entering office, he has worked with Egypt and Russia to rid Israel of nuclear weapons, and he’s defended jihad. Just last week Obama posed for photos with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the White House, but back in March Barack Obama would not allow any photos taken of him with Netanyahu when he came to the White House for a visit.  It’s no wonder, then, that after a year in office he has lost almost half of his Jewish support.

Obama’s reaction to the Gaza flotilla attack was no less upsetting and bizarre. Even before the ships left port the Israelis and Americans knew that they were up to no good. Coincidentally, Barack Obama’s old pals Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, top bundler Jodie Evans, and his radical buddy Rashid Khalidi are all linked to the flotilla. Bülent Yildirim, the main organizer of the Gaza Flotilla, spoke at a Hamas rally held in Gaza in February 2009 and told the crowd that, “The day has come to remove the embargo on Gaza, Allah willing.” The purpose of the flotilla was always about ending the blockade on Gaza. It was never about feeding starving children. It was about aiding Hamas.

Days before the Gaza flotilla raid the Obama administration instructed Israel to use caution and restraint with the aid boats. They offered this advice knowing that the boats were loaded with radical Islamists. This advice put the Israeli soldiers in grave danger. They weren’t expecting what happened next. When the Israelis boarded the Mavi Marmara all hell broke loose. The armed “peace activists” beat Israeli soldiers with chains and threw stun grenades. They brutally attacked the Israelis with pipes, metal rods, chairs and knives. They tried to kidnap and kill the Israeli soldiers. This was no love boat. In the end, nine “peace activists” were killed in the raid and several activists and Israeli soldiers were wounded.

So what was the reaction at the Obama White House to the attack on the Israeli soldiers?  Well, they certainly didn’t stand up for Israel.  In fact, they immediately told Benjamin Netanyahu to go back to Israel and not use the White House as a backdrop for his comments on the attack. Obama told reporters that the blockade was unsustainable, something even Abbas disagreed with. Two days after the raid, the Obama administration refused to support Israel. And then they called for an investigation even though it had been widely reported that the ship was loaded with terrorists and thugs.

Is this any way to treat America’s most important ally in the Middle East? Of course not. Is it surprising considering the Obama record? No.  Is it reprehensible? Yes.

Last week it was reported that nearly two-thirds of Israelis were disappointed by Obama’s response to the raid. They’re getting used to it.  Obama is losing the trust of Jewish voters. His pathetic reaction to the Gaza flotilla raid won’t help him out any. 

Jim Hoft blogs as Gateway Pundit.