Blaming America First


It's so weird watching hawkish politicians who are usually castigating Obama for weakness with respect to foreign leaders suddenly turning around and accusing the president of ... standing up for America's interests:

Lieberman questioned why the initial flap was allowed to continue on the Sunday talk shows. Singling out David Axelrod, he noted that calling it an “affront” serves nobody’s interests. From there, McCain said the escalation “may be giving the impression to the wrong people, the neighbors of Israel have stated time after time that they are bent on Israel’s extinction.”

McCain and Lieberman previously went to Israel itself to undermine the foreign policy of the US president, by stating that they would bar any attempt to use aid or loan guarantee leverage against Israel in its continuing aggressive settlement policy. The Washington Post puts almost all the blame for the tension on - surprise! - the US. In fact, they use the term "bludgeon" to describe the president's understandable reaction to Netanyahu's insult of Biden:

A larger question concerns Mr. Obama's quickness to bludgeon the Israeli government. He is not the first president to do so; in fact, he is not even the first to be hard on Mr. Netanyahu. But tough tactics don't always work: Last year Israelis rallied behind Mr. Netanyahu, while Mr. Obama's poll ratings in Israel plunged to the single digits. The president is perceived by many Israelis as making unprecedented demands on their government while overlooking the intransigence of Palestinian and Arab leaders. If this episode reinforces that image, Mr. Obama will accomplish the opposite of what he intends.

In other words, the success or failure of the US president's foreign policy in the Middle East should be measured by his ratings in Israel, rather than his determination of the national interest of the United States. How on earth did this get so upside down?

Notice that in this case, Israel means a government beholden to the most extreme elements of the Israeli religious right. The Republican party is also lining up behind the Netanyahu government against the president of the United States:

America's first post-partisan President anyone? Maybe it was George H.W. Bush. He managed to unite everyone against him, at least on Israel. Unfortunately, most of the Democrats are putting party over principle in this dispute - at least so far.

Eric Cantor calls asking the Israeli government to stop provocative settlement building as a way to build trust toward peace negotiations is "beyond irresponsible". He won't even condemn the planned Jerusalem settlement.

(Photo: Tim Sloan/Getty.)