Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Israeli Angst Over Obama?

The left-leaning Israeli newspaper Haaretz doubts whether the expected next leader of Israel, hard right winger Benjamen Netanyahu, will get an easy time of it from Barack Obama:

Obama is surrounded by Jewish advisers who are very familiar with Israeli tricks and stalling tactics, especially when it comes to the settlements (have we mentioned "natural growth" yet?), but they would still want the new president to adopt the tradition of the "special relationship" with the Jewish state. Obama, however, has also been exposed to the school of thought, existing in both the administration and the American think tanks, that argues that the excessive closeness between the U.S. and Israel undermines America's strategic interests in the Arab world.

Brent Scowcroft, one of the shapers of foreign policy under President George H.W. Bush, and according to Time magazine, a strong influence on Obama, has called for a fundamental restructuring of American policy in the Middle East. Scowcroft, who was the boss of the current (and incoming) defense secretary Robert Gates, and a friend of the new national security adviser, James Jones, is proposing that the "special relationship" be adjusted to a "natural relationship." Perhaps such a change would be able to transform celebratory ceremonies into dry agreements.

Let's hope that Obama does indeed chart a new, balanced approach to the Middle East. There's too much at stake to perpetuate the blind patronage of Israel that has contributed so much to unrest in the Middle East.

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