Netanyahu’s Quiet Success – by Daniel Pipes


Almost unnoticed, Binyamin Netanyahu won a major victory last week when Barack Obama backed down on a signature policy initiative. This about-face suggests that U.S.-Israel relations are no longer headed for the disaster I have been fearing.

Four months ago, the new U.S. administration unveiled a policy that suddenly placed great emphasis on stopping the growth in Israeli “settlements.” (A term I dislike but use here for brevity’s sake.) Surprisingly, American officials wanted to stop not just residential building for Israelis in the West Bank but also in eastern Jerusalem, a territory legally part of Israel for nearly thirty years.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the initiative on May 27, announcing that the president of the United States “wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions,” adding for good measure, “And we intend to press that point.” On June 4, Obama weighed in: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. … It is time for these settlements to stop.” A day later, he reiterated that “settlements are an impediment to peace.” On June 17, Clinton repeated: “We want to see a stop to the settlements.” And so on, in a relentless beat.

Focusing on settlements had the inadvertent but predictable effect of instantly impeding diplomatic progress. A delighted Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority responded to U.S. demands on Israel by sitting back and declaring that “The Americans are the leaders of the world. … I will wait for Israel to freeze settlements.” Never mind that Abbas personally had negotiated with six Israeli prime ministers since 1992, each time without an offer to stop building settlements: why should he now demand less than Obama?

In Israel, Obama’s diktat prompted a massive popular swing away from him and toward Netanyahu. Further, Netanyahu’s offer of even temporary limitations on settlement growth in the West Bank prompted a rebellion within his Likud Party, led by the up-and-coming Danny Danon.

Poster showing Barak Obama in Arab headdress, seen in downtown Jerusalem on June 14, 2009.

The geniuses of the Obama administration eventually discerned that this double hardening of positions was dooming their naïve, hubristic plan to settle the Arab-Israeli conflict within two years. The One’s reconciliation with reality became public on Sept. 22 at a “summit” he sponsored with Abbas and Netanyahu (really, a glorified photo opportunity). Obama threw in the towel there, boasting that “we have made progress” toward settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and offering as one indication that Israelis “have discussed important steps to restrain settlement activity.”

Those eight words of muted praise for Netanyahu’s minimal concessions have major implications:

  • Settlements no longer dominate U.S.-Israel relations but have reverted back to their usual irritating but secondary role.
  • Abbas, who keeps insisting on a settlement freeze as though nothing has chaed, suddenly finds himself the odd man out in the triangle.
  • The center-left faction of the Obama administration (which argues for working with Jerusalem), as my colleague Steven J. Rosen notes, has defeated the far-left faction (which wants to squeeze the Jewish state).

Ironically, Obama supporters have generally recognized his failure while critics have tended to miss it. A Washington Post editorial referred to the Obama administration’s “miscalculations” and Jonathan Freedland, a Guardian columnist, noted that “Obama’s friends worry that he has lost face in a region where face matters.”

In contrast, Obama critics focused on his announcing, just one day after the mock summit, that “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements” – a formulaic reiteration of long-established policy that in no way undoes the concession on settlements. Some of those I admire most missed the good news: John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, stated that Obama “put Israel on the chopping block,” while critics within the Likud Party accused Netanyahu of having “prematurely celebrated” an American policy shift. Not so. Policy winds can always change, but last week’s capitulation to reality has the hallmarks of a lasting course correction.

I have repeatedly expressed deep worries about Obama’s policy versus Israel, so when good news does occur (and this is the second time of late), it deserves recognition and celebration. Hats off to Bibi – may he have further successes in nudging U.S. policy onto the right track.

Next on the agenda: the Middle East’s central issue, namely, Iran’s nuclear buildup.

  • lawrenceigould

    Will the future prove that Pipes is correct in his belief that Obama's backtracking on support for freezing settlementss and expansion of Israeli construction in East Jerusalem suburbs is permanent while his statement at the UN, one day after he abondoned support for fhose policies, that “America doe not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” is merely a harmless reiteration of long established policy?

    Pipes is correction in giving Bibi credit for influencing Obama to give in on his opposition to settlements and growth of Israeli residences in East Jerusalem suburbs. But there are no real signs that State Department opposition to settlements and Israeli expansion in East Jerusalem has ended.

    Within the next several months, we will learn if Obama's change in policy is a sea change, or only temporary. A change in philosophy after 20 years of silence about Wright's anti-Semitic and anti-Amereican harangues and friendship with Rashid Khalidi is hardly reason to believe that Obama has changed permanently his attitude towards Israel and its Jews.

    Obama's appeasement policies towards Iran's militant Islamic leaders is reason enough to withhold judgment for a while.

  • ostap_bulba

    Obama also said in his speech that Israel must “stop the occupation that began in 1967″ and called for a “contiguous” Palestinian state. His position is therefore more hostile toward Israel than that of the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. The Soviets, after all, merely called on Israel to withdraw to pre-war borders.

  • Flowerknife_us

    Obama changes his tune all the time. Creating conditions where Israel has no choice but to deal with Iran renders all “Peace Talks” moot. Iran's proxies will see to that.

  • georgealbert

    Obama is more than willing to sacrifice Israel. Look, now the BHO regime is taking the position that it is too late for a military action against Iran because it will only buy us a year of so. Well, even if that is true, and it is not, a year is long time to either plan another military action or to help the Iranian people throw the bums out and come back to civilization. Prof. Pipes is, I hate to say, having pipe dream on Obama. BHO is willing to see a few million dead Jews if it means he can pass a healthcare bill that will give Obama a legacy he wants. After all, sitting back and allowing the Holocaust has not really hurts FDR's legacy has it??

  • 2maxpower

    I don't see any reason for optimism here. Yes it was just a photo-op for o-bum-a, PLUS a power play …make the Israelis come to me.

    it will be more of the same from obama. at least Netanyahu is holding firm.

    I have said it before. “no talks” until the arabs show they are for peace”

  • bubba4

    You are outrageous and retarded.

  • dgene

    Did anyone doubt that Bibi would score against a Narcissist Marxist Buffoon motormouth like Barry ?

    The issue is whether Iran gets bombed or not.

  • cochavi

    Perhaps Pipes is right. Based on what Obama said afterwards about fixing the ME, I doubt Obama has any intention but to push us to the wall at every chance.

    Personally, I don't care. It's obvious that Bibi needs to say 'no' to the US under Obama at every turn. It's very irritating to listen to this fraud lecture us about how we and the Pals are 'just the same', but I think the American voters will end his reign soon enough.

  • AlFranken1

    re: “After all, sitting back and allowing the Holocaust has not really hurts FDR's legacy has it??”

    I appreciate your honesty because this is what is probably in the minds of paranoid Jews. — this thought is the driving force behind all the rhetoric.

    The socialist, communists, terrorist, — all are connected because one can be an element of the set and therefore is a threat.

    i.e. — Hitler was a socialist therefore socialists hate Jews, Communists were allies of Hitler and therefore they hate Jews, terrorists definitely hate Jews regardless of the dispute over territory.

    They are all subsets of the set call “we hate Jews”

    Sense FDR and Obama are both Democrats, they have liberal tendencies and therefor are socialists and therefor hate Jews ( even thou most Jews are liberals).
    If these two Presidents don't hate Jews they at least don't care about them which conveniently fits them in the subset with communists.

    After all, FDR didn't go to war with Germany for the sake of the Jews, it was for other reasons — like for the best interest of the U.S.

  • AlFranken1

    re: “but I think the American voters will end his reign soon enough.”

    You are probably right but maybe not for the reasons you may be assuming:

    I have turned more liberal after the election of George W. for some complicated reasons but I'm slowing approaching the center for the following reason:

    I didn't realize this during the Bush Administration but I did understand George W.'s motives and it wasn't for the sake of Israel at all!

    Even thou I didn't vote for Obama, I felt that Obama was the better choice over McCain because I felt we needed to go into a completely different direction then the one George W. sent us. And this attitude is more directed towards foreign policy.

    If you sit back and look at how George W. shaped the M.E. today, you should agree with me that George W. has made the M.E. far more dangerous for Israel than it was before we invaded Iraq.

    When Saddam was alive, Iraq was Iran's enemy. Now, Iran has as much if not more influence in Iraq than we do.

    Syria, being Iran's ally and being much closer to Israel while hating Israel as much as Iran does, Israel is in far more danger than it has ever been sense her existence.

    There was a reason why we sold arms to the allies of the Taliban and Al Qaeda during the Soviet invasion just as there were reasons why we supported both Iraq and Iran during the their eight year long war — to weaken all our enemies.

    Iran, who obviously has nuclear ambitions now has more influence around Israel than ever before.

    When we ultimately leave Iraq, no matter if it is next year, the next decade or twenty years or so down the line, Iran will still be their neighbor who has something in common with each other — the destruction of Israel.

    You can thank your conservative President for that one.

    We will vote Obama out but not because he is a liberal, it will be for keeping either side of our political parties from dominating our government for the purpose of setting their narrow agenda.

    Obama will get fired for the same reason why the Republicans got fired over the last four years.

  • nnatan



    One can easily understand that the terrified Rabbis had been completely anesthetized by their ruthless Idumean Tyrant, Herod, who had been arbitrarily nominated by the Senate of Rome “King of the Jews” (Later this same appellation will be ironically affixed by Pontius Pilate to the cross where Jesus is crucified).

    But the fact that, during two thousand years, not one single Rabbi (or Scholar) had stood up and expressed his revolting indignation at the profanation and desacralization of the third Temple of Jerusalem by Herod is one of the most stupefying event in the history of mankind’s ideologies and beliefs.
    Herod built an upper floor on top of the Holy of Holies, and furthermore the ceiling of this Most Holy Place was pierced with holes allowing lift cages to descend from the Upper Floor down into the Holy of Holies.
    Now, even the least talented student of any Yeshiva (Jewish religious school) will tell you that above and under the Holy of Holies there could not be neither an attic, nor a maintenance room, nor a cave (which, very incidentally, is the case in the Dome of the Rock where there is a grotto beneath the “Rock”)
    Why ? Because atop the Holy of Holies, the Divine Cloud (or Shekinah) descended directly from the Infinite Heaven on the Ark of the Covenant to meet the Intercessor of the Jews (Moses and after him the High Priest) in order to perpetuate the Moral Pact between the Eternal and Humanity.
    There, above the atonement cover between the two Cherubim which are over the Ark of the Covenant, I will meet you (Moses), and give you everything in commandment to the Children of Israel. (Exodus 25 : 23)
    This Upper Storey, paganly invented by Herod and built on the top of the Holy Place and on the top of the Most Holy Place, existed, neither in Moses’ Tent of the Meeting, nor in the first Temple of Solomon, nor in the second Temple rebuilt by Zurubbabel and Jeshua at the return of exile of Babylon, nor in this same second Temple, renovated by the Hasmoneans.
    In fact, Herod had invented this Upper Floor in order to be able, clandestinely, to descend himself into the Holy of Holies, with, occasionally, imperial guests as for instance Agrippa, the son in law of Augustus (who has been, inter alia, the most famous Hydraulic Systems developer in Antiquity and who shared with his friend Herod this passion for technology innovation). With this Temple Upper Floor Herod could offer to himself and to Pagan elites a “Judaic initiation” equivalent, for instance, to the much favoured initiation of the Eleusinian Mysteries.
    The Rabbinical reaction to this terrible desacralization of the Mystical essence of the Herodian Temple has been, and is still, totally absurd and incongruous :
    Here after, the extract of the Rabbinical Tractate Middoth of the Mishnah displays an incredible scope of naivety, or of blindness, specifically when concerning this third Temple Upper Floor usefully invented by the Potentate Herod :
    And in this Upper Room of the Sanctuary there were trap openings down into the Holy of Holies through which they would lower down craftsmen in cages, so that they could not feed their gaze on the Holy of Holies. (Middoth : 4 : 5)
    The vast ocean of Rabbinical Literature allows sometimes discoveries of treasures of thought, seldom equaled. But, in same time, in particular in its Aggadic aspects (stories rather legendary) one can discover also in this Rabbinical literature disconcerting accounts of vertiginous acrobatic reflexions.
    Indeed, in this respect, the Rabbis, Authors of the Middoth Tractate, indicate, with a very sincere and quasi-unconscious meticulousness, how anybody can walk above the Holy Place and above the Most Holy Place, and how any fellow can even penetrate down, by using small “elevators”, into the Holy of Holies, which, in addition, had lost its Mystical Perfect Cubic form proportions prescribed by G*d to Moses (5 meters x 5 meters x 5 meters) and respected by Solomon (10 meters x 10 meters x 10 meters) and which had been transformed casually by Herod into a square well, 10 meters x 10 meters x 30 meters high according to Flavius Josephus, or 20 meters high according to Tractate Middoth.
    Now, in this Most Holy Place of the third Temple, which thanks to Herod’s architectural modification anybody could then desacralize at will, only the High Priest had the religious right to penetrate, once a year (Kippur), for a very short moment of a few minutes to meet The Eternal and purify All Israel, and this, after one week of intense preparation, made of rigorous and ceaseless immersions in living source Waters inside the Sanctuary.
    Therefore, one will wonder, very vainly, what kind of work these pseudo “craftsmen” would have had to carry out in a Sacred Place, where there was strictly nothing since the Ark of the Covenant had disappeared, where nobody ever penetrated, and where the most complete darkness reigned.
    But, moreover, in the field of total absurdity thus evoked, how many holes would have been necessary, actually, to drill in the ceiling of the Most Holy Place, so that these craftsmen of such eminently virtual work, locked up in a cage probably measuring 2 meters by 2 meters, would have been able to achieve such completely imaginary tasks, in a space of 10 meters by 10 meters out of reach from the cages, and without never being allowed to have a glance at the interior of the Holy of Holies ?!
    In an eschatological perspective one could say that this third Herodian Temple desacralized in such a cynical way was doomed to be destroyed.

    Now this stubborn millenary blindness of the Rabbis can, most probably, be explained by their desire to keep a mystical devotion for a Temple of Jerusalem mummified, rather than to serve a living Temple where they would have to share their power with the hereditary Priests descending from Aaron, as prescribed by the Bible, and where they would feel obliged to revive animals sacrifices :
    - Concerning the distribution of powers it may be usefully recalled that the Pharisee Rabbis did not only share power with the “Cohanim” (Hereditary Priests) but most often did take over all the power in the Sanhedrin of the Temple. Furthermore there are quite a lot of Rabbis Cohen in the world…
    - Concerning animals sacrifices, those bloody Rites were not specific to the Jewish Religion : almost all Civilizations in Antiquity did practice Animal Sacrifices. And almost all Civilizations have rightfully forsaken these initial primitive Rites.
    The true, unique and revolutionary Invention of the Jewish Religion was the institution of the Worship of a Moral Pact uniting the Jews to YHVH and to be preserved and perpetuated in the Ark of Covenant, in the Temple.

    And the development of this glorious Cult, celebrating day after day the Moral Covenant, allowed in fact, progressively, to install the Jewish-Christian Moral infrastructure which is fathering World Democracy for Humanity.

    Dazzling confirmation of this sacrilegious desacralization by the Pagan Architecture of the Herodian Temple, was given by the representation of the Temple which was made on the coins, struck at the time of the last Jewish Revolt, led by Bar Kockba and Rabbi Akiba, -the main Architect of the Mishnah.
    This Revolt against the Romans aimed, in 135, at rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem which had been destroyed by Emperor Titus in 70 : Obviously, Bar Kockba and Rabbi Akiba, who knew perfectly the Structure of the third Herodian Temple, made a point of fully restoring the Moses-Solomon Sacred Architecture with all its original Mystical Cubic Significance :
    Now, all these Coins of Bar Kockba, do not display obviously the height of the Pagan Upper Floors which had been installed on the top of the Temple by Herod.
    Moreover, the verticality so characteristic of the third Herodian Temple is replaced by a deliberately horizontal vision, with, only as a vestige of the Herodian concept, the tetrastyle Porch (probably because its visual memory was still too present 70 years after its destruction, and, anyhow, did not affect the Mystical Jewish Power of the Temple).
    And then on this Temple, which would have been thus restored by Rabbi Akiba and Bar Kockba, the Shekinah could have, again, descended on the top of their authentic 4th Temple, at the absolute zenith of the Holy of Holies, to deposit on the Ark of the Covenant its Divine Protection, in order to perpetuate gloriously the solemn and imprescriptible Rite of Celebration of the Moral Pact granted to Israel by YHWH.
    ***To conclude with this Op-ed, we would add that it proceeds from a quite bizarre state of mind to think that Mystical Certitudes cannot be studied and analyzed, especially when these mystical certitudes result from an initial malevolence made of egocentrism, cruelty, cold manipulation and ruthless thirst for power.

    Natan September 2009

    Natan is the Author of “The Real History of the Temple of Jerusalem”
    {=On-line at : }
    and the Author of “How to win the Ideology War against Suicide Terrorism”
    (-without wasting uselessly Billions of Dollars and many lives of soldiers-)
    {=On-line at : }

  • pipo

    Daniel Pipes should be given a one-way ticket to Tehran – all expenses paid by his sponsor AIPAC. Perhaps, he'll get a first hand look of Iran's nuclear buildup.

    While he discusses zionazism with Ahmadinajad, perhaps the president should inform him as to why it makes no sense for an American to want a country accused of international war crimes to “nudge U.S policy onto the right track.”