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Fire the Mideast Policy Team!

Author: Leslie H. Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Senior Fellow
July 7, 2010
The Daily Beast


Whoever advised President Obama to flay Israel publicly until this week should be fired. Only advisers with no experience in dealing with Israel could have believed that Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Netanyahu would bow to public attacks.

And whoever advised Mr. Obama to kneel rhetorically to Mr. Netanyahu in public on Tuesday should also be fired. The only thing accomplished by this embarrassing tactic was to put Israel in a position to call the shots on Mideast policy for the rest of Obama's first term.

Were the culprits the non-foreign policy White House intimates – chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and political honcho David Axelrod? Axelrod knows nothing about this, and worse, Emanuel thinks he does because he lived in Israel. Was George Mitchell, the president's Mideast negotiator, the brains behind the foolishness? Surely, he's had enough experience working with Israelis to know better. Did General James Jones, the National Security Adviser, remain silent, again? And of course, where was Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Strangely for someone so adept at pleasing Israel's constituents in America, she spent a lot of time this past year publicly beating up on Israeli leaders. Has she been led astray by the pro-Arab contingent of the State Department?

Or is the guilty party none other than President Obama himself? The more we find out about who makes decisions in the White House on every subject from nuclear weapons to coloring of Easter eggs, it turns out to be the man in the Oval Office himself. He's the expert. He's the decider. He invites everyone to state his or her piece or peace, then he tells them what to do – and seemingly without question, they do his bidding.

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