In his March 28th article, “Israel’s Secret Staging Ground,” in Foreign Policy, Mark Perry revealed previously secret information about Israel’s dealings with Azerbaijan; and many are now of the opinion that his article was in reality Obama’s knife in Israel’s back. According to Perry, four unnamed senior diplomats and military intelligence officers leaked information indicating that Israel has purchased air force bases in Azerbaijan for use in preparation for an attack on Iran.
The likelihood that it is mere coincidence that four senior diplomatic and military intelligence sources separately leaked the same information at the same time is very small. So John Bolton holds Obama responsible. Bolton suggests that because Obama’s private efforts to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran have failed, he decided to ratchet up the pressure on Israel by revealing sensitive, secret information that, once available to Iran, will make an Israeli offensive less likely to succeed, and thus be a deterrent to such an offensive. This is surely not the sort of thing that a head of state does to an ally; but it might be the sort of thing that an unconscionably Machiavellian President running for re-election might do if he perceives that an Israeli strike on Iran might be a political liability for him.
The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry denies any collusion with Israel, and, indeed, Azerbaijan is a rather unlikely ally for the Jewish state; but Wikileaks gives a solid basis for such collusion, the motivation for which may be Azerbaijan’s perception of Iran as an existential enemy.
Some Israeli analysts deride the very idea that Israel could be in league with Azerbaijan for a variety of strategic and tactical, military, logistical and political reasons, including the fact that an Iranian revenge attack on Azerbaijan’s oil production facilities could easily destroy the country’s entire economy.
But these commentators all miss the point. It does not matter whether or not the information is correct. Those who leaked it presumably thought that it was. It does not matter that the President says that he did not knife Israel in the back and has “no interest” in leaks of this kind, or that “…the US is crawling with thousands of intelligence and former intelligence officials.” The buck stops at Obama’s desk. He is the Commander-in-Chief of those thousands. Yet his response is dismissive, nonchalant, and insouciant: hardly the appropriate attitude when an ally’s secret defensive plans have been compromised, with potentially existential consequences.
In the context of a broader perspective this incident takes on rather dire dimensions, as it is the latest in a long line of anti-Israel statements and actions originating with Obama or with those working close to him.
This past February Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Iran that he thinks Israel will strike as early as April. So Israel’s ally tells Israel’s enemy when Israel will strike. Surely, for Iran, this is “news you can use.” Was this just a gaff, or was it an intentional leak meant to undermine Israel’s military options? Panetta answers to Obama, but Obama seems to be insouciant, saying nothing.
Another problem regarding Obama’s silence is the recent flap about a State Department official’s refusal to acknowledge that Jerusalem is the official capital of Israel. This official is not to blame. She was merely conforming to the directives of her employer, the U.S. Department of State, which, despite Congress’ Jerusalem embassy act of 1995, and the recent Supreme Court decision recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, continues to ignore U.S. law. The State Department answers to the President, and the President is silent, insouciant, on this issue.
But he did have something to say about the status of Jerusalem on the White House website. Not too long ago Obama himself ordered the removal of all references to “Jerusalem, Israel” from the White House website, replacing them with “Jerusalem.” What could be Obama’s motive for divesting Israel of its capital, and Jerusalem of its Jewish state? Connecting some recent dots will offer an answer to that question.
To a mostly Jewish AIPAC audience on June 4, 2008, front-running Presidential candidate Obama announced that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.” But only a few days later, after being assailed by Arab-American and Palestinian spokespersons, he told a mostly Arab audience that “…it’s going to be up to the parties to negotiate.”  To which audience did he lie?
But as the world had already learned a few months earlier, he was willing to divide not only Jerusalem, but all of Israel. In January, 2008, Obama said he supported the division of Israel into two parts by a Palestinian state. This stunning comment came as Obama, struggling to articulate his stance on key Mideast issues, asserted that “The Palestinians have a legitimate concern that a state have a contiguous coherent mass that would allow the state to function effectively.” Was Obama not aware that a land corridor between Gaza and the West Bank would effectively cut Israel in half, making it incoherent and non-contiguous, divided into northern and southern portions? Was this merely the gaff of an inexperienced, flustered and geographically challenged presidential candidate trying to accommodate Arab-American voters, or was Obama stating a priority that presaged a series of later presidential anti-Israel words and deeds?
Looking back a bit further into Obama’s not-too-distant past, one may be able to find the likely answer to these questions.
During his presidential campaign (2007-08) he revealed to the press the names of those to whom he would look for guidance on Middle East issues, his “brain trust” as it were: Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anthony Lake, Susan Rice, Bettylu Saltzman, Robert Malley, and Samantha Power, among others – a dream team for the anti-Israel crowd at home and abroad. Given his choice of advisors, it was not difficult to predict that he would be no friend of Israel.
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