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Crazy love: After 8 years of insults, Obama hands over $38bn to Netanyahu

After being snubbed and opposed by Israel's leader, the US president leaves the country a $38bn parting gift

For the past eight years, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has metaphorically spat directly into the face of US President Barack Obama. Not only has the Israeli leader tried to undermine Obama’s foreign policy agenda, he has also scuttled US led efforts to reenergise the Israel-Palestine peace process.

During the 2012 US election, Netanyahu broke the longstanding tradition that holds allied states should not interfere in the democratic processes of a democratic ally when he openly supporting the candidacy of Obama’s direct opponent – Mitt Romney.

During Obama’s eight years, Israel has ignored US pleas to halt settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and ignored pleas for restraint when Israel slaughtered 1,600 civilians over the course of 51 bloody days during 2014.

Time and time again, Netanyahu has taken every opportunity to not only defy Obama, but also to humiliate the US president.

No one example is more defining than the 2010 visit to Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden – in which Israel announced its intention to construct 1,600 new housing units for Israeli Jews in occupied East Jerusalem. I mean, Israel didn’t even have the good grace to hold off this international law-violating announcement until Biden’s plane had lifted off.

Absurd, the new normal

If Israel were any other country, or if Israel were aligned with, let’s say, Russia’s strategic sphere of influence, it’s safe to presume that, at the very least, the US would have long ago imposed economic sanctions on Israel. At the very most, the US might have already bombed selected high-value Israeli military installations.

But this is Israel we are talking about. America’s most strategic ally in the Middle East, allegedly, despite no US official offering a good reason for why the alliance is strategic for the US. Ever! In fact, prominent international relations scholars argue the very opposite. But I digress.

So no sanctions, no bombing – and not even a disciplinary smack across the backside for good measure. It appears punitive measures are reserved only for those states that have too many Muslims.

Instead, and despite Israel’s blatant refusal to abide by US demands, and demands of the international community, the apartheid state of Israel has been rewarded with a record $38bn pledge in military aid – courtesy of, well, you guessed it, Barack Obama.

Peter Beinhart, a Jewish American journalist, writing for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz makes the following trenchant observation:

Country A believes that its ally, Country B, is pursuing policies that endanger both nations. Country A repeatedly asks Country B to change course. Country B refuses. Meanwhile, Country B asks Country A to send it a vast supply of weapons. Country A agrees. Then, after the agreement is signed, Country A asks Country B to change course again, this time in a particularly dramatic and high profile way.

Ask a diplomat to analyze the previous scenario and she will tell you that Country A’s behavior is absurd. Why give Country B what it wants unconditionally, thus forfeiting your leverage? Why ask for something after you’ve thrown away the bargaining chip that gives you a chance of actually getting it?

But, as Beinhart rightly remarks, the absurd is normal when it comes to the manner in which the United States manages its relationship with its client state – Israel.

New dawn?

While absurdity best defines the nearly seven-decades-long US-Israel alliance, Obama’s inauguration in 2009 promised to herald a new dawn. Given the Muslim faith of Obama’s father and that a portion of Obama’s childhood was spent in Indonesia, the Palestinians and the broader Middle East were hopeful an Obama presidency would reverse many of the policy positions favored by his predecessor – George Bush.

Hope was elevated further when it was reported that Obama agreed with his Joint Chiefs’ assessment of the Middle East – that Muslim grievances against the US were fueled by the United States’ biased and uncritical support of Israeli policies. As such, resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict became one of the Obama administration’s highest priorities.

Obama’s prioritisation of the conflict was reflected in his speech delivered at Cairo University on 4 June 2009 when he promised “a new beginning".

But illegal Israeli settlement construction has not only continued, but also expanded during the eight years of Obama’s presidency. A report compiled by the anti-settlement group Peace Now shows that Israeli government-issued bids have grown “steadily” since 2009 to reach nearly 4,500 units in 2015.

More significantly, at least from a peace process perspective, there was a 40 percent increase in construction starts during 2014, with more than two-thirds of new construction taking place in settlements “east of the outline proposed by the Geneva Initiative, the areas most challenging for the two-state solution,” according to Peace Now.

For a US president who promised the Israeli-Palestinian peace process so much, Obama has achieved so very little. In fact, as observed by International Crisis Group senior analyst Nathan Thrall, Obama, unlike his recent predecessors, will leave office without a “single achievement to his name”.

So given Obama’s willingness to give Israel greater tools to further deepen and enforce its occupation, and given Obama authorised Israel’s request for access to the $1bn stockpile of weapons during Israel’s 2014 siege of Gaza, one might observe his legacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to read like this: he was down with Israel’s international law and human rights violations – including the killing of Palestinian children.

He has less than five more months to change this historical footnote. Let’s hope he’s listening.

CJ Werleman is the author of Crucifying America, God Hates You. Hate Him Back, Koran Curious, and is the host of Foreign Object. Follow him on twitter: @cjwerleman

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo: US President Barack Obama listens alongside Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during meetings in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on 6 July 2010 (AFP)