Israeli Press on Syria Delay: History will Mock Obama (OSC)

The USG Open Source Center translates or paraphrases passages from the Israeli Hebrew press on President Obama’s decision to seek Congressional advice and consent regarding responses to Syria’s use of chemical weapons. Some slammed him, some were supportive or understanding :

Historians To Mock Obama, President’s Actions Convey Weakness

“Obama Playing Dumb” by Hagay Segal on page 2 of Yedi’ot Aharonot ‘s 24 Sha’ot Supplement says: “Barak Obama will not be decorated for valor following his conduct vis-a-vis Bashar al-Asad. Even if he ultimately strikes, the historians will be mocking him. They will be writing that in 2012 the President set a red line for the Syrians, and when the Syrians crossed that line in 2013 he made every effort to shirk his duty. With weak knees, he orchestrated limited retribution, and to the last moment he tried and prayed that it would become unnecessary. His body language conveyed determination, but his action conveyed weakness. No constitutional or military hindrance prevented him from hitting Syria a week ago, when the world was still under the impression of the difficult images from Syria. The US Navy in the Middle East has enough Tomahawks at any given moment for such simple mission. There’s no shortage of targets either. Two or three barrages would have made it clear to all the Mideast’s madmen that the United States means what it says. But for Obama, even this minimum was too much.” (Tel Aviv Yedi’ot Aharonot in Hebrew — Independent, centrist, second-largest circulation daily)

Obama’s Indecision on Syria Raises Questions About Iran

“The Wicked Are Smiling” by Amos Gilbo’a on page 23 of Ma’ariv says: “If the US President is undecided, hesitant, and almost begging to be brought out of the corner he painted himself into with regard to a limited military operation in Syria — while saying it in lofty words, as he usually does — what will happen vis-a-vis Iran?” “I don’t think one needs much imagination to see the satisfaction on the faces of the wicked in Tehran, in Damascus, and in Beirut. They smell weakness like hunting dogs and understand that even if a US operation is carried out at all, it will be akin to a mild slap, and that after it Al-Asad would be able to continue his actions using planes, missiles, tanks, and mere butcher knives.” (Tel Aviv Ma’ariv in Hebrew — Independent, centrist, third-largest circulation daily)

Obama Not Naive, Learned Bush Lesson

“The Right Deed” by Ya’el Paz-Melamed on page 23 of Ma’ariv says: “President Obama is an ideological president who always prefers talk and conversations over the use of force. This is not naivete, neither is it about abstract faith in global peace, beauty queen-style. This is about deep inner conviction that military force, in many cases, creates a problem rather than resolves it.” “Obama believes that one should embark on war backed by the broadest consensus, and after proving this is a no-choice war based on the findings in the field. George W. Bush regrets today that he did not learn this lesson before he embarked on a hasty war in Iraq that exacted thousands of victims and cost a trillion dollars.” (Tel Aviv Ma’ariv in Hebrew — Independent, centrist, third-largest circulation daily)

Obama To Wipe Smile Off Al-Asad’s Face, US Remains World’s Top Power

“The Pitiable Europe” by Shimon Schiffer on page 28 of Yedi’ot Aharonot says: “President Obama’s prestige suffered a harsh blow in the past 48 hours, but make no mistake about it: America remains the world’s most important power. Should Obama get the approval of Congress for striking Syria and punishing Al-Asad, he shall fix what he had broken. In Damascus, in Tehran and in Beirut’s Hizballah stronghold they are waiting impatiently to see what America does. I’m willing to guess that ultimately Obama shall erase the smiles on Al-Asad’s, Ruhani’s, and Nasrallah’s faces, and the sigh of relief heard there will be replaced by voices of anxiety in the face of the American war machine’s might. Obama is not looking at our region, but rather at the legacy he wishes to leave behind.” (Tel Aviv Yedi’ot Aharonot in Hebrew — Independent, centrist, second-largest circulation daily)

Obama Decisive on Syria, No Rush To Attack

“Serious Consideration Needed” by Smadar Shir on page 2 of Yedi’ot Aharonot ‘s 24 Sha’ot Supplement says: “As the hours pass, it would be right to salute Obama, who is thinking more than seven times before setting the Middle East on fire with a war that is very easy to start, but this time more than ever there is no telling when and how it would end.” “Once Obama declared his intention (to strike Syria) so clearly and decisively, the question of the exact timing becomes marginal. What’s the rush?

15 Responses

  1. Well, O stuck his foot in it this time. A clear case of ego preceding thought.
    Mr. Nobel Peace Prize will now be more likely to strike, to save face.
    There are already reports (BBC) he’s being advised to expand the breadth of the strikes into the Syrian government facilities, politicians, and infrastructure.
    This report from Fair is very disturbing if accurate. It’s well worth a read.
    link to fair.org

    Hubris trumps common sense.

    • We’re likely going to see the same U.S. activity that preceded the invasion of Iraq in 2003 – dropping “bunker-busting” bombs and targeting various Baathist Party and Syrian government offices and “nerve centers” of the military.

      A great irony is that Jabhat al-Nusra will likely be among those cheering on U.S. military intervention as they stand to benefit along with the Free Syrian Army from such U.S. activity.

      • Depends on where the strikes are. The Nusra Front is in an entirely different part of the country than the FSA, and they haven’t been on the receiving end of the chemical attacks.

        • The Nusra Front controls swaths of Syrian territory in the north and may benefit depending where the U.S. cruise missiles and aerial bombardment falls.

          As in Libya, lines of Syrian government and military comunications can be expected to be targeted.

  2. Aluf Benn in this morning’s Haaretz suggested that the Israeli right should not be engaged in pushing others “in the line of fire” over Syria.

    Haaretz is a liberal news outlet of Israel.

  3. Of the five selections of the /israeli press included here only two fit with your headline. The other three convey precisely the opposite message, praising Obama’s care in his use of the military. Given most read only headlines, you’re giving a wrong impression, of an Israeli consensus critical of Obama.

  4. I can never decide if ME regimes really don’t understand the destructive power of the US military in a desert war, or if they only pretend to not understand. Or maybe Gaddafi’s fate made a lasting impression.

  5. It is often the case that fascists and military strongmen confuse democracy with weakness – Napoleon’s “Nation of shopkeepers” remark, or Hitler’s misapprehension that the United States was soft.

    It appears that the Israeli right is showing its rather brown colors.

  6. Didn’t Netanyahu ask Israelis to be silent on this so that Israel does not become associated with the crime?

    I love the line: “The wicked are smiling in Tehran” Of course that means that the wicked in Tel Aviv are glum.

  7. What do you think of Jack Goldsmith’s (Harvard Law Professor) piece on the proposed Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria which he describes as very broad and could include ground troops. Specifically, “The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate…”. It basically gives the President a blank check. It is not a vote to authorize a limited strike on Syria; instead it authorizes the President to use military force against Syria in any manner the President deems necessary and appropriate. Of course, this is expected. Lawyer typically try avoid to avoid specifics and write very broadly so that their client has the maximum amount of freedom to do whatever they want. But I think this lessons the chance the Authorization will pass in congress. Congress doesn’t want to sign their name to an open-ended war authorization. I could be wrong.

  8. I was surprised last year when Obama used the “red line” metaphor in his August 2012 speech. It’s not a common expression in American politics and what Obama actually meant by it was not at all clear.

    By contrast, crossing a “red line” is common in Israeli politics, where it means an action by an adversary that will certainly result in either a retaliation or a preemptive strike.

    The metaphor appears to arise from the red line on a tachometer showing the maximum RPM’s that the engine can achieve without a high risk of structural failure. This is how Israelis use it: crossing a red line means entering into a zone that threatens the very existence of the state of Israel that cannot be tolerated. A “red line” is, in theory at least, an objective condition, which is very different from “a line in the sand,” which is a more or less arbitrary limit drawn by one party at its discretion.

    Obama couldn’t have used the term as Israelis understand it. Syrian use of chemical weapons poses no threat to the existence of the United States. He might have meant “a line in the sand.” But perhaps he meant something even less definitive, just as something that would change the way he viewed the situation. Or perhaps he didn’t want to be clear, and was opting instead for ambiguity:

    “‘a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus,’ Obama said. ‘That would change my equation. . . . We’re monitoring that situation very carefully. We have put together a range of contingency plans.'”

    “Change my calculus” and “a range of contingency plans” is a heck of lot weaker than “require an armed response.”

    But it’s natural for Israelis to understand “red line” as they use it, and with that understanding, Obama does look weak and vacillating.

  9. House Representative John Conyers from Detroit, the second most senior member of Congress and a powerful Democrat, has indicated he will oppose passage of the AUMF, indicating that American intervention at this time may precipitate “World War III”

    The Arab American Institute has indicated Conyers as the most pro-Arab member of Congress via analysis of his voting record.

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