Cheer Up, Obama. Israel Is Happy With Your Syria Plan

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Alex Wong / Corbis

U.S. President Barack Obama leaves after meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 10, 2013.

Whatever is being said elsewhere about U.S. President Barack Obama’s performance in the Syria crisis, the verdict from Israel can be read in the morning papers: “Wise”… “Credible” ….“An American victory.” The American leader who for the first four years of his presidency could never quite win the trust of the Israeli public now is being hailed as a model of principled resolve, a Churchillian figure whose insistent threat of force — an Israeli specialty — extracted a promise to remove weapons of mass destruction from one border, and in terms that will not be lost on an Iranian regime suspected of harboring an even larger threat in its nuclear program.

The verdict is not unanimous. Obama still has harsh critics among the right-wing of the Hebrew press, which focused on the president’s “vacillating,” as columnist Boaz Bismuth says in Israel Hayom, the free tabloid owned by gaming billionaire Sheldon Adelson. But even that column withheld final judgment on the fast-moving events of the previous 24 hours, which for Jewish Israelis ended satisfyingly.

“When President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to present his doctrine for US foreign policy, he coined the phrase: ‘Speak softly and carry a big stick,'” Orly Azulai writes in Yedioth Ahoronth, Israel’s largest paid daily. “Obama refined this strategy: He talked tough to Syria, and instead of a stick, he held a cast iron sledgehammer.”

The commentary was headlined: ‘Smart Victory.’  “The US president showed how a great democracy operates when it is at its best: taking calculated steps, it achieves a diplomatic solution by means of a military threat, without firing a single shot,” Azulai writes. “He used the power in his hand wisely.”

Rather than focusing on what Obama could not do — line up anywhere near a Congressional majority for a military strike — Israelis focused on what he did: Use the consistent threat of military force to extract a promise from Syria and its most powerful patron, Russia, to remove tons of chemical weapons from Israel’s northern border.

“In order to use chemical weapons on his own citizens or against Israel, Assad doesn’t need all 1,000 tons of chemical warfare he has. He could do with 1% of that amount,” Ron Ben-Yishai writes on the leading news site Ynet.com:

Serious or not, the Russian initiative is an achievement to the Obama administration. It’s clear that his determination to receive legitimacy for a punitive measure against Syria is what pushed the Russians and their Syrian clients to the corner, making them seek a diplomatic solution that would please Americans.

If the Russian initiative comes through, it will stop Assad from using chemical weapons in the future, and make an American strike, which the public, Congress and Obama himself don’t want, useless. Another achievement would be a clear signal to Iran. Obama walked on the edge, Putin had to blink, and the Middle East countries saw that the threat works….They should be pleased in Jerusalem — it’s been proven that a reliable American option holds deterrence.

Israelis had been disappointed — even shaken — by Obama’s Rose Garden announcement ten days earlier, when rather than announcing cruise missile strikes on Assad’s forces as punishment for using chemical weapons, the President said he was going to Congress for an endorsement. “I come back to the Iranian issue,” former Israeli diplomat Oded Eran told TIME on Sunday, before the Russian compromise surfaced. “It could be wishful thinking on behalf of the Israeli leadership, that one cannot draw a lesson from what happens now in Syria to the Iranian nuclear project. But I will not deny that there is some concern there.”

In fact, Obama’s Rose Garden hesitation played to a deep conviction among Israelis that no other country can be relied upon to protect Israel: “We are on our own” is the common expression, uttered with a mixture of fatalism and resolve that stands at the core of Israel’s defense doctrine, a hit-the-enemy-hard-and-first policy summed up in one word: “Deterrence.” So it was doubly satisfying that, however the American President zigged and zagged over the previous fortnight, his stubborn threat of military force was what evidently pried the eleventh hour diplomatic solution from Moscow and Damascus.

“Although it managed the crisis in a clumsy, haphazard way, without any American interests at stake, [Washington] projected credibility in its threat to use military force against Syria, and achieved an effect of deterrence,” Alon Pinkas writes in Yedioth. “Otherwise, Russia would not have bothered to propose its plan a moment before the vote in the US Congress.”

In Haaretz, the most prestigious Israeli daily, Aner Shelev saw it the same way. Obama spoke the lingua franca of a region that, as Israelis like to say, sadly understands only one thing: “U.S. acceptance of the Russian proposal would at first glance undermine America’s credibility and standing in the world, since its threats of war would be revealed as empty. But in reality, implementation of this proposal would be an American victory. Had it not issued a real military threat and stationed forces off the coast of Syria, it’s inconceivable the Syrians would have agreed to give up their doomsday weapons — about 1,000 tons of poison gas that could inflict disaster on the entire region and that can’t be destroyed by an aerial assault.”

“If the precedent of a genuine military threat leading to an agreed neutralizing unconventional weapons works in Syria, there’s a good chance it will also work in Iran,” Shalev adds. “A credible threat to attack could well lead to Iran’s nuclear disarmament without a single shot being fired. And that, rather than a bloody war, would be Obama’s greatest victory.”

68 comments
trish94903
trish94903

This is satire, right? Because right now the entire pro-American Middle East is cringing at American lack of will and back-stepping from self-declared red-lines, sending a clear signal to Iran that they can go nuclear any time they want. The Iranians are ROTFL....No, Karl motek, Israel does NOT love your Syria plan and thinks you look like an ineffectual bozo unable to stop either the Syrian WMDs used against civilians and clearly signaling your unwillingness to stop Iranian WMDs. You've just outed the US as an ineffectual, weak, spineless ally who will cut and run at the first sign of bullying by ME dictatorships.

And quoting Yediot and Haaretz is merely citing the Amen Chrous, because Yediot and Haaretz are largely left of center and far left, respectively. If you were really interested in doing journalism you'd go sit in a bar or talk to people in the souk, not quote left-wing echo-chambers.

New N Real
New N Real

I am very sorry about that word my sis... Patricia whitmore. I knew majority of american people rejected that proposal to congress, coz it will affected to american economics n future threatened too... Its enough about WTC, no more ! We asian n african people though that Obama will be more friendly n can change d policy to be fair, objective, activate political communications, approached, etc. Not only obey jews policy. (Sorry) Because we though, he is too familiar with asian-african people, ethics, traditional n moslem people. Since he was born from african moslem fam, ever spend elementery school in jakarta, indonesia, when his mom do his researched n married with indonesian. We hope he can more understanding to solve, n change be a good leader in world. War not d best solution for all, for american people n for d people in d war's area too.. Thx 4 ur respond sis.. Hope everything alright after d war..

Patricia Whitmore
Patricia Whitmore

No, sir. Americans are not enjoying this crisis at all. We are very upset. 73% of Americans do not want to go to Syria to commit acts of war. About 10% don't know what to do about it. Only about 17% of Americans think U.S. should go to war in Syria. Of those 17%, most are worried about more gas attacks in Syria. No congratulations here, sir. This is not a party for U.S. citizens.

Rima Laricheva
Rima Laricheva

Yes you should part ways with Israel,don,t forget to take computer and smart phone and ets. what they create with you.If Is not Israel who you will blame for everything ?

Billie Beights
Billie Beights

There are kids little baby's getting gassed and there heads cut off its fricken sick something needs to happen who speeks for them

NanushkaNanush
NanushkaNanush

Does this writer speak Hebrew? Probably not.

Just like American newspapers (and even prestigious universities and the State department) seem to think that they can understand something about the Middle East without speaking or reading Arabic. Clueless.

Haaretz is about as mainstream as the Village Voice is mainstream America. Most Israelis STILL view Obama and Kerry as being clueless. Most view the Syrian opposition as being just as bad as Assad. They can't figure out why the US has sided with "moderate" Jihadis -  except to bail out their Royal Saudi allies and who are afraid of competition from mere commoners. And the Turks who still pine for their vast Ottoman Empire, when they ruled over all of the Arab world with an iron fist.

leedanbar
leedanbar

So this is where the anti-Semites went.

RobCentros
RobCentros

Yep, all the whining about Russia and China vetoing U.N. Resolutions -- and not a peep about the United States vetoing resolutions to try to rein in the insane Israeli government.

RobCentros
RobCentros

I'm so happy. Because we wouldn't want Israel -- the president's nose ring pullers -- to be unhappy with our president. Who cares if innocent Syrian civilians die, if American troops die, if the whole Middle East goes up in flame -- at least the insane Israeli politicians will he happy. And isn't that all that counts?

Araik_Sargsyan
Araik_Sargsyan

@TIME @TIMEWorld Although Putin could say thank you to me, the author of the idea of monitoring the Syrian chemical.stocks! Yet greedy guys!

1_Vital
1_Vital

@TIME @TIMEWorld they are exposed but see how stupid n bloody crazy they are still willing to go. All they want resources.

majestisizm
majestisizm

@TIME @TIMEWorld all the game is what's in it 4israel, americans don't give a who about ethics or any other matter compared to israel

bgsaulakh
bgsaulakh

@TIME @TIMEWorld Just like Israel's been with happy the 42 times the USA has vetoed security council resolutions censuring Israel!!

RMCSret
RMCSret

@TIME @TIMEWorld Israel is a player in the middle east, but that doesn't mean you have to like their government.

rangerfit
rangerfit

@TIME @TIMEWorld AIPAC should pay the bill for all the PTSD, wounded Veterans, and pay the families of the dead since we fought their Wars

MonMon2786
MonMon2786

@TIME @TIMEWorld The beginning ploy for the US and Israel to take over the Middle East. If the M.E doesn't unite they will be undone

Bill Kawakami
Bill Kawakami

The presidency is supposed to be a role of accountability to the American people. Could you have it any other way, Mark?

YehudaElyada
YehudaElyada

The opinioned writers in the Israeli press that Mr. Wick so devotedly quotes do not represent the mainstream public opinion. Israeli press is generally left-leaning, and Haaretz, in particular is a radical-elitist-contrarian minority paper. Anyone with a normal sense of survival would not equate Iran's nuclear program with Syrian chemical munitions. These two countries are not in the same league in economy size, military strength, political stability and scientific/engineering knowhow. The Iranians were not impressed with tough words before and do not seem to rethink their resolve to continue in their pursuit of nuclear weapons now, "under a new leadership". A weak regime, like Assad's, can be influenced with a small stick, just talk. Not so the solid dictatorship of the Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. To eliminate his ME dominance program, a stick is not enough, you'll need a sledgehammer. And it's not about Israel, too. The oil producing Arab countries are the ones who need protection. This explains their involvement in the Syrian civil war. They see the danger of Syria becoming a Iranian fiefdom.

sridhar.sid
sridhar.sid

Alas, the world has changed! Could you imagine a US acceptance of a Russian proposal to stop military action twenty years ago! The Russians have played their cards brilliantly and delivered a compliant ally, Syria. The US too has come out of this as winners by threatening force but willing to listen to other voices.The biggest success is peace in the Middle East, despite local fighting. More importantly, Iran's support to Russia's initiative means that Iran too can be brought into the main stream. All this must please Israel

ShwnRob
ShwnRob

I say  Pres Obama let israel fight their own battles.I thought the white hairy monkey didn't want Obama to strike syria now the white devil is upset that he is not attacking syria.Hypocrites

Mark Jenkins
Mark Jenkins

U people at Time clearly have an anti-Obama agenda.what u r doing the GOP dirty work?? .He is the President. Get over it!! U will never chabge that fact..no matter how hard u try to denigrate him. U don't like it, then go and jump off a cliff ....lol

Syed Zabed
Syed Zabed

Mr. President #Obama you are concerned for human rights and humanity throughout the world. But can u answer the question that how many people, how many mothers, wives, children r going to be sufferer? Have u enough food and shelter for them? For saving thousands of pepole u pushed millions of people in danger!

Patricia Whitmore
Patricia Whitmore

Don't you see, Americans? The war about to occur in Syria is all about Zionist Israel. It is time to part ways with Israel. Despite what they believe, they don't own us. Right?

Yasin Aslan
Yasin Aslan

nice point,ı m sure about that Israel s happy this plan

RamondeJsPolank
RamondeJsPolank

SANTIAGO,DR—Israel  must to understand also that we  cannot compare the situation development during Iraq invasion with the Islamic Republic of Syria conflict. Even bringing to scope the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ the enigmatic shadows consequences of uses of chemical weapons for President Bashar Al-Assad regime rose from a very different perspective. Former President George W. Bush did manage to gather US Congress support and despite opposition from Germany, the Russian Federation and the Republic of France at the very beginning by the end of the bloodied road they all found the way to alienate with the U.S. policy. The UN Security Council also realized how dangerously the entire world came to phase the threats of a very powerful enemy. The President needs friends at the U.S. Congress and in Israel.

 

Aham Onyebuchi
Aham Onyebuchi

when less than 6% of your nation supports you on major issues ,you should know that you are no longer a respectable person , and your not a true leader . Americans are becoming spiritually wiser , despite their immoral media . They dont want to engage in any major conflict with a homosexual pushing person as their leader. THEY NOW UNDERSTAND THAT WAR HAS A MJOR SPIRITUAL COMPONENT TO IT . The material and human cost will be very great , even if they win . Thats why they have stayed away from north korea, iran , and lately syria . Once this dude is gone from the scene , they will head back to the trenches

Aham Onyebuchi
Aham Onyebuchi

when less than 6% of your nation supports you on major issues ,you should know that you are no longer a respectable person , and your not a true leader . Americans are becoming spiritually wiser , despite their immoral media . They dont want to engage in any major conflict with a homosexual pushing person as their leader . The material and human cost will be very great , even if they win . Thats why they have stayed away from north korea, iran , and lately syria . Once this dude is gone from the scene , they will head back to the trenches

Mac Aguilar
Mac Aguilar

Russia's plan ...no of Obama ...he loose the battle ...

DanBruce
DanBruce

The founding fathers were wise to give the president, and NOT the Congress, the responsibility for making military decisions. If we had had the Congress (and the public) we have today in 1941, we would still be trying to decide whether to respond to Pearl Harbor.

Lu Con
Lu Con

Israel has been the main terrorists group since 1949

RamondeJsPolank
RamondeJsPolank

SANTIAGO,DR--An opportunity opens towards peace... it seems all sides are willing to talk condemning the use of chemical weapons and placing Syria arsenal on international  control. Nevertheless, we must to aim into the future  by promoting promt negotiations willing to compromise upon reaching a final chapter: a government of the people by the people for the people. 

harry.kahns
harry.kahns

What about Israeli Nukes and other WMDs? This cancer needs to be eradicated otherwise it will spread its tentacles all over the world.

New N Real
New N Real

US people will pay much lost, be more enjoying very very big chrisis after all d war high cost ! Congratulation....

BobbyB
BobbyB

@Syed Zabed that is true but you have to start somewhere.  Like no nuclear weapons, no chemical weapons.  The other facets of wars are harder to remove because they are so pervasive within the world.  Anyone can get a tank or an RPG or even a short range stinger type missile machine guns, or kalashnikovs, etc etc etc.  The world needs to stop proliferation attempts in the form of nuclear materials that may make dirty bombs and stop the use of chemical weapons that kill silently and en-masse.  Yes drones kill and so do tanks and rockets and guns and that is sad.  Even IEDs are indiscriminate as are cluster bombs and land mines and there are attempts to get these killing devices removed from the arsenals of war through treatise, yet not everyone wants to sign on and give up their edge on weaponry.  We even need to get rid of suicide bombers that use nails and ball bearings in a vest worn by radicals that walk into shopping bazaars or mosques to indiscriminately kill or maim as they set them off in crowded places.  I would strongly lean towards getting rid of huge escalation weapons such as suicide bombers, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons and then progress towards reducing what are known as conventional armaments.  As I said, you can't stop it as it has developed and become commonplace over the centuries to wage wars on others, but you have to start somewhere .... chemical, nuclear, landmines, cluster bombs, suicide bombers .....

trish94903
trish94903

@Patricia Whitmore The war in Syria has nothing to do with Israel. Even Arab friends of mine say Assad's goons brought this on themselves -- a small minority of Alawites running an oligarchy that excludes the Sunni majority, and which deprives the Kurds of citizenship, and when people demonstrated against police brutality used against children, the Assad regime responded over and over and over with gunfire and slaughter -- pushing people into open revolt. Get down off your racist high-horse and learn something about the Middle East and its history and people and politics instead of sounding like an ignoramus screaming "Zionists! Zionists" -- even the Arabs know better--you need some education.

BobbyB
BobbyB

@Patricia Whitmore Wrong......you call them zionists they call others religious fanatics .... the hate from centuries has not subsided...the only changes happen to be in what weapons are being selected to get one up on the other....one has nuclear so the other gets chemical.....money is spent to build 100 rockets so not to be outdone the other builds 1,000....it is all based on religious hatreds spawned hundreds of years ago and carried on from father to son.....schools teach new kids what to hate about the other side.....vindictive comments are made from one side then from the other......they don't own us.....why do you think someone else owns you....are you that insecure about who you are, about your faith, about humanity?  It is up to you to be the first to stop the hating.  Then maybe someone else will stop. Then another.  Next thing you know we'll all be talking about what fools we have all been for the past centuries, killing one another and blaming one another for our loses.  Be the first to stop and watch as others join in.

BobbyB
BobbyB

@Yasin Aslan So why is happy bad.... is it because you equate happiness with weakness?  If they are happy then you are weak?  What if they are just happy that there is an attempt to reduce the amount of chemical weapons and that there may be less killing as a result?  Are you willing to give others the benefit of the doubt or do you want to continue to fan the flames of hatred against others?  It starts with you.  You can continue to be cynical and hate or you can chose to accept that getting rid of chemical weapons makes someone happy.  Your choice.

trish94903
trish94903

@Lu Con riiiiiiiight....Hamas, Hezbollah, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades, Tanzim, the PLO, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra, Abu Nidal........these are all figments of the world's imagination. I would recommend fewer drugs and alcohol, and more research and maybe some serious therapy for your mental disorder.