The geopolitics of the conflict in Gaza: U.S. calculations and miscalculations (III)
Dmitry MININ | 21.11.2012 | WORLD / Middle East

The geopolitics of the conflict in Gaza: U.S. calculations and miscalculations (III)

Part I, part II

Is this the end of the «honeymoon» between Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood?

As soon as Obama was re-elected president of the USA, many came to expect that the relationship between Israel and the U.S. would deteriorate sharply, as everybody remembers the swordplay between the head of the White House and the Israeli Prime Minister, as well as the outright bet on the Republican candidate Mitt Romney by Netanyahu. It appears, however, that those who thought so greatly exaggerated. Those who were right were mindful of the strategic nature of relations between the two countries and the enormous influence of the Jewish lobby in the U.S....

According to Israeli analysts, in fact, Netanyahu was quite careful not to «cross the red line». He took to Romney and expressed his words of support, but this has always been acceptable behavior in Israel in relation to the American presidential candidates. Obama, when he was a candidate on a visit to Israel, demanded his photo shots and smiles be with Olmert, Livni and Ehud Barak, though at the time the White House was occupied by a Republican president. In promotional commercials Romney used pictures and compliments of Netanyahu, but also the Obama propaganda campaign used images with Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak. When Romney strongly criticized Obama for having «thrown Israel under the wheels of the bus,» Israeli President Peres met with Obama in Washington, and showed his full understanding. The Israelis have always been able to properly arrange their eggs in different baskets. «Today, Netanyahu knows that Obama has won in the U.S., and Obama knows that Netanyahu will win in Israel. It is what it is, and it is necessary to live and work with it». (1)

Moreover, Obama's entourage almost managed to defend the Jewish president elect who for the most part did not believe the stories from Romney that Obama is going to «throw Israel». Studies have shown that American Jews still retain their traditional focus on the Democratic Party. In the election from representatives of this population group 69% voted for Obama, which is only 5% less than in the previous campaign, which is a very slight drop, given the amount of effort the Republicans put in to represent the current president as an «enemy of Israel». (2) 

Therefore, the announcement of the newly elected president that he remains committed to the strategic alliance with Tel Aviv is apparently true. But in the new reality Obama will have to solve a highly complex strategic problem - how to maintain a relationship with an existing ally and not damage, and if possible, even to strengthen the relationship with his recently acquired new friends from among the «moderate Islamists» as a result of the «Arab Spring». In attempting to sit on two chairs at the same time he will find it hard to stand up to his very first test in connection with the conflict in the Gaza Strip.

From the very beginning of the «revolutionary processes» in the Middle East, Israel was critical of the actions of the strong encouragement of the Americans, especially of Washington's attempt to get close to the Muslim Brotherhood, and one could only wait for the moment when Tel Aviv would start a counter play to thwart this «unholy alliance». And it came. The Israeli «pillar of cloud» fell on top of the Gaza sector, the Palestinians opened up the «gates of hell» before them, and all the masks were ripped off. The White House fully and unconditionally supported Israel, remaining deaf to the calls of the Arab community to somehow influence its ally, which destroyed the whole line up of the cleverly created U.S. strategy in the region, built on the allegedly impartial treatment of all States there.

As it turns out, even before the Israeli attack on Gaza on 12-13 November, a delegation of the Israeli Council for National Security, headed by its leader Jacob Amidror held talks in Washington with the U.S. President's National Security Tom Donilon. It was the first high level meeting between the two sides after the re-election of Obama. According to official reports, they «held consultations on the situations in Gaza, Syria and Iran». In this case, US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Victor said: «The meeting was the latest in a series of consultations in the field of security at the highest level between Israel and the United States and demonstrates our unwavering support for the security of the Jewish state». (3)It is hard to imagine that at the current level of bilateral relations, the Israelis did not inform U.S. officials about the upcoming operation in Gaza. Perhaps this was the main purpose of their mission. Thus, the attack on Gaza, most likely, was made with the full knowledge and approval of Washington.

Immediately after the outbreak of hostilities, U.S. President Barack Obama during a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his support to the Israeli authorities and stressed the right of Israel to defend itself. However, the American leader urged Tel Aviv to do everything possible to avoid civilian casualties. (4)

In addition, as reported by the American edition of The Daily Beast, in that telephone conversation the Israeli leader assured his interlocutor that the IDF is not planning a ground operation in the Gaza Strip. The source referenced by the publication, said that Netanyahu gave a personal guarantee to the effect that a ground operation will begin only when and if the Hamas rocket attacks increase dramatically. Two senior U.S. officials, who, according to the publication, received information about the content of the conversation between Obama and Netanyahu claimed that Israel, despite its bellicose statements was allegedly not even considering the option of the invasion of Gaza, and this scenario, will be considered only in the event of significant losses from the Israeli side. At the moment, there is not even a date set for the possible start of the ground operation «a pillar of cloud». However, «if Hamas increases the pressure, the Israeli government may change their point of view,” said the U.S. source. (5)

For his part, the Israeli prime minister said that he had talked with U.S. President Barack Obama and thanked him for his support and contribution to the development of the U.S. missile defense system «Iron Dome». (6) It should be noted that information on the conflict, transmitted from the scene, is replete with praise for this system, and everything at times is just like a large-scale advertising campaign for its promotion. Experts point out that in reality it is not very effective against low-flying targets such as rockets, but its advertising it is of vital interest to the joint US-Israeli military-industrial complex, which is objectively the «third happy party» in the events and in no small part is pushing them forward.

The Arabs had gathered before in meetings in connection with the violent actions of the Israelis against the Palestinians, but observers cannot remember such a strong pitch of anti-Americanism, such as which arose, in an emergency meeting of the League of Arab States (LAS) held on 17th November in Cairo with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It was felt that the United States is the only power in the world that could not only stop, but also prevent the conflict in Gaza, but they did not do so because of their dependence on Israel. And, therefore, their assurances of support for freedom and democracy in the Middle East are worthless.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, who is generally considered one of the most loyal of the Arab leaders to the West and Washington, warned the White House on its position of non-interference, which he said, «could lead to massive upheaval in the region». (7) 

But Barack Obama did not seem to hear this. During a tour of Asia, speaking on November 18 at a press conference in Bangkok, Obama stressed that no country would tolerate rocket attacks on the civilian population, and expressed confidence that they should make every effort to resolve the conflict with Gaza in a way so that not one more missile fell on Israel. Once again, he said that Israel has every right to protect its citizens from the missiles that fly at them from Gaza.

The U.S. President also noted that the question of a possible truce will be decided in the next two days, stressing that the escalation of violence in Gaza is minimizing the chances of peace in the region. (8)

It is too early to judge how successful the Israeli operation «pillar of cloud» will be in terms of breaking down the resistance of Palestinian radicals. Most likely, everything will repeat itself. But one thing you can say for sure – there is an extra hidden agenda, and that can be, that the basic idea of introducing discord between America and the Arab countries has been effectively activated. The «Pillar» turns into a «wedge».

Washington`s strategy to the Arab Spring is bursting at the seams. The short «honeymoon» between Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood seems to be at an end.

Even more humiliating for the U.S. can be the voting at the UN General Assembly in late November on the status of Palestine, as there is only a small group of tiny countries in favor of Israel and the rest of the world are against, including all the Arab states. This split will become more pronounced. There will be no opportunity to pretend in a «closeness» of interests and aspirations with the «moderate Islamists». In his relations with them Obama will have to set aside his much loved weapon of «soft power», relying only on its hard version and financial handouts, the limits of which are also limited due to the financial crisis. The main lever of influence in Washington for many of the countries of the region, and in particular Egypt, which is key in this situation, remains economic. The experts at the Washington Institute for Middle Eastern Studies recommend, for example, the White House uses for this purpose not only direct assistance to Egypt, but also its position in the IMF, from which the Egyptians requested a loan of $ 4.8 billion. (9) Only is there now enough money and influence? And can the Egyptians find sources of funding outside of Washington, including in its own region the Middle East?