The fact that an old and contested ruler such as Mahmoud Abbas dared to challenge the US in his bid for Palestinian statehood in the UN is a painful proof of Obama’s weakness as a world leader. However, this is neither the result of a flaw in Obama’s character, nor a lack of commitment to the resolution of the “Palestinian problem”, but rather of the dysfunctional state of American politics these days.
Curiously, many of those in the American conservative movement who denounce Obama’s weakness in the international scene, and the so-called “decline of US leverage”, are those who are more responsible for this situation.
If Abbas dared to ignore Washington’s warning against pursuing statehood in the UN, it was because he saw a year before that it did not bear any consequences. Obama’s credibility was seriously undermined last year, when Benjamin Netanyahu absolutely ignored his demand to extend the freeze in the construction of new settlements in the occupied territories.
In such a “bold” move, Bibi enjoyed the support from many in Capitol Hill, both Republican and Democrats. It was the last display of the legendary prowess and influence of the pro-Israeli lobby. Some prominent Republicans, among them the presidential candidate Mitt Romney, even accused Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus”, an expression which has become very popular in the conservative firmament.
So instead of supporting the efforts of the president of the country while trying to bring about peace to the inextricable Middle East conflict, which is a core national interest for the US in its battle against jihadism, many congressmen preferred to stand by a foreign leader (as far as I know, Israel is not yet the 51st state of the Union).
Instead of helping the US to achieve the necessary credibility to act as an effective mediator by simply enforcing the previous agreements -which included the freeze on settlements-, they chose to grab a few thousand Jewish votes, and dollars in contributions. That is, petty interests and party before country. And to add insult to injury, when elections come, they will portray themselves as the true patriots!
While thinking that it is defending the interests of the Jewish state, the pro-Israeli lobby is doing exactly the opposite. By igniting the Obama bashing because of his alleged “lack” of commitment to Israel, the lobby is politicizing the support to Israel. And by helping Netanyahu to obstruct the peace process, it is killing the last chances to achieve a two-state solution, a real disaster for all those who believe in the existence of a free and democratic Jewish state.