It turns out Fidel Castro is still alive and making as much sense as ever. In an article in Cuban state media a few days ago, the former president ranted against the United States, Israel and NATO, the latter of which he equated with the Nazi SS. Even stranger, Castro believes that U.S. Senator John McCain and Israel’s intelligence agency the Mossad, created ISIS, the nihilistic terror entity sweeping Iraq and Syria.
Back on planet Earth, more serious commentators are wringing their hands over the state of U.S.-Israel relations. While it may not be exactly the Cuban missile crisis, relations between the United States and Israel are arguably at their lowest ebb ever. Part of this, of course, is a mere clash of personalities between their countries’ respective leaders. That’s old news and everybody by now accepts the fact that Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama are not what constitute “great friends,” whatever that oft-used term means in the context of world leaders.
The Times of Israel is reporting that, during Operation Protective Edge, the United States put together a deal with Turkish and Qatari representatives in Paris that was intended to be a draft agenda for ceasefire talks in Cairo. When Netanyahu saw the document, he rejected it out of hand, seeing it as a putting the interests of Hamas ahead of those of Israel.
The United States, further according to the Times of Israel, was unwilling to put pressure on Qatar, an ally, perversely, of both the United States and Hamas, to “squeeze Hamas politically and financially.”
The United States is said to have come away from the experience shocked at Israel’s undiplomatic response, while Israel walked away distrustful of American intentions, says the Times.
Enmity will only grow with Israel’s latest announcement of more West Bank settlements.
But even that salt in the wound should be eclipsed by news that the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad has lost control of the part of what is left of the Syrian nation that abuts Israel at the Golan Heights. While no one is quite sure of the exact makeup of Assad’s opposition, it is the black flag of al-Qaeda that is flying over the checkpoint adjacent to Israel’s border with (erstwhile) Syria.
With explosive events also taking place daily in Ukraine, Iraq and so many other places in the world, American leadership sometimes seems to be the only hope for people under threat. Even the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are getting nervous as they watch the expansionist fantasies of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The American people have given a great deal of their financial and human resources to overseas conflicts in the past decade and it is understandable that they might be hesitant to reengage in the Middle East or to engage in Europe. America is exhausted.
Of course, what is taking place in the world today are precisely the types of things that the United Nations was envisioned to prevent or ameliorate. The tragedy of that organization is that it is now held captive by leaders who are more sympathetic to the objectives of ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah and Putin than they are to the democratic states of the United States, Israel, Canada and western Europe.
The people and leaders of western Europe are also hesitant to get involved in Middle Eastern affairs, perhaps reasonably, given the potential they might have for trouble far closer to home if the Russian bear is not put back in its cage. Putin might have alleviated some international concern had he indicated that eastern Ukraine was the extent of his territorial ambitions, but he has done nothing of the sort.
For Obama’s part, it often seems as though he wishes Israel and Palestine would just disappear. Certainly, every president before him going back decades has tried and failed to resolve the problem and he is probably fully aware that he is not going to solve it either. With everything else happening in the world, this conflict may seem more like a nuisance than a crisis.
As much as Obama’s disengagement from this issue rankles many people, here’s a different take. For weeks, months, even years, people like us have been calling for the world to devote more of its attention to catastrophes that exponentially exceed the comparatively minor conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Say what you will about Obama, but that seems to be exactly what he’s doing.