With Israel once again doing its level best to snuff out any chance of peace talks with the Palestinians before they even begin, President Obama should be looking back to another American President on how to deal with an Israeli Government literally getting away with murder.
Dwight D. Eisenhower faced a similar predicament a half century ago, when Israel colluded with Britain and France to launch an attack on Egypt. Israeli forces quickly seized the Gaza Strip, while the British and the French took over the Suez Canal. Rather than go through the motions of the President jumping through hoops to justify Israel's action, as we have become accustomed to from recent American presidents, Eisenhower condemned the attack. At the United Nations, the U.S. joined the Soviets in taking the matter to the General Assembly and approving resolution after resolution calling for a ceasefire and withdrawal of the French, British and Israeli aggressors. The British and French immediately began pulling out their troops but Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion adamantly refused to give up the Gaza Strip despite a sixth UN resolution calling for withdrawal. Eisenhower demanded of Ben-Gurion, "prompt and unconditional withdrawal" from Gaza. Ben-Gurion again refused. At that point, instead of an Obama-style cave-in, Ike decided to take the gloves off.
He informed Ben-Gurion that he would support a UN call for sanctions against Israel which would effectively stop U.S. government aid to Israel. To prove he meant it, the president went on national television and told the American people,
We are now faced with a fateful moment as the result of the failure of Israel to withdraw its forces behind the Armistice lines, as contemplated by the United Nations Resolutions on this subject. I would, I feel, be untrue to the standards of the high office to which you have chosen me, if I were to lend the influence of the United States to the proposition that a nation which invades another should be permitted to exact conditions for withdrawal.
Ben-Gurion's initial response was continued defiance, but with no indication that Eisenhower would back down, and the UN General Assembly about to vote for sanctions, he capitulated and withdrew Israeli troops from Gaza, although spitefully destroying all surface roads, railway tracks, and telephone lines in the area, as well as several villages on the way out.
Of course, the Middle East today is very different, but the lesson of 1956 remains relevant today: that, on the rare occasions when U.S. leaders have the guts to stand up to the bluster of Israel, to insist on respect for the United Nations and international law, to take their case to the American people and the world, and to back up their demands with the threat of economic sanctions, even the most conceited and warmongering Israeli government has no choice but to cave in.
If Obama would only learn that lesson, he might yet be able to achieve the lofty goal he set for himself of bringing peace to the Middle East.