March 19 2013
President Obama: Knesset Who?
When President Obama gave his famous Cairo speech on Islam in 2009, two things were immediately clear: the president isn’t much of a historian and his saw Islam through rose colored glasses.
President Obama is now heading to Israel, an outpost of Western values in a sea of radical Islam, which has received the back of the president’s hand for going on five years. What is worrying about this is the president’s apparent continuing naivete about the region. Or is it willful disregard of unpleasant facts?
For example, the president recently admitted that Iran is a year away from having a nuclear bomb—or “over a year or so” as our complacent president put it. The president says that “all options are on the table.” “Obviously we don’t want to cut it too close,” he said. Earth to President Obama, we’ve already cut it too close. The world is exponentially more dangerous today than it was in January 2009.
Why is President Obama going to Israel?
Aaron David Miller, a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center, puts forth an idea:
Right now in the cruel and unforgiving foreign policy world in which America is trapped, Barack Obama stands to be the American president on whose watch two catastrophes loom: Bomb Iran or see Iran with a bomb, and the demise of the two-state solution.
Israel figures centrally in both issues. If the president is to manage these issues effectively, he needs to find a way to work with Benjamin Netanyahu and the new Israeli government. That effort begins this week.
Sorry, but I don’t buy this. Well, I buy it about our being in a fix, but, speaking only for myself, I don't think that President Obama is going to turn over a new leaf and work with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
President Obama is a man of the photo op. He may want to be photographed with Netanyahu, but does he really want to listen to him? He may even want to try to browbeat Netanyahu. Or there may be an Israeli version of his so-called “charm offensive” in Washington.
One of the ominous signs is that the president won’t address the Israeli Knesset. Republicans have raised questions about this omission. After all, President Obama has spoken to parliaments in the U.K., Australia, and Ghana. But not Israel…
Keith Kofer, whose wonderful White House Dossier keeps tabs on the president, has his own theory as to why President Obama is skipping the Knesset:
I know why he’s really avoiding the Knesset – it’s a rambunctious place where he might get heckled. We think of ourselves as the free-wheeling types, but when it comes to protocol in Washington, we’re way more stuck up and polite, even than the British.
“You lie” would be standard operating procedure in many places.
That President Obama has behaved shabbily to Netanyahu, used the 1967 borders as a beginning for negotiation, and is just now getting around to visiting Israel are all points worth noting. So, yeah, maybe he doesn't want to go meet the rowdy boys at the Knesset.
Analyst Barry Rubin, of Washington, D.C. and Tel Aviv, has a good piece on the White House press briefing on the president’s Israeli trip. The president appears to believe that the Arab world wants peace but that Israel is recalcitrant. Israel is a nation that desperately wants peace and has everything to gain by peace. Read Barry’s piece.
Speaking only for myself, I am not counting on anything from the visit and only hoping that nothing too bad happens. I would consider turning on aid spigots for the Palestinians a bad thing, since they have gone behind our backs to get a U.N. agency to call them an independent state. Let's also just hope this foray won't be as naive and misguided as the Cairo speech.