This week’s visit by Barack Obama to Israel was supposed to be a relatively low-key affair, with the American president offering no new peace initiatives. But Obama has managed to turn the speculation on its head, as he offered Wednesday his country’s full support for the Israelis on several fronts, taking the “initiative” to engage in rhetoric and diplomacy that further tarnish Washington’s negative image in the Arab world.
Obama’s tactic on day one involved a considerable amount of puzzling statements. He discussed his first term failure to achieve anything of substance on the peace front, using a kind of “aw-shucks” rhetoric by making comments about a peace agreement being “a really hard problem.” Obama claimed that his administration’s failure didn’t mean that it had “screwed up somehow,” but the simple fact is that the White House screwed up then, and is screwing up now, and will in the future as it pursues its schizophrenic policies.
Obama and his team are fond of talking about how the U.S. doesn’t have unlimited influence on world events, but when it comes to Israel, there are no limits for Washington. Obama spent the outset of his three-day visit to talk about unbreakable bonds and eternal alliances between Israel and the United States, and used the world “eternal” to talk about Jerusalem, a signal that he has no inkling of how the city is a chief sticking-point in the quest to arrive at a two-state solution.
Obama told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that as part of America’s commitment to Israel, the two sides would begin discussing extending military assistance to Israel beyond 2017, when the current bilateral agreement ends. Not even the raging budget crisis in the U.S. can dent America’s support for the Iron Dome anti-missile system, according to Obama.
Israeli officials also heard about the White House’s unwavering support for the Jewish state when it came to Iran’s nuclear program, and the unrest in Syria.
The schizophrenia in U.S. policy comes down to statements by American officials who talk about the need to see talks between the two sides in Syria’s war, while also maintaining that President Bashar Assad should and will give up power.
The upshot is that the Palestinians will likely emerge even more helpless in the wake of the visit, which will see Obama entertained by a local dabke troupe. The Palestinians will treat their guest with the sounds of dance, while Israeli bulldozers continue to illegally claim even more Palestinian land for settlements. Palestinian politicians might hear words of reassurance over the next few days, but Wednesday’s salvo of support for Israel has already drowned out such rhetoric, rendering it pointless.
Few people had any illusions that the United States intended to be an honest broker in the peace process, but Obama’s visit to Israel is managing to take despair and outrage by Palestinians and Arabs to an entirely new level.