May 24, 2011

Obama as Netanyahu's straw man

If Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Shimon Peres were not the Presidents of Iran and Israel, respectively, I daresay Iran might have a nuclear device by now. Ahmadinejad is so offensive in his grandstanding and baiting that there's no way the Europeans could turn a blind eye to the nuclear program that progressed so quietly under Presidents Rafsanjani and Khatami. And given Netanyahu's skill for shifting blame and avoiding actual talks with the Palestinians (yes, the Palestinians have also made troubles), the Europeans would have lost patience with Israel months ago -- if not for the visionary, statesman persona of Shimon Peres.

The AIPAC banquet is one of the Jewish community's premier annual events. They do a great job. Tonight, no news was made, but that's not AIPAC's fault.

After the Senate Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House gave generally bland speeches, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech full of pride and platitudes, and crowned by a defiant pledge that Israel will "never" return to the 1967 borders. President Obama never suggested Israel return to the 1967 (really, PRE-67) borders, but it was clear Netanyahu meant to tar the President as having done so. BIG applause on that. Great stuff.

If in 2000, the two sides were at a point where Bill Clinton could paint a vision of what Israeli-Palestinian peace could look like, we've reached the point now where the best Obama can do is share his vision of what Israeli-Palestinian NEGOTIATIONS could look like -- and he still got pounded by Netanyahu.

Netanyahu promised more substance when he addresses the U.S. Congress on Tuesday (we'll soon know), but if he has something to unveil, why didn't he do it when he visited Obama in the White House? What part of "President of the United States" doesn't he understand?

Netanyahu stated many truisms beside the impossibility of returning to the 1949 Armistice Line (i.e., pre-1967 borders), including that the Arab Spring proves Israel is not the root of all the region's problems. Left unsaid: Neither is Israel the source of its SOLUTIONS. Few if any of the Arab democratic activists are demanding to be like Israel (even if they should), and little Israel is doing these days has any direct military or diplomatic POSITIVE impact among its neighbors (individual medical treatments just aren't enough). So why mention it anyway? Applause...

Obama, for his trumped up sins, is now in Europe, where the EU greeted him with new sanctions against Syria and Iran. And he is also Israel's best hope for stopping Europe from supporting a Palestinian unilateral declaration of statehood at the United Nations next September. And he's such a great foil for Netanyahu's shadow-boxing, too.

Perhaps Obama is not Israel's greatest friend in America, but one has to wonder: Would he achieve more for Israel if Netanyahu just kept quiet for a few months?

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