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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

'Obama on the cusp of an enormous diplomatic blunder' says...

... believe it or not, my old sparring partner Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. And although he got some things wrong (most notably his claim that 'most Israelis' still like Obama and his approach - that's an out and out lie), he gets some things very right that are worth pointing out.
But it takes two to tango, and in this case, Obama does not dance like a star. He gives every appearance of not "getting" Israel; not appreciating its fears or its history. Israel is not half of the equation, as if both sides are right. It is a democracy with American values that has tried, over and over again, to make peace with a recalcitrant and unforgiving enemy. It is this, the music and not the words, that explains Koch and Wiesel and Lauder, not to mention the e-mailers, anonymous and otherwise, who seem to believe anything bad about Obama.


But the political middle, particularly the Israeli middle, is scared. It would give up East Jerusalem and the West Bank for peace [It certainly would not give up 'east' Jerusalem nor would it give up all of the 'West Bank.' CiJ] -- only it is skeptical that even those concessions would work. None of this is theoretical. It is about life and death. It is about rockets coming in from Gaza yet again. It is about Hezbollah's Scud missiles and the reasonable apprehension that Hamas would oust the moderate (and hapless) Palestinian Authority from the West Bank and turn the area into the functional equivalent of Gaza, an Islamic republic whose charter is a stew of crackpot anti-Semitism laced with death threats.

What then? Would Obama stick by Israel? Many Israelis wonder. Obama "needs to address Israelis' fears," the Israeli philosopher Carlo Strenger wrote recently in Haaretz. So far, Obama has done just the opposite, even going to Cairo to assure the Palestinians and the greater Arab world that he appreciates their plight without assuring Israelis that he appreciates theirs. His coolness toward Netanyahu, earned or not, has chilled the Israeli public and encouraged Palestinian defiance. He is on the cusp of an enormous diplomatic blunder.
Cohen concludes with a call for Obama to come to Jerusalem. It's too late for that. The best thing Obama could do right now is to stand down on the 'Palestinians' and deal with Iran. After that, maybe there will be something to talk about. But Obama's not going to deal with Iran. He's going to leave that to Israel.


At 10:21 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Obama will never criticize the PA and I don't think he will ever deal decisively with Iran. Israelis just don't trust him to guarantee a peace deal. They'll wait to see if the next President is going to be more appreciative of Israel's fears and concerns in a dangerous neighborhood.

At 11:09 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...


At 5:44 AM, Blogger yzernik said...

I also used to dislike Richard Cohen...until I met Roger Cohen.

At 3:53 PM, Blogger nieuwe_zijde said...


Don't forget Steve Cohen who wrote Obama's Cairo speech.


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