This has been a pretty sad week for the United States with regards to Israel/Palestine and the rest of the Middle East – and I have let my negativity and cynicism shine through. Obama said nothing when it mattered and was (or will be) ignored when it doesn’t matter while Netanyahu and AIPAC continue to be embarrassing sideshows. Meanwhile, all of the relevant actors are pushing Israel closer and closer to its demographic one-state demise and undermining the credibility of the United States throughout the region. Overall, there has been few silver linings one can point to – unless you count the calories American politicians lost while standing and sitting and standing for Bibi, or perhaps the humor in the AIPAC lady confusing Palestine with Pakistan.
Despite sending a strong message to the AIPAC delegation, President Obama cannot feel good about this week. Not only was he upstaged by the visiting Netanyahu, and not only did he rather shamelessly pander to the Jewish lobby, but while professing his love for Israel Obama has lost the financial support of Haim Saban (for not loving Israel enough). Moreover, Obama was lectured by a visiting head of state and condemned by most of the political world for daring to mutter the words 1967 and had his newly minted Middle Eastern strategy turned on its head. No wonder the President escaped to Europe where the people are ignorant enough to respect international law.
Yet the week for Netanyahu was much more complex. He clearly impressed the AIPAC community by repeating ridiculously empty statements about security and respect and democracy and he nailed the speech at Congress (although an Israeli cow probably would have received as many standing ovations). So was it a good trip? The Statesman and Haaretz think that Israelis loved the tough stance on Obama, noting that the Prime Minister received a 13% favorability bump with his trip to the US that 47% of the population saw as a success. A complete success! But the settlers hated Netanyahu’s weak stance and, if the New York Times is to be believed, pretty much all Israelis shook their head in disgust at Bibi. Why? Because in his short trip to Washington, Netanyahu deepened the crisis with the Palestinians and set back the peace process 18 years.
To draw some conclusions:
- Obama has absolutely no idea how to handle the Israeli politicians in Israel (Netanyahu) or America (US Congress); and
- Israelis both loved and hated Netanyahu for his success of a failed trip.
Photo from SF Sentinel