Obama at AIPAC, a Preview For a Miracle?

March 4, 2012 5:36 pm 6 comments

President Obama at AIPAC 2012. Photo: Ruvi Leider.

It could’ve been worse.

After the disaster that was the Presidential speech to AIPAC in 2011, no doubt many delegates to this year’s gathering (which is constantly portrayed by assorted anti-Semites as a nexus of Jewish power yet curiously turns out to be as dangerous for Obama as a petting zoo) have offered thanks to the heavens for the Iranian nuclear program. Every minute spent speechifying about Iran is a minute saved from the discourse on Israel’s shortcomings in the peace process. After the president’s minions had berated Israel on various occasions for failing to embrace the Arab spring (now demoted from a glorious daybreak of democracy to “upheaval and uncertainty”), for lack of good manners vis-à-vis Obama’s best friend, Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, for resembling an Islamist theocracy with regard to the rights of women, all that Obama has had to do was to avoid those issues and he had the audience in the bag.

In his speech, Obama repeated the theme he’d struck in his interview with “The Atlantic”. He wants the support of the pro-Israeli community, but makes no apologies for treating the elected leader of the Jewish democracy as pariah, for setting preconditions that drove the Palestinian leadership up a tree and made negotiations impossible, for picking pointless fights with Jerusalem over a few apartment buildings, for his conscious effort “to put a daylight” between America and Israel, for failing to uphold the recommendations of the UN commission on the Marmara incident, for setting Israel’s neighborhood on fire and for deliberately avoiding the subject of Egyptian-Israeli relations until it was almost too late. Being oblivious to the consequences of his own actions, the President has declared today that he “makes no apologies for pursuing peace”. Maybe he should have apologized for making this dream even more impossible.

The stubborn refusal to acknowledge past mistakes must alert American friends of Israel to the basic truth about their President. He believes that the course he took in the first two years of his administration – one of the direct verbal and political confrontation with the Israeli government he doesn’t like – was correct and justified. The make-nice routine that has set in after the midterm elections was the result of political necessity, not of – to use Obama’s own recommendation to the Israeli Jews – “profound soul-searching”. The logical assumption should be that if Obama gains a second term, relations with Jerusalem will worsen again.

In order to secure this freedom of future action against Netanyahu, Obama demands that right now, he’ll be judged not by his past statements or ideological positions that he’s injected into the Israeli-American dialog, but by his deeds. Here, in terms of military cooperation and budgetary assistance, he can rightly claim a lot of credit. Of course, certain omissions also help. Obama hasn’t mentioned that the bilateral security cooperation was purposely degraded by the administration of his predecessor to punish Israel for selling drones to China. Obama made a point of his speech in the UN last September yet said nothing about the “après veto” speech by his representative to the UN Susan Rice, who famously decried the “folly and illegitimacy” of the Jewish presence in the lands of the Bible.

Having in essence called his Israeli ally a stupid transgressor of international law, half a year later Obama was forced to mobilize American diplomatic might to prevent Palestinians from achieving unilateral recognition in the UN – that, after he tried to persuade them and failed miserably. And, of course, between the “Atlantic” interview and the speech at AIPAC, presidential speechwriters had removed all notice of the Marmara affair – mainly so as not to upset Obama’s favorite Islamist in Ankara, but also because the administration gave Israel no real support on this occasion, only pressure.

On the star-billed subject – Iran – Obama was, as expected, non-controversial. Except of his deliberate failure to mention the Green Revolution that his indifference helped to strangle, and his hilarious chiding of those who spread “too much loose talk of war” – like his own Secretary of Defense, perhaps? – the President said nothing unreasonable. Of course, the diplomatic successes of this administration were made possible by a combined effort of Israeli and European intelligence to undo the damage caused by the National Intelligence Estimate of 2007 and by the high credibility of the Israeli threat of violence should the Iranian march to the bomb continue unabated. Of course, Obama’s best friend in the region – Turkey – remains the weakest link in a chain of sanctions around the ayatollahs’ neck. Of course, the regime is ignoring the sanctions altogether. Of course, just as Obama was appealing to the rational interest of Iranian leadership, the tally of votes in Tehran showed an increase in the “parliamentary” power of fanatics like Mesbah Yazdi who make Ahmadinejad look like a harmless cook. Of course, the American intervention into a civil war in Libya under the pretext of protecting civilians destroyed the spirit of cooperation with Russia and China, making further progress on Iran in the UN highly unlikely.

Nevertheless, it was hard not to accept Obama’s main argument – the sanctions against Iran are unprecedented, they are going to get worse and deserve a window of opportunity for evaluation. Without threatening Iran with military strikes directly, Obama has denounced the pernicious idea of containment and declared that to prevent Iran from laying its hands on a nuclear weapon is an American, not an Israeli, security interest. Finally, he made it clear that Washington recognizes the difference between the American and Israeli assessment of the Iranian threat and leaves the final decision to Jerusalem. Netanyahu, who expressed his satisfaction with the speech, can go into the White House tomorrow slightly reassured.

But behind the closed doors, the Prime Minister of Israel will still face a man who, when it was politically expedient, has treated him like an enemy, whose administration had promoted the idea of a regime change in Israel, whose base is chock-full with real “Israel-firsters” – those who blame Israel first and ask questions later. The Israeli press hasn’t failed to notice that in this speech, Obama didn’t mention Netanyahu individually (only in the company of the Defense Minister Barak), made a point of calling him “Bibi” instead of “Benjamin,” and attempted – not for the first time – to address the Israeli public over his head about the horrors of war.

To persuade the Israeli government that he really isn’t bluffing and stalling to get past the elections, Obama needs not the easy plaudits of the AIPAC delegates, but the full trust of Netanyahu and the people he represents. On the verge of the Purim celebration of impossible turnarounds, let us hope and pray for this miracle.

6 Comments

  • Netanyahu seems like a loose canon when he speaks. But I give him a lot of credit for holding off on Iran so far. I think it is only a matter of time and the US will stand by Israel.

  • America has never fought for Israel. All the exact opposite. Israel has always fought for America against the Soviet Union. America has always used Israel. And then pay the Arabs by Jews.

  • Wow, this is REALLY good to know, since Israelis clearly think that America will come to their aid and will fight for them – just like it did in all Israel’s wars, right? This is a Jewish website. Take your hatred of Jews elsewhere.

  • The President of the United States has no duty to be lick the boots of the PM of Israel. The attitude which comes across here and in so many other op-eds is that American presidents are sworn into office by pledging an oath of allegiance to Israel.
    America owes Israel nothing.

  • Has Netanyahu talked with the fathers, mothers, wives, brothers and sisters of the soldiers who may die in the contest with Iran?
    Has he visited their homes to see what emptiness will be there when they are gone? Has Netanyahu recently visited cities reduced to piles of rubble by sustained air strikes?
    To be sure, Iran will sustain far worse devastation, not only from Israel, but also from the U.S. This does not change the likelihood, however, that both countries will also sustain damage in one form or another.
    When Abe Lincoln advised his clients to settle whenever possible, he did so not only because it ends the dispute and uncertainty, but also because in a public trial a client often loses even when he wins the underlying case. BP understood this well last week, which is why it settled. It thus put the loss behind it and is now moving forward.
    In the same way, Israel, as a modern nation should think of smart ways to deal with Iran. Indeed, keen understanding of human nature has been the great asset of the Jews, which has helped them finesse through predominately Christian or Muslim countries.
    Why then has war now become the only option? Even when you become good at it, any battle entails losses.
    And here is another point. Just as in time Iran might acquire nuclear weapons, it might also abandon them. Libya did, and so did South Africa. Perhaps North Korea would also, though no one is holding his breath.
    Not these guys, you say. Perhaps.
    But was it not in Iran where Arab Spring had its roots — in the protests that followed the 2009 disputed election. Yes, the hardliners have put out all those flames. The hot coals are still there, however, smoldering in the ashes. Such is the resiliency of the human spirit, and as we see it now in Syria.
    Let’s assume, however, that Iran, as expected, becomes an insufferable bully. Surely, we have dealt with bullies before — and the Jews have dealt with them throughout the centuries. Recent history shows that bullies do not last forever, and have an unkind end lately. Thus if Iran was to become an insufferable bully with its nuclear knowledge, it will only be pushed further into isolation in an increasingly interconnected world.
    If none of this convinces us to put aside our war drums, maybe we should recall the story of the captain and his mate who were about to be executed by the pirates.
    “Let us live for six months,” the captain told them boldly,” and we will train your dog to talk.”
    “How we’re gonna do that,” the mate whispered?
    The captain replied:
    “In six months we may die.
    The pirates may die.
    Or the dog may talk.”

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    Lena Dunham Responds to Charges of Antisemitism: It was Just a Jew Joke

    “Girls” creator Lena Dunham responded on Tuesday to charges of antisemitism over an article she had penned for the New Yorker, saying it was all in good humor. Speaking to Variety, Dunham reflected on her “tight-knit Jewish family, where Jew jokes were part of the essential fiber of our communication.” The article Dunham referred to was called “Dog or Jewish Boyfriend? A Quiz,” with options such as “He doesn’t Tip” and “He’s Crazy for Cream Cheese.” Among Dunham’s critics, Anti-Defamation [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Former NBA Star Tweets Article About Jewish Conspiracy to Control Global Media

    Retired NBA player Keyon Dooling tweeted a link on Wednesday to a wildly antisemitic article that accuses Jews of seizing control of the world’s media and using it to promote their own interests. The article, published by an obscure blog in April 2013, highlights six companies it claims are owned by Jews — such as Time Warner, Inc. and the Walt Disney Company – that allegedly “control 96 percent of the world’s media.”  The post includes allegations of “Jewish control” and says [...]

    Read more →
  • Sports US & Canada Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    Rosh Hashanah Won’t Keep the Giants’ Geoff Schwartz From Season Opener

    New York Giants offensive guard Geoff Schwartz responded to an outcry from Jewish fans on Tuesday, saying he will go ahead and play in the season opener despite the fact that it falls on the first night of Rosh Hashanah. “Keep getting tweets about that being the first night of Rosh Hashanah… Don’t know what I’m supposed to tell you. It’s a tough break,” the Jewish athlete wrote, referring to the Giants’ on-the-road game against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, Sept. [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Sports Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    Jewish Coach David Blatt Has NBA’s Cavaliers Surging at Playoff Time

    JNS.org – When David Blatt was hired as head coach of the National Basketball Association’s Cleveland Cavaliers last June, he was not often recognized when he walked the streets of downtown Cleveland. What a difference a year makes. Now, Blatt can go few places without being recognized. For good reason. The Jewish coach has the Cavaliers in the mix to win the city of Cleveland’s first championship in a major sport since the Browns won the National Football League title in [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    Croatian Soccer Star’s Hebrew Tattoo Causes a Stir Online

    A Hebrew tattoo sported by Croatian soccer star Mario Mandzukic became an internet sensation in Israel after it was exposed on Tuesday during a Champions League match between Ateltico Madrid and Real Madrid A first glance, the tattoo, on the athlete’s back, might leave one with the impression that it was an unfortunate artistic mistake, since the Hebrew letters do not make sense as they are written. However, a closer look at the tattoo shows that it was actually written [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Theater Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    Why an Algemeiner Editor Wrote a Play About a Mass Shooter

    For the past two years, I have served as Opinion Editor at The Algemeiner. I’m perhaps most proud of the paper’s commitment to publishing diverse and opposing viewpoints on the controversial issues of the day. We pride ourselves on voicing different opinions because we know that most issues are not black and white, and because our community is better served by a public debate. In my life outside of the paper, I am a professional actor and playwright. And similarly, [...]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    In ‘America in Retreat,’ a Real-Life Risk Board

    JNS.org – “Risk: The Game of Strategic Conquest,” the classic Parker Brothers board game, requires imperial ambitions. Players imagine empires and are pitted against each other, vying for world domination. Amid this fictional world war, beginners learn fast that no matter the superiority of their army, every advance is a gamble determined by a roll of the dice. After a defeat, a player must retreat. Weighted reinforcement cards provide the only opportunity to reverse a player’s fortunes and resume the [...]

    Read more →
  • Beliefs and concepts Sports Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    Does Working Out With Other Jews Keep You Jewish?

    JNS.org – For Daphna Krupp, her daily workout (excluding Shabbat) at the Jewish Community Center (JCC or “J”) of Greater Baltimore has become somewhat of a ritual. She not only attends fitness classes but also engages with the instructors and plugs the J’s social programs on her personal Facebook page. “It’s the gym and the environment,” says Krupp. “It’s a great social network.” Krupp, who lives in Pikesville, Md., is one of an estimated 1 million American Jewish members of more [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.