Friday, July 9, 2010

Is President Obama Caving in?

July 8, 2010...8:10 pm
Post Columnist Milbank Calls Obama-Bibi Meeting A “Surrender”Jump to Comments

by James M. Wall

Barack Obama swept into the White House, thanks, in part, to his political and oratorial skills.

He should have learned during his campaign for the US Senate that what he says about race relations at a Southern Illinois county fair will be reported in the African American wards in Chicago.

So what happened to those skills when he hosted Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu at the White House this week?

One day after what he described as an “excellent” White House meeting with Netanyahu, President Obama turned his back on the rest of the world, and focused tightly on confronting “the anxiety some Israelis feel toward him.”

The President was determined to reassure the Israeli public. But did he pause, even for a moment, to consider how his answers would sound to that part of the Israeli public that desperately wants him to stand up to Bibi?

Did he think how demeaning his answers were to Americans who want their president to be their president, and not pander to the prime minister of a foreign nation?

Did he stop to think that his answers would be harmful and offensive to the Arab/Muslim world? Worse yet, did he care?

Obama was interviewed by Israel’s Channel 2 network reporter Yonit Levy one day after his meeting with Netanyahu.

The story of the interview appeared in the Jerusalem newspaper, Ha’aretz.

Obama responded to Levi’s question by saying that some of the anxiety may stem from the fact that his “middle name is Hussein, and that creates suspicion.”

“Creates suspicion?” Please, Mr. President, the name Hussein is one you have previously said you carry proudly. What purpose is there in linking “Hussein” to “suspicion”. That is Fox News talk and we know what you think of Fox News.

The name Hussein “creates suspicion” only to small minded people who hate and fear Muslims. It is beneath Barack Obama to fall into that Fox News bigoted mindset by pandering to an Israeli television audience, most of whom know pandering when they see it.

Unfortunately, the President was just warming up. He went on to brag about the fact that two of his top staff members are Jewish:

Ironically, I’ve got a Chief of Staff named Rahm Israel Emmanuel. My top political advisor is somebody who is a descendent of Holocaust survivors.

The advisor, whom he does not name, is, of course, David Alexrod.

And I am reasonably certain that Alexrod would not have approved of the President Obama’s final comment on this topic:

My closeness to the Jewish American community was probably what propelled me to the US Senate.

That closeness did have a lot to do with the start of your national career, Mr. President, but it is not something you brag about when you claim to be working for a “peace agreement” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Barack Obama has been in this political business long enough to know that what is said on Israeli television, does not stay on Israeli television. You are not in Las Vegas anymore, Mr. President.

Bragging about key advisors being Jewish and commenting like a political reporter about the start of your political career would not have impressed Israelis from the hard right political wing of Israeli politics.

Nor were they impressed by the President of the United States pandering to the Israeli prime minister who has yet to give the President even the slightest concession in negotiations with the Palestinian leadership.

Netanyahu made that clear even before he left on his triumphant return to Israel. Reuters reported:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled on Thursday he would not extend beyond September a 10-month moratorium on new housing starts in settlements in the West Bank.
“I think we’ve done enough. Let’s get on with the talks,” he said, when asked in an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York whether he would extend the limited freeze he put in place to coax the Palestinians into peace negotiations.

Bibi Netanyahu does not have the slightest intention of making concessions to the Palestinians. Why should he? He has the US Congress in his back pocket. The American public remains under the sway of a decades-old Hasbara campaign that has created a false narrative that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East.

That narrative has been around a long time and its grip on American consciousness is appalling. It is a narrative that should be very much in President Obama’s mind as he confronts Netanyahu’s hard line stance.

Geoffrey Wawro explains how Israel’s power over the US has grown dramatically in his book, Quicksand: America’s Pursuit of Power in the Middle East:

Already in 1948, the Truman administration regretted the arrogance and brutality of Jewish ethnic cleansing in the Arab parts of Palestine but did nothing about it because of Cold War rivalry and fear of what Truman called the “pressure boys” of the Israeli lobby.

Each subsequent administration cried foul–”Henry, they can’t do that to us again,” Nixon wailed to Kissinger in 1973–but failed to crack down on Israeli foul play because of the same worries that creased Truman’s brow. (page 606)

The American media has, of course, long been under the control of Israel’s Hasbara (Hebrew for propaganda or explanation), but of late there have been signs that change may be on the way.

How else to explain a surprising column written by the Washington Post‘s Dana Milbank, under the heading, Netanyahu hears no discouraging words from Obama.

A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender.

That is what we might refer to as an “ouch” opening paragraph. Read on, there is more:

Four months ago, the Obama administration made a politically perilous decision to condemn Israel over a controversial new settlement. The Israel lobby reared up, Netanyahu denounced the administration’s actions, Republican leaders sided with Netanyahu, and Democrats ran for cover.

So on Tuesday, Obama, routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit: It was all about saving face.

The president, beaming in the Oval Office with a dour Netanyahu at his side, gushed about the “extraordinary friendship between our two countries.” He performed the Full Monty of pro-Israel pandering: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . .

For that small number of readers for whom “the Full Monty” might not be a familiar movie and play title which has given rise to a term now widely used, suffice it to say that not only does Milbank’s column evoke the image of surrender, he also manages to slip in a term that five years ago would never have made it past the Post’s Hasbara copy desk.

That my friends, is progress toward peace, real peace, not the peace going nowhere around a negotiating table, but progress toward peace that has begun to shatter the Hasbara grip on American politics.


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