Signs are not auspicious for Barack Obama's coming visit.
The front page of Friday's Ma'ariv headlined a poll showing more Israel's viewing him as antagonistic to Israel (38%) than as supportive of Israel (33%), and substantially more Israelis opposing a gesture toward the Palestinians in connection with the visit (51%) than in favor of such a gesture (27%).
Yesterday's news do not add to the President's advantages. It featured reports of serious injuries to a mother and three young daughters--one not expected to survive--due to stones thrown by Palestinians
According to op-ed pieces in Ma'ariv's weekend magazine, the visit was mostly for the purposes of giving the President a check mark for having visited Israel, that his purposes were more for the purpose of propaganda than accomplishment, and that he was aware of the limitations associated with Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership.
The President would be meeting with newly installed government ministers, and presumably shaking hands twice with Bibi at every ceremonial occasion---once as Prime Minister and once as Foreign Minister. Netanyahu is giving himself the second title while holding the spot open for Avigdor Lieberman, in the hope that Lieberman will emerge unscathed before the end of this government from what might be a long trial for corruption.
Obama referred to Prime Minister Netanyahu as "Bibi" in an interview with the pretty news reader of Israel's most watched television channel. Does that mean that Netanyahu can address him publicly as "Barack?" And that reports of mutual animosity are now outdated?
One of the ministers Obama will be meeting is the ascendant newcomer, Naftali Benet leading the party Jewish Home, whose Knesset delegation increased from 7 to 12 seats. Its MKs and many of its voters would like to put the idea of a Palestinian state deep into history's dustbin.
Not helping the President with Jewish Home is the Americans' decision to exclude students from Ariel University when Obama intends to engage Israel's up and coming young people
The minister most in favor of renewing negotiations and bringing them to a successful conclusion, Tsipi Livni, is leading the coalition's smallest party. Livni began the last Knesset as head of a party with 28 seats. This time her party won only 6 seats.
A recent poll suggests that Obama would not be helped with his own people if he actually does pressure Israel. 64% of Americans are now sympathizing with Israel, compared to only 12% with Palestinians
It's no surprise that the Israeli and international left (Jewish and otherwise) have unlimbered their conventional wisdoms. Aluf Benn, the Editor of Ha'aretz, concludes a review in the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs (March/April, 2013) of two books dealing with the political weight of Israel's military with one of the usual refrains. Washington must pressure Israel to be more forthcoming.
"The best way for Washington to moderate Israeli policies is to engage Israel's military and intelligence leaders and leverage them as an effective peace lobby. The Obama administration has essentially followed that script to prevent an Israeli strike on Iran, although it has proved insufficient in promoting an Israeli-Palestinian agreement."
And what about pressuring the Palestinians?
That is not in the leftists' playbook, either because they are certain of Israel's responsibility for all that is wrong in this part of the Middle East (and perhaps the entire region), or because they recognize that it would be futile.
A New York professor who is tireless in writing of Israel's needs headlines his latest note with the title, "The Prospect for Peace Must Trump Potential Failure
He begins with
"President Obama’s foray into the Middle East may well provide him the last opportunity to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which is central to the region’s stability."
Could he possibly mean that an Israeli-Palestinian peace will end the civil war in Syria and unrest in Egypt? Apparently so.
"The Israeli-Palestinian conflict stands out as the single most troubling regional issue because the Palestinian problem continues to feed into the Arab frenzy, especially in the wake of the Arab Spring."
No doubt the realization of his scenario it would be lovely--beginning with an Israeli-Palestinian peace--and proceeding to a better Middle East, but my own reading of the tea leaves is that the Palestinians cannot move from the mantras they have been reciting since 1967, 1948, or 1920, and that problems in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere derive from their own dynamics of ethnicity and religious extremism that are not tied to Israel or Judaism.
Also in the weeds are the Jews and others--often led by Palestinians--obsessed with boycotts, disvestment, and sanctions (against Israel; certainly not against Palestine), convinced that Israel has no right to exist, or cannot possibly be both a Jewish state and a democratic state. Not included in the anti-Israel screeds that I have read are any references to the prospect that a.Palestine state would not accept Jews within its borders, or be anything close to Israel's quality of democracy.
The most certain feature of the upcoming visit will be the impossibility of Jerusalemites moving anywhere close to the President's routes. Those with options are advised to spend the time of his visit elsewhere.
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