The president goes to Israel this week on a belated damage control mission. Much of the itinerary is designed to correct a major diplomatic flub, the Cairo speech in 2009, when he suggested Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust not to thousands of years of Jewish history. (Tip for the president: Don’t refer to this historical fact as “the Jewish state’s theory of its historical roots.”)
It is interesting that the New York Times over the weekend did a puff piece on deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, burying the lede that he was the author of the speech that set off four years of ill feelings and mistrust. It ultimately is the president’s world view that matters and he, from the onset of his presidency, has treated the Jewish state through the lens of the academic left — as an impediment to peace, a burden and an oppressor. He has belittled its elected government and elevated the building issue, never an impediment to peace talks under prior administrations, to new heights, putting him in constant conflict with a country which can never agree not to allow Jews to live anywhere in its historic capital. (The notion that East Jerusalem should remain Judenfrei is an all-to-familiar assumption on the anti-Israel left, best exemplified in the notoriously hostile reporting of the New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief.)
But there are bigger problems than the moribund peace process. The American people overwhelmingly think the U.S. should leave the issue to the parties; his secretary of State’s desire for an historic breakthrough notwithstanding, Obama would be wise not to fritter away more time and political collateral chasing an unattainable peace deal.
The Post reports: “Nine months after Iran was hit with the toughest restrictions in its history, the nation’s economy appears to have settled into a slow, downward glide, hemorrhaging jobs and hard currency but appearing to be in no immediate danger of collapse, Western diplomats and analysts say. At the same time, the hardships have not triggered significant domestic protests or produced a single concession by Iran on its nuclear program.” In other words, Obama’s Iran policy is failed, no doubt the reason for his public rush to insist Iran is at least a year away from obtaining nuclear weapons capability. (Previously, the point of no return was thought to be this spring or summer.)
The most critical issue for the president and the Israeli prime minister then may be this: What can the president do, perhaps in offering additional weapons systems and/or technology, that would give the Israelis enough confidence to extend their timeline? That and the potential addition of more stringent sanctions on Iran (on all commercial activity excepting only humanitarian assistance) would seem to be critical to getting Israel and the U.S. in sync.
There are also the Syrian bloodbath, the failure to secure Syrian WMD’s and the behavior and rhetoric of the Egyptian government. The region is awash with violence, uncertainty and jihadist terror. And the president is still trying to show he knows Jews’ attachment to the land of Israel predates WWII. While Obama has been feuding with Israel and obsessing about settlements, the centrifuges have been spinning in Tehran and the region has been spinning out of control. If nothing else the trip will be a success if Obama begins focusing on what is important and showing the United States is resolute and will use all instruments of its power.