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A Guide for the Perplexed

Alana’s post on Haim Saban’s disenchantment with President Obama quotes Saban as saying that he does not understand why Obama has not visited Israel: 

I’m very perplexed as to why the president, who’s been to Cairo, to Saudi Arabia, to Turkey, has not made a stop in Israel and spoken to the Israeli people. . . . I believe that the president can clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are on Israel and calm them down. Because they are not calm right now.

This is the same message Obama has received—and ignored—three years in a row. 

In 2009, with a single-digit percentage of Israelis believing Obama was pro-Israel, the prominent Haaretz commentator Aluf Benn took to the op-ed page of the New York Times to suggest Obama deliver his message directly to Israelis, noting that he had spoken to Arabs, Muslims, Iranians, Western Europeans, Eastern Europeans, Russians, and Africans—but not Israelis. Benn urged Obama to visit Israel. But Obama’s message was already fairly obvious, and no trip materialized. 

In 2010, Obama met with 37 Jewish Congressional Democrats, who asked him to travel to Israel. A group of friendly rabbis went to the White House and urged the same thing, saying they were not confident that he “feels Israel in his kishkes.” In a joint press conference a couple months later, Netanyahu personally invited Obama, and Obama responded he was “ready”—but no trip followed. It was obvious for several reasons that Obama would not go. 

This year various people or groups suggested Obama go; some expected he might announce a visit in his AIPAC speech last Sunday, but he did not. He needed to use the occasion for damage control from his latest attempt to humiliate the Israeli prime minister (having announced a U.S. position on negotiations without consulting him, rejecting his strenuous objections after giving him a few hours notice, and proceeding with the announcement without waiting to meet with him the next day). 

Saban suggests Obama can visit Israel and “clarify to the Israeli people what his positions are.” But what we got here is not a failure to communicate. It has been clear for quite a while exactly what Obama feels in his kishkes.


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