Thursday, February 21, 2013

Obama's Visit Is Not Reason To Be Optimistic

I came across this translation of an article by senior Israeli reporter Nachum Barnea. It originally appeared in Hebrew in the Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonot. It is an analysis of what to expect regarding Obama's upcoming visit to Israel.

Bottom line: don't expect much.
I asked [a U.S. official] what prompted the president to travel to Israel at the current date, immediately after the swearing-in of a new government in Jerusalem and before his new secretary of state, John Kerry, has coped with the problems of the region. [He] replied: The president’s visit isn't supposed to solve specific political issues. ... 
If Europe, as well as the Jewish-American Left and the Israeli Left, are expecting the president to present Netanyahu with a diktat on Iran, settlement construction and/or the negotiations—those expectations are not going to be met. If the Israeli right wing is preparing for an historic confrontation—that isn't going to happen either. Obama has chosen the current time precisely because it is less binding. ... 
... in the past two years various people have urged the president to visit Israel, if only to strike from the agenda the question of why he hasn’t gone—to mark it on his checklist and to move on. ...
[Obama's] attention is trained on Asia. The decisive proof is Obama’s conduct on Syria. His two most senior cabinet ministers, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA director, all advised him to announce that the US has decided to arm the Syrian rebels. Obama rejected that advice, a course of action that could not have been easy given the seniority of the people giving that advice. ... 
Presidential visits to the Middle East stir expectations of a new initiative. That is not how this visit is being perceived by Washington. The general assumption is that Obama wants to disengage from the Middle Eastern headache, not to sink into it. This visit is going to be the fulfillment of an obligation, which will be followed by nothing. 
In short, don't count on the U.S to save the Palestinians from Israel, or the Israelis from themselves.

Read the entire article here.

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