Written by Daniel Greenfield
Obama needs a victory. Somewhere. After losing congress and returning from another useless international trip, that victory has to come from somewhere. Outmaneuvered on the home front, he desperately needs to regain his stature and upstage the new Republican congress with a major achievement. And it's clear now to even his dimmest media supporters that such an achievement won't come from another international tour.
His political status as the occupant of the White House, and his own personal celebrity, mean that he can hop on Air Force One and get a reception in most countries. But having cocktail parties thrown in your honor and actually being listened to are two different things. Internationally Obama has become a "party guest", whose attendance brings status and media attention, but who isn't to be taken seriously.
Cracking both the new congress and the world community is hard with no leverage. Most presidents have understood that their leverage came from representing American interests. But Obama has acted as if his charisma and genius would automatically make everyone listen to what he had to say. And it hasn't worked out that way. His personal qualities have made him into an international globetrotting party guest, not a world leader. And now that he needs to be a world leader, to impress congress, the public and the world community-- he's going about it in the same old-fashioned way. By going after the one country he still has leverage over.
Creating a Palestinian state is unworkable in practice, but politically necessary. Which is why numerous presidents, prime ministers and world leaders have thrown themselves into the task. The Muslim world has cynically stymied every call for reform or a crackdown on terrorism, with the claim that the real problem in the region is Israel. Unfortunately few American diplomats have been able to see through that puppet theater. And even more unfortunately, few have wanted to see through it.
Halfway into his term, Obama has discovered that his background in a Muslim country and his antipathy to America, haven't led to any diplomatic accomplishments on the ground. Afghanistan and Pakistan are sliding. The Saudis are pulling the strings. Iran has no interest in being reasonable. And nothing he does make any difference. But the message from the Muslim world is that everything will turn out right, if only he puts the boot down on that one tiny little non-Muslim country in the midst of that great desert of Islam.
Israel has been the obvious whipping boy for a succession of presidents looking to score a victory in the face of domestic unpopularity and no international achievements to their name. Behind it all is the shiny brass ring that the Muslim world keeps dangling in front of the west. The ring that promises an end to Muslim terror. No more instability in the region. A reliable flow of oil. Global harmony between the Western world and the Dar Al Islam. The ring is an illusion, but the need for it is real.
Obama needs a victory. And the media needs him to score a victory. And Israel has been selected as the basket.
Announcing a Palestinian state and the end of the conflict will show the world and Washington D.C. that Obama has still got it. That he's not yesterday's news or a wimp or nothing more than a glorified cocktail party guest. It will demonstrate that he still matters. The practical reality is that such a state is unworkable, not least because even the current territory under Palestinian Arab control is split between two warring factions. But the practical reality doesn't matter. The political reality does.
Obama needs to salvage his credibility in order to fight for the left's domestic agenda against a Republican congress. And the media desperately needs him to do that, not least because it reaffirms their worshipful presentation of him as the only hope for the salvation of the nation back in 2008. Taking on Israel, puts him into a fight against one of the left's favorite foreign targets. A tactic, which in their willful blindness they imagine will simultaneously cleanse America of its foreign policy sins and reconcile it with the Muslim world. Obama was already supposed to have accomplished both of these objectives. And now the road to foreign policy salvation lies through Jerusalem.
The problems are numerous, but generally irrelevant to the media. Abbas' refusal to even show up for the negotiations hardly merits any attention. Every setback is laid at Netanyahu's door. Old commitments between the two countries have been made contingent on Israel's willingness to ethnically cleanse his own people from his own country's capital city. The prom theme for the Class of 2012 is "sacrifices for peace". And as usual the sacrifices are human, and the peace is a mirage.
None of this is altogether new, just worse. After Brown's humiliating treatment, the UK got the message and went off on its own. Europe now generally ignores Obama, unless he shows up for a party. America's remaining allies south of the border are sitting quiet and hoping that Washington D.C. passes them by on the way to Chaveztown. But Israel failed to make the break early on. And its attachment to an alliance with the United States has once again proven to be its greatest weakness.
Netanyahu is still hoping to salvage some kind of understanding from the ruins of the peace process. But then a series of Israeli prime ministers have been just as committed to the delusional search for that grain of peace among the deserts of war. Instead of following England and Ecuador to the door, he's still trying to be reasonable in the hope that he can still redeem Israel's name and stop Iran. But being reasonable doesn't work with someone who has no interest in what you want. It just turns you into a doormat.
Obama doesn't like Israel. If Iranian nukes wiped out most of the country, his next phone call would be to find out what it will do to his popularity ratings. Unlike Bush, who at least genuinely believed what the Saudis were selling him, he's less interested in peace, than in upgrading his own image. He doesn't care what happens to the countries in the background of his photo ops, as long as he comes out looking good. His politics, his background in the Muslim world and his own interests have brought him to this place. The only restraining element on him comes from some of the former Clinton people in and around his administration.
Like him, the media does not like Israel. But the media is also full of self-proclaimed experts like Thomas Friedman, who eagerly parrot back the Saudi line, and seriously believe what they're told. Their immersion among left wing Israelis only feeds their bias toward Israel, just as a BBC journalist sequestered with Cindy Sheehan and her groupies would come away with the impression that America must be the worst country in the world. Like the entitled tourists that they are, they mistake their own personal encounters for objective reality.
Their politics and their orientalism dictate an ongoing hostility toward Israel. Their inability to separate the political from the personal, to report events rather than observations, turns that hostility into bias. And finally their personal investment in regime change in America, turns that bias into enmity. Anything that stands between Obama and success is the enemy. And must be beaten down.
After two years of failure, Israel is expected to bail out Obama's popularity at the cost of lives and land. The media's hate for the one country in the Middle East that isn't sending terrorists to murder Americans and their love for The One has overpowered all reason. And all that remains is a frustrated child's demand that he get what he wants now! Or else!
From NY to Jerusalem, Daniel Greenfield Covers the Stories Behind the News