The Holy Land: Just another stop for the eternal campaigner

Sol W. Sanders  

So now we know what President Obama’s trip to Israel was all about:

There was more than a little puzzlement. He had waited through almost five years of his first administration to visit America’s only trusted ally in the Mideast. He had made a grand tour of the region early on, ignoring Israel, presenting a somewhat sanitized version of Arab/Muslim history and announcing a new course for U.S. policy. He had quarrelled with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by insisting on a return to indefensible truce lines of the 1948 Israeli War for Independence.

The jackets came off in Jerusalem: President Barack Obama and Israel's Netanyahu.
The jackets came off in Jerusalem: President Barack Obama and Israel’s Netanyahu.

The Obama advancemen arranged with a notoriously leftwing Israeli columnist to carefully put together a small but enthusiastic audience of young student radicals, by excluding several major universities and after refusing an invitation to address the Israeli Knesset [parliament]. Mr. Obama showered Israelis [and American Jews] with kisses. Surely the Arab/Muslim press has understood it was all because his speechwriter Ben Rhodes has a Jewish mother and that makes him according to halakha a Jew. After all, some busy researcher has just discovered that Lyndon Baines Johnson was a Jew, traced back several generations though his matriarchal family line to German Jewish immigrants.

Rhodes’ researchers even remembered the long history of Jewish persecution and survival [although here was no mention of the heroism of the Warsaw ghetto on this 70th anniversary.] He acknowledged Israeli’s economic miracle [if not Bibi’s earlier contribution as finance minister dynamiting the trade union Histadruth’s socialist stranglehold which had held it up for a generation.]

This time there was nothing about that golden era of supposed concord between Jews, Muslims and Christian in 15th Century Iberian al Andalus which was headlined in his Cairo speech with its “outreach” to the Islamic world. Nor did he mention such a speech as he gave in Jerusalem could not be arranged much less given in a single neighboring Arab country, or even further afield in any Muslim-majority country. Nor did it seem to bother anyone that all his activities, virtually, were in Jerusalem although he like other presidents before him, has steadfastly supported the State Dept. in its refusal to acknowledge the Shinning City on the Hill as Israel’s capital despite its Jewish history [“Next year in Jerusalem!”] and repeated almost unanimous Congressional resolutions demanding it.

So exactly where are we now?

The speech backed off his earlier insistence on making an end to Israeli settlements in so-called Occupied Territories the sine qua non of “the peace process”. It had never been the principal issue in earlier negotiations, certainly not on the Palestinian side. Maybe one of Mr. Rhodes’ researchers noticed that Bibi’s new coalition rests on participation of a party dedicated to expansion of the settlements? It was that insistence that had immediately doomed President Obama’s sponsorship of any serious negotiations to oblivion.

As The Jerusalem Post acknowledged, Israelis like everyone else, maybe more so given the history of the Jews, likes to be loved. Mr. Rhodes showered them with what some would like to believe was “tough love”.

For the President ended up calling for the same old concessions to a Palestinian state which would imperil Israeli security. That was true, the President conceded, but something that had to be done in the pursuit of peace. It’s the kind of negotiating often proposed by leftwing American Jews but for the Israelis. Sill, his young audience, he said, knew that risk-taking was necessary because it was part of their DNA.

“The outstretched hand” to the Arab/Muslim world might not have been withdrawn, bite marks and all, but some would point out a few continued contradictions. There was still the call for a “contiguous” Palestinian state, that is, linking the so-called West Bank with Gaza [even though Rhodes did concede in the latter we were dealing with acknowledged terrorists dedicated to the destruction of Israel]. Webster says “contiguous” means “… touching along a boundary or at a point…” or “… touching or connected throughout in an unbroken sequence; contiguous row houses…” Last time I looked at a map, that would mean cutting tiny little Israel in about half or a tunnelling job that would overtax even the smugglers working out of The Sinai into Gaza. I suppose young Mr. Rhodes is too young to remember that it was just such a threat to Israel’s access to the Red Sea and Asian commerce that helped bring on the 1956 war.

The flurry of leaks which preceded the trip were as confused as the purpose of the trip itself. One said the president would not go through the usual protocol of visiting Yad Vashem, the museum to The Holocaust, nor make a visit to Masada, the famous fortress where Jews committed mass suicide rather than surrender to their Roman besiegers. [“Never Again!] He didn’t. Instead, it was said, he would be closeted with the Israeli prime minister even though repeatedly it was also said he was bringing no new initiatives on “the peace process” [nor did the Israelis or the Palestinians suggest they had any]. But in the end, he did the [almost] usual round of visitations.

There was considerable improvement in body language with Netanyahu – coats came off, there were smiles, even hugs at the end. A brilliant last minute flourish was given when Bibi was persuaded to apologize on the telephone for Turkish casualties in an armed attempt, sponsored by Ankara government agencies, to break the Israeli arms embargo against Hamas in Gaza. But that perhaps had more to do with Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s growing difficulties with his neighbors – the chaos on his southeastern frontier with Syria replete with its rebellious Kurd minority and Iran’s continued support of the almost unparalleled suppression of Bashar Assad.

The prospect of Israeli gas exports – including transiting to Europe – rather than dependence on Tehran or LNG shipments from Qatar for Turkey’s increasingly deflating boom might just have had something to do with it. Forgotten, of course, in the mainstream media, was the president’s earlier questioning publicly whether Turkey could still be called an ally, NATO membership of no.

The president went on across the Jordan to throw a lifeline to Abdullah II’s embattled regime, now already facing an inflow of Syrian refugees totalling 1 percent of its population. Up to his what’s-it in cantankerous Palestinians, and a growing quarrelsome Bedouin population on which the Hashemite Kingdom has been based, Abdullah needed an additional American hand-out.

And thus a return to the U.S. for the real campaigning for which this was only a practice run.

So Israeli-admirer, peace-maker, and rescuer, we now begin the contest for too many seats in both the House and Senate with moderate or conservative majorities jeopardizing those gains made in 2012, perhaps even threatening the whole structure of the impasse the White House has helped created in the Congress by denying it leadership toward any legislative goals following the debacle of Obamacare now under attack everywhere.

Could it be that even some of those Hollywood “politically correct” Jews and their contributions are about to jump ship?

The trip was pure and simply the opening gambit in the campaign for the 2014 Congressional elections.

Yep, just another stop on the campaign trail – nothing is sacred for the Obama electoral team, not even in The Holy Land.

Sol W. Sanders, (, is a contributing editor for and and blogs at

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