President Obama is visiting Israel next month. Obviously there is little love lost between the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu, and no one believes the trip will jump start meaningful peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority — as there is no indication that Netanyahu has ever been willing to offer the Palestinians more than a bantustan state. So why bother? One reason would be to make the trip symbolically and historically important.
Obama could do that by meeting with some dissident Israelis — not simply the Labor Party opposition, which has more or less given up on the peace process, but Israelis who understand Israel’s long-term rightward drift is turning it into an apartheid state, or those who have struggled to document and combat Israel’s slow motion annexation of the West Bank and systematic efforts to squeeze the Palestinians out of their homeland.
Mondoweiss cites a piece in Haaretz by the Israeli novelist Yitzhak Laor, which argues that only international pressure can save Israel and supports a variant of BDS. Why not meet with him? Or with the leaders of B’Tselem, the stalwart Israeli human rights organization — whose director, last I was in Israel, was an impressive American-born woman. The mere fact of such meetings would convey to Israelis a more powerful message than whatever speech the president might come up with.
Really, it’s time. Republican subservience to Israel has already been satirized by the writers of “Saturday Night Live,” a sure sign that rejection of it has gone mainstream. Obama needn’t kowtow anymore. He should use his trip to communicate, in symbolic but unmistakable terms, that America’s deference to Israel’s landgrabbing, or its readiness to look the other way as Israel uses American weapons to pummel civilian targets, is over as far as he is concerned.