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Obamiddleastology

You probably thought that Kremlinology [1] was a difficult undertaking.

Check this out: [2]

Between Israel and the United States a gap has opened this week, a narrow gap, almost invisible – but it may widen into an abyss.

The first signs are small. In his inaugural speech, Obama proclaimed that “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and nonbelievers.” Since when? Since when do the Muslims precede the Jews? What has happened to the “Judeo-Christian Heritage”? (A completely false term to start with, since Judaism is much closer to Islam than to Christianity. For example: neither Judaism nor Islam supports the separation of religion and state.)

The very next morning, Obama phoned a number of Middle East leaders. He decided to make a quite unique gesture: placing the first call to Mahmoud Abbas, and only the next to Olmert. The Israeli media could not stomach that. Ha’aretz, for example, consciously falsified the record by writing – not once but twice in the same issue – that Obama had called “Olmert, Abbas, Mubarak, and King Abdallah” (in that order).

Or this: [3]

Still, Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator, was struck by language that he felt conveyed “genuine empathy for the Palestinian predicament and for Palestinian dignity,” because Obama addressed “the suffering of Palestinian civilians as an issue in its own right rather than as a derivative of Hamas behavior.” Levy cited, as a contrast, a long list of statements by then-President George W. Bush and his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, that repeatedly blamed Hamas for Palestinian suffering.

Well…Maybe. After all, it was clear to me that Obama would choose Hillary as Secretary of State after making this gesture. [4]

change_me

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#1 Comment By Fran On January 26, 2009 @ 2:38 pm

I totally noticed that and took away a completely different viewpoint: President Obama purposely switched around the religions’ groupings so as to mix it up and give more acknowledgement to the perceived 3rd, 4th and 5th tier religions in the US. I thought it was pretty brilliant but would’ve liked it more had it been …”Buddhists and Hindus, Christians and Non-believers, Jews and Muslims!” That would’ve been fun.

#2 Comment By Bill Pearlman On January 26, 2009 @ 3:22 pm

No doubt about Leon, Obama is a pro-palestinian guy. Should warm the cockles of your heart.

#3 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On January 26, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

I too noticed this line and predicted that this will in due course lead to inclusive language celebrating our fellow Wiccan, Cargo-Cult, Druid and possibly cannibal, Americans. It can be argued that the Episcopalians are already Druids but I don’t wish to quibble as at least some of them still wish to be referred to as Christians.

As an Affirmative Action product of the Academy, Obama would tend to side with the Palestinians, even though he’s heard that many of them are Christian. Meanwhile, where’s that aunt of his?

#4 Comment By TomB On January 26, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

I suspect that these zephyrs are indeed portents. And remember Obama’s words in the campaign to the effect that “supporting Israel doesn’t mean marching in lockstep with Likud.”

But more than ever I wonder what, if anything, Obama sees as the endgame here: Okay, so he can seem determined to shove Israel a tad now. But you aren’t going to persuade Israel to abandon more than a fraction of its 400,000+ settlers, and you aren’t going to persuade the Palestinians to accept less than a simply huge amount more.

So where does he think he’s going? It’s just another train wreck waiting to happen, isn’t it? With the U.S. once again setting itself up to look complicit in yet another apparent sham of a peace process.

If Obama is going to spend some capital on this why not do it just quietly but firmly fighting to significantly reduce the U.S. support for Israel by some formula that can be said to deduct for Israel’s maintenance of the occupied territories, which is about the best one can realistically achieve? Then sit back and wish the parties the best, offer our good offices for mediation (maybe only as part of the Quartet to show we aren’t running interference for Israel from the rest of the world, which would be within Obama’s sole Presidential power to decide), and thereby at least try to distance ourselves a bit from Israel in the mind of that world?

Within the bounds of being reasonably achievable, realistic, no almost-certain failure, a moderate step in the direction of advancing U.S. interests, no wholesale abandonment of a past ally … e.g., a good, sound Presidential achievement.

Why must all Presidents strive for unattainable heights when they not only are so unattainable and the failure to achieve same has historically been so rare, but when those historical efforts have been the shoals upon which so many other Presidents have seen their legacies founder?

I figured though that Obama would see the need to start a big push into this issue right away. The hilarious truth is that the more hopeless the situation is over there the more crucial it is for the U.S. to bray ever louder in some way implying that we don’t really like what Israel is doing, so please don’t hold our unconditional support of it against us. Usually done of course via the pathetic beating of our breasts about how much we want “peace.”

Nevertheless, I thought Obama said it was time to abandon childish things … such as believing in miracles. Oh well.

#5 Comment By Leon Hadar On January 26, 2009 @ 9:56 pm

As I’ve suggested here: [5] here: [6] I’m not very optimistic about Obama’s ability to revive the “peace process” and I’m starting to get pessimstic about the long-term viability of the two-state solution. The best-case scenario under the current conditions would be something along the lines of the division of Cyrpus. But the two communities are so intertwined which makes that impossible.

#6 Comment By TomB On January 27, 2009 @ 4:35 pm

Hey Leon, now that we got you on the hook here I wonder if we could get your feelings on what Obama’s thinking appears to be on Afghanistan and Pakistan, and where it’s right and where wrong and the likely trajectory there?

I’m just kinda lost and confused. From what I gather Karzai is pretty expasperated by us killing so many civilians (and not securing much territory, and acting like we intend to stay forever, no?), and we somehow think we can push the new Paki government without toppling it and that it deserves same and there’s no risk involved and etc. Hence, Obama appoints Holbroke the tough guy.

But I’m not sure that any of this has any validity, especially since the part about Pakistan doesn’t make much sense to me.

Seems to me the Israel/Palestinian thing is basically stuck where it is for awhile at least. But especially with Pakistan, boy that can sure seem volatile and unstable and if that situation went South, no?

I’ve read as many other analysts about this as possible but (as usual) they got nowhere near the clarity of thinking nor track record you do when it comes to analyzing and calling the Mideast picture.

So you got a minute to tell us what you’re seeing and expecting? While Gaza is getting Israel and the Palestinians all the ink and attention, I wonder if the real danger zone right now isn’t considerably to the East.

Thanks.

#7 Comment By Leon Hadar On January 27, 2009 @ 10:18 pm

My sense of Obama is that he refrains from coming up with grand designs/strategies to deal with foreign policy (and domestic issues). I don’t think that he is committed to any “nation building” in Afghanistan or for that matter, Pakistan, and wants to pursuse what is achievable: Some sort of a local and regional arrangements that would provide for a de-centralized Afghanistan dominated by warlords, with Pakistan, India, Iran agreeing to support it. He will also try to get some movement between India and Pakistan on Kashmir and other issues (again, if it that is achievable). BTW, I’ve written quite a lot about Pakistan (see this: [7] and this: and this: [8]
and this: [9]
and this: [10]
And on Afghanistan in TAC this:
[11])

#8 Comment By TomB On January 28, 2009 @ 12:06 am

“My sense of Obama is that he refrains from coming up with grand designs/strategies to deal with foreign policy (and domestic issues).”

Brilliant. One of those rare pithy analyses that deceptively hides the cool observation and thought behind it. And needless to say one of immense potential importance.

Perfectly captures what seems to be both Mr. Obama’s fundamental strength and his fundamental weakness today at least I think, and thus may well explain both the nature and limits of his successes and the nature and magnitude of his failures in the future.

Thank you Mr. Hadar. I just hope the readers here appreciate both the nature and caliber of your thinking as much as I do. Bloody rare today, unfortunately, despite the herds of modern bloviators masquerading as so-called analysts.