Obama is in Israel this week for an official visit. I have to say, I don’t know why. It is clear the Israeli government has no real desire to make a peace deal and the Palestinians are gearing up for a possible third intifada. There is probably little that Obama can accomplish. He doesn’t have any political pressure at home to do so either.
American support for Israel continues to soften. While a majority of Americans (around 55%) support Israel in general, when you look at the stats you discover that is far less than a majority in the group of people under-40. In fact, if you look at past polls, you see there has a been a steady decline in American support for Israel in the past decade. In addition, 2/3rds of Americans don’t want Obama (or the U.S.) to lead on peace negotiations. Everyone thinks the Israelis and Palestinians need to start fending for themselves.
There are various reasons for all this. Israeli governments have shot themselves in the foot by being involved in American politics and backing Republicans who have negligible support in that under-40 group. Part of it is Israel’s unwillingness to concede on any issue especially settlements or to deal with the Palestinians in what is deemed a fair manner.
But I think constant attacks by Jewish groups on anyone who attempts to look at the Palestinian issue in an objective manner as being anti-Semite or anti-Israel only puts fuel on the fire. It has made a lot of once pro-Israel supporters change their minds. I saw this today. New York Times ran a piece on a village outside Jerusalem that has produced suicide bombers etc. and wants to lead a new intifada if there is going to be one. The Times was doing a ‘who is this village and what makes them tick’ piece. You would have thought they were publishing from Ramallah from some of the flack they were catching from Israel and I’ve never known the New York Times NOT to be pro-Israel. This concept that all must be based in ideology instead of reason is undermining relations between the Americans and Israel.
America use to have to care about the Middle East. Truth is, they don’t have too any more. America use to import most of its oil from there but the States now import very little from the region. In strategic terms, what happens in the Middle East now has minimal impact. This is why former Sec. Defense Gates said on his way out that Americans have no reason to ever commit troops to the region again. I really don’t think Israeli politicians listened to that speech but they should have.
I can’t stress that under-40 age gap enough. The politicians in Israel and PA don’t understand that group here and politicos here don’t understand that group there. Everybody is assuming it is the same ol’ game when it isn’t. I listened to an ex-Ambassador to Israel and a pundit talk about domestic politics in Israel and it was clear they couldn’t understand the hardships being felt by the Israeli public. They were very wrong about why Israeli’s voted on domestic politics in the last election. One of them actually said that Bibi Netanyahu had a “liberal economic policy”. I started laughing. (About the only time he is liberal is if he is buying ice cream. Google it.) But it is an example of how the status quo equations no longer work.
Most of what Obama is doing is for show. He can say later he tried. He can try to talk some reason into Palestinians about right of return and the use of international bodies like the I.C.C. to accomplish their agenda. He can try to get Bibi’s new government to curb settlers and actually keep his word in dealing with Palestinians. He can try but I wouldn’t place a 2 dollar wager on it going anywhere.
In the meantime, the BDS movement is gaining strength in the States and beginning to put a slight pinch on Israeli investments here. REAL anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe. The Israelis are losing traditional support and the Palestinians are losing some of their traditional backers too for a different set of reasons. The status quo is not an option except for Obama who knows that unlike the P.A. and Israel, very little of the consequences are going to land on his doorstep. Obama’s visit to Israel? Well, he finally got some of that sightseeing done.