What’s the point of this trip?

Israel/Palestine
on 95 Comments
Netanyahu mimics Obama or vice versa
Netanyahu mimics Obama or vice versa, White House photo by Pete D’Souza

What is the point of this trip? I have no idea, except for Obama to say the name Bibi ten times, as he did yesterday during their press briefing, on this their tenth meeting.

“As Bibi mentioned… As Bibi has just formed a new government… I have shared with Bibi… What Bibi alluded to… etc.”

As usual, the Onion is the only outlet saying the emperor has no clothes, that Obama flew 5000 miles to fake a relationship: “’this is a completely pointless visit and a waste of everyone’s time’… Obama reportedly said out of the corner of his mouth while he and Netanyahu smiled broadly and waved to the gathered crowd.”

The mainstream press is going along with the charade. Brian Williams repeatedly used the phrase Israel’s “tough neighborhood” on NBC Nightly News last night.

Memo to my fellow white people: This phrase has racist connotations in American political history. Do you ever reflect that maybe it’s a tough neighborhood for Palestinians, who have been violently expelled from their property? 

Erin Burnett at CNN used the trip as an opportunity to renew her association with Jewish Home party leader Naftali Bennett, whom she called Naftali, and whose racist policies she ignored, even when he was complaining that his children have to live a few miles away from Arabs.

Andrea Mitchell on MSNBC enthused about the fact that Obama repeatedly referred to Netanyahu as “Bibi,” and Netanyahu even called Obama Barack. Why is it so important that these men get along? Because of Iran and Syria, she says. She had on Jeffrey Goldberg and Ari Shavit of Haaretz and Martin Fletcher. It was left to Fletcher, the son of a Holocaust survivor who has thoroughly identified with Israelis, to say that Palestinians are not so keen on Obama.

Mitchell also evidently identifies with Israel. Some of her tweets; she calls him Bibi too:

Bibi: I’m absolutely convinced President is committed to Israel’s right to defend itself from a nuclear Iran

Obama calls Netanyahu “Bibi” both men send signals in word and demeanor of restart in chilly relationship

Fletcher said that Obama had snubbed Israel by going to Egypt to give his Cairo speech of 2009. Are Israelis really that self-centered? Yes. And the Israel lobby is also self-centered. Mitchell passed on this criticism in a tweet, quoting Fletcher:

“He did speak directly to the Arabs and ignore the Israelis” in 2009 Cairo speech.”

This is a falsehood. Obama spoke a lot about Israel in that Cairo speech; by my count he mentioned Israel or Israelis 23 times!

And yesterday Obama mentioned Palestine not once in his opening speech.

Of course Obama’s real mistake in Cairo was not citing the ancient Jewish connection to the land, as Annie Robbins has pointed out. On National Public Radio this morning, Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, which I thought was a secular organization, cited the Dead Sea Scrolls, which Obama will be seeing today, to say that Jews have been reading Hebrew in their homeland for over 2000 years. Karl Vick picks up the Cairo-error theme at Time Magazine.

If there was any question about why President Obama came to Israel on the first overseas trip of his second term — and the question has come up — it vanished into the brilliant blue sky above Ben Gurion Airport when he reached the end of the red carpet and the microphone waiting there. The leader of the free world had come to issue a correction. Four years ago, delivering an address to the Muslim people in Cairo, Obama had irked Israeli Jews by citing the Holocaust as the justification for the 1948 founding of modern Israel. Israelis prefer to reach a bit further back — they find their deed to the land in the Bible — and the misapprehension was aggravated by what Obama did when he left Cairo: fly past Israel to pay a call at Buchenwald, the World War II concentration camp….

“More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here,” Obama began, getting right to it on the tarmac. “And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish state of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history. Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be ‘masters of their own fate’ in ‘their own sovereign state.’”

Oh yes, another crazy reason for the most powerful person in the world to take three days out of his schedule to chum up to a horrifying, politically-weakened prime minister whom he privately detests, and even to flirt with the prime minister’s wife, describing her as a rose between thorns in the threesome’s photo opp.

Whatever the stated cause, this trip is about the lobby, about obeisance to a powerful political faction in the U.S. Obama’s biggest mistake is that he didn’t go to Israel before as president. He is only there because he privately promised to go there last fall as part of his “outreach” to the lobby. Just my assumption. It’s not as if the media are reporting it.

Meanwhile, I must read the Onion:

[Obama said to Netanyahu] “You won’t do what I want when it comes to stopping Israeli settlements, and I can’t do what you want in terms of dismissing Palestine. Now, pretend to laugh at what I just said so it appears like we get along.”

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