At long last, the president of the United States is visiting Israel, his first such visit during his time in office. It’s not that he hasn’t been to the region. He’s been to Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Afghanistan. It’s just that he hasn’t visited America’s closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.
I was glad about that. It ties up traffic something fierce when important U.S. figures with their endless security details visit tiny Jerusalem with its impossibly narrow streets. Besides, visits by American officials always lead to unpleasant consequences for Israelis, such as building freezes that disallow for natural growth, and ceasefires that permit the enemy to restock and retrench—picture Netanyahu in a hammerlock crying, “Uncle!”
My personal opinion notwithstanding, everyone else is really excited about the President’s upcoming visit to Israel. No sooner had these impending travel plans been announced, than the buzz began. He wouldn’t demand much on the peace front. He wouldn’t come at all if Bibi failed to form a coalition. And finally: he would not address the Knesset.
And here’s where I finally had to suck in my breath. The enormity of the President’s refusal to address the seat of Israel’s sovereign government put me in a state of utter shock. Even Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat had addressed the Knesset. In so doing, Sadat had publically recognized the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty over Israel and Jerusalem, something no Arab leader had ever done before (or since that time). Sadat’s address to the Israeli parliament was the bravest example until now of a dramatic gesture for the sake of peace.
But President Obama is having none of that.
The question is, why not? Why won’t he address the Israeli Knesset and acknowledge the legitimacy of America’s closest ally? Why this insult to the people of Israel? Our government has given in to every whim and demand of the Obama Administration thus far.
With the White House offering only spin, we are forced to find our own answers to these questions. The President says he wants to speak to “young people.” White House officials are said to be working in tandem with Israeli officials to find a venue large enough to accommodate lots and lots of college students, preferably in Jerusalem. The Knesset is just too small.
Why the young people? Why college students? The U.S. president is well aware that the adults (democratically elected Israeli officials!) who fill the seats of the Knesset will be less susceptible to the shiny Obama charm than those young college students, still wet behind the ears. In fact, the Obama people can screen potential audience members to make sure they have the right politics: the kind of politics that will have them singing Kumbaya and drinking grape Koolaid, or the kosher Israeli equivalent thereof.
In short, President Obama doesn’t want to speak to our fusty government officials. To him they are the Republicans of Israel, the Fox News to his MS-NBC, the John Stossel to his Candy Crowley. He wants to speak to that other half of Israel—the side of Israel that can be wooed into helping him earn that Nobel Peace Prize so belied by the evidence of the thousands and thousands of missiles shot by Gaza into Southern Israel. This Peace Prize came to the president unbidden, only to be followed by the constant wail of Southern Israeli sirens and rampant PTSD among the citizens of Sderot and other targeted Southern Israeli urban centers.
President Obama wants to hypnotize young academics who don’t want to be THOSE Jews, the ones demonized by most of the world for “occupying” land deeded to their ancestors before Mohammed was but a glimmer in God’s eyes. These are the Israelis whom God only knows, want to close their eyes, along with the Western press, to the Fogel Massacre in which five members of one family are murdered in their sleep, a three month-old baby girl decapitated, because gosh darn it, these young college students, well, they want to be LOVED—by Europe, by the U.S., and by Obama.
The president wants those seats filled with HIS people. Moreover he wants to have his people lined up behind him just like he does it in DC. Not for him an audience of one standing guard from behind in the form of the lone figure of Ruby Rivlin, Israel’s sane and honest Speaker of the House. President Obama needs his yes men and lots of them. He needs them to applaud and cheer him on.
And so we are issued lots of spin to cover up the truth about the president’s visit and his refusal to address the Knesset. We learn from Israel Radio that the president wanted a “politically neutral” venue. Some of us don’t buy it. Some of us have tried to change his mind. MK’s Avi Wurtzman (Jewish Home) and Tzipi Hotoveli (Likud-Beiteinu) wrote to the president, asking him to kindly reconsider his refusal to address the Knesset during his impending presidential visit.
“We regret your decision. The Knesset represents Israeli society, including Jews, Muslims, Druze and Christians. Many world leaders have visited the Knesset to address the Nation of Zion in its eternal capital Jerusalem. Mr. President, we request you reconsider, and make your historic address in the Israeli House of Representatives.”
It was a nice touch, appealing to the president’s sense of history. But we already know it’s a lost cause—because it’s never been about history or peace but about one man, only.
The views expressed here belong to the writer alone.