An interesting item yesterday by Jerusalem Post blogger Shmuel Rosner, who analyzes some of the wreckage of last week’s Netanyahu-Obama meeting.
Shmuel takes on the conventional wisdom that President Obama is making a big mistake by not visiting Israel and taking his case for a revived peace process directly to the people. (Before his AIPAC speech last week, speculation was running at flood tide that he would use the occasion to announce his first official visit to the Jewish state. He didn’t.)
Citing the President’s overwhelmingly negative poll ratings in Israel – and Netanyahu’s popularity surge in the wake of last week’s Washington meetings and speeches – he writes that it’s a “good thing that Obama didn’t say he was coming to Israel for a visit. I don’t think the time is right, I didn’t think this was good idea to begin with.”
He didn’t spell out the reasons, but it’s not hard to figure it out: the negative impact of a bad reception by the Israeli public and a confrontation with Bibi on his home turf would far outweigh any good that might come of it.
To which I’d add one additional point: Israelis, at least in my experience, intensely dislike being lectured to. And President Obama has a hard time talking about serious issues without sounding like a college professor scolding a bunch of not-too-bright students.
It seems to me that the time for Obama to speak directly to the Israeli people is when he has something new to say.
And right now I just don’t see that; lecturing about demography and democracy and warning that time is running out just won’t cut it in the absence of some new U.S. ideas about how to break out of the deepening stalemate and a new commitment to intensive, sustained diplomacy.
With U.S. elections just around the corner and with more obstacles than ever to peace process progress in the region, I just don’t see any of that happening. So maybe it’s better for Obama to confine his travels to other parts of the world.