Israel and Obama

The African World

Israel and Obama

By Bill Fletcher, Jr., Editorial Board
Black Commentator
September 23, 2010

The so-called peace talks between Israel and the
Palestine National Authority raise a number of
interesting and, in some respects, provocative
questions. One concerns whether the Israeli government
has any interest in a just peace.  The second is
whether the Netanyahu group (in power) wishes to bring
down President Obama.

In terms of the first question, that is, of the Israeli
government's interest in a just peace, there is,
unfortunately, no evidence to believe that such an
interest exists.

With regard to the question of President Obama, there
is an interesting trail of events.  Since Obama's
election the attitude of the Israeli political
establishment towards him has been less than
enthusiastic.  In fact, it has been nothing short of
insulting.  The first responses to the Obama presidency
were largely cautious, though in the background there
was fear and anger.  Racist remarks began to emerge
regarding Obama, with the Israeli right-wing
transferring some of its anti-Palestinian racism and
Islamophobia onto their attitude towards President

In the context of President Obama's speech to the
Muslim world, the Israeli political establishment was
outraged.  At that moment they decided to test--"chump"
would probably be a better word--the Obama
administration.  While President Obama called for a
cessation of new settlements on Palestinian
territories, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, et. al.,
simply said "no."

And the Obama administration did nothing.

Well, not quite nothing.  They backed down, ultimately
applauding Israel for Netanyahu's disingenuous and
false concessions, making it appear that the Israeli
government was truly committed to peace.

Since that time Netanyahu has done nothing to appease,
let alone meet President Obama half way. Why should he?
After all, the Republicans and most Democrats in
Congress fall all over themselves to prove their
uncritical loyalty to Israel.  Added to that is the
constituency known as "Christian Zionists," represented
by views such as those articulated by Sarah Palin, who
believe that Israel serves a role in Christian
prophecy.  This latter group has become an important
ally for Israel despite their own ambiguous views of

In effect, Netayahu's contemptuous attitude toward the
Obama administration, with numerous examples including
the insulting announcement of new settlements on the
day that Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Israel,
appears to be aimed at demonstrating the impotence of
the administration when it comes toward Middle East
policy.  Holding off Obama, and not giving an inch,
weakens Obama with his other foreign policy objectives,
as well as his domestic platform.

The current negotiations between the Netanyahu
government and Abbas's Palestine National Authority is
reminiscent of a shadow play.  There is little
substance; nothing in evidence concerning the plight of
the millions of Palestinians living in exile; and
little reason for the Israeli government to make any
concessions.  There is certainly little international
government pressure on the Israelis.  Actually, the
rising threat to the Israeli position is coming not
from governments but from a people's movement called
"Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions," which, like the efforts
that had been aimed at South African apartheid decades
ago, seeks to use non-violent pressure on the oppressor
group to compel the adoption of a new position
favorable to the oppressed.

Growing up in the Bronx we used to talk about someone
"selling woof tickets." [as in "woof-woof"] Someone
could offer all sorts of forceful and, often,
threatening language and humiliating taunts at an
opponent but if called upon to follow through and they
could not deliver, they were not only vulnerable to the
person that they threatened, but, indeed, they became
vulnerable to all who had been closely watching.

Woof-woof, Mr. President?

[ Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher,
Jr., is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy
Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfrica Forum
and co-author of, Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in
Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice.]


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