Friday, August 1, 2008

Obama and Israel

Last week while he was here, I never got around to commenting on Obama's visit.

The most important thing to note is that the evening he left his cavalcade interrupted my evening walk. Or rather, I was walking along interfering with no-one, and a gaggle of security types blocked the road and I had to wait until the cavalcade had sped off into the night before I could keep on walking. So I guess he lost my vote. (He was off to have supper at Olmert's house, so I theoretically could aim my electoral ire at Olmert, but it doesn't look like there will be any opportunities anytime soon).

Shmuel Rosner sums up the visit quite well over here. (Did I ever tell you Rosner was a student of mine when he was an unruly teenager? No? Well anyway, he obviously turned out alright in the end). His thesis is that Israel's Left, just like America's, is pinning all sorts of unrealistic hopes on an Obama Administration; inthe case of the Israeli Left, the fallacy is doubled because Obama isn't even running for the job of President of Israel, meaning that at the end of the day, Israel decides, not the White House.

Any American president, certainly including Obama, will be a friend of Israel because of fundamental ways in how Americans understand the world. There's some leeway - Clinton was a friend differently than Bush 2 was, while Bush 1 was arguably less friendly than either of them, but no American president will treat Israel as, say, some French presidents do.

The Israeli response to Obama was interesting. His great appeal and the reason he's come so far and may go further is that he's a magnificent speaker, and that he's Black while (partially) transcending his skin color. The first part is not relevant to the Israeli public at this moment, as the Israeli public doesn't know his speeches and hasn't been queuing up in front of YouTube to see them.

The second aspect - well, any Israeli with the slightest education knows that the Americans had black slaves, and there was a war about that, and Lincoln was shot, and all this happened long before television, and if pressed, it probably happened long before the Turks left our part of the world.... and that's about it. It's a rare Israeli who can tell you about how slavery was the Original Sin of the United States, and how that has played out over the past few centuries and still does today, and all that stuff. All of which goes to say that Israelis don't see how Obama's road towards the White House is revolutionary for the Americans. They don't see what all the excitement is about. As Ayala Hason, one of our more prominent and less impressive TV reporters said: he's kind of bland. What's the big deal about him?"

On the other hand, to the extent Israelis follow American politics (and they mostly do), I'd say Obama's recent ideological zig zaging has been noted with approval by many Israelis. Clearly, the fellow is a canny politician, meaning he's a cynical ego-maniac who says whatever needs to be said for the political purposes of the moment. We've got lots of those, and feel comfortable with them even while purporting to despise them, so if Obama's just another one of the same breed, he'll be alright and we'll be alright with him.


Anonymous said...


Oy. Good PR doesn't seem to be an Israeli "talent."

And, stuffing papers into the Wall, when I saw it, just appalled me. Why do people do this? Don't they know these are ancient stones? Where do people think all this paper work goes?

But Ma'Ariv was wrong to publish the note. And, then they LIED. For some reason, now, thinking up kakamamie excuses is what's passing for Israel's "manners." In a hostile world.

Can Obama win?

Well, I can remember democrats thinking McGovern "could win." And, then? They thought Mondale could win. Oh, Dukakis didn't win, either.

Anyway, IF Israel needs friends in this world, tackling Obama, thinking you've blown him "off course" is so stupid! Should he lose, the Blacks in AMerica will look for an easy target: HELLO, ISRAEL.

Anonymous said...


You know, "the other candidate" (McCain), is promising to move the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and, I actually think he'll do this.

Why? Because he HATES the State Department. And, what better way to aggravate them, then to make them move?

You think I'm kidding?

As to Obama? I wish him luck. For the most part, when Americans are disgusted, they divide their ticket. So the White House could go to the Republicans; while the Congress (where the money gets legislated) stays in democratic hands.

Sure. It would make for an interesting "re-match" two years later. In 2010. When every two years the HOUSE seats go up for grabs. And, depending on the mood over most of the country ... Where the religous right will not have its old clout ... Should be interesting to see how politics shapes up.

Unlike Jello. You can't add boiling water, and then some cold. And, put the whole thing in the refrigerator to gel.

It will be lively.

While, perhaps, the best lesson? Watching political (and media) players NOT shooting themselves in the foot.

Or as Commander Barburg. (Bar-bag?) would say. It's just a joke.