He punctuated his carefully enunciated phrases with frequent throat-clearings, hemmed a lot and hawed even more, yet among all the hems and haws, Barack Obama told the truth, even if maybe not only and certainly not all of it. Nevertheless, it’s a sure bet to take him at his word when he declared that “if someone was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.”
We can all be darn tootin’ convinced of Obama’s sincerity. He doubtlessly would make sure that his little girls were safe. Would he be equally as resolute to look after the daughters of Israel? Aye, to quote Hamlet, there’s the rub. A very big rub at that.
It was a flawless ploy for Obama to inject his offspring into his message. This imparted the highest degree of folksy empathy: “Like you, I’m a dad. I too would feel impelled to take action.” And these syrupy supportive sentiments crossed the ocean with satellite immediacy and appealed directly to the hearts of registered Jewish voters, which they were foremost intended to sway.
LET’S FACE it; Obama didn’t spare us a day of his hectic schedule to demonstrate genuine identification with the suffering of the hard-luck residents of a small, outlying, battered Israeli town. Had their sad lot really touched him, he would have come earlier during the seven years of Sderot’s ongoing nightmare. But he only came when the American presidential campaign switched into high gear and the votes of various less-than-knee-jerk-liberal Jewish sorts (yes, they exist) were judged significant enough to make a pitch for.
However, even they weren’t Obama’s primary target. The hop-and-skip to Israel was incorporated in the framework of a whirlwind grand tour taken to provide the freshman senator and erstwhile community organizer with an instant education in world affairs. Israel was just one more unavoidable stop with the added bonus of cajoling wary voters. The Sderot photo-op became a diploma in diplomatic savoir faire. Trainee-statesman Obama is now an overnight expert who can rebut carping critics with reminiscences from his half hour in Sderot.
His apparent compassion there was hardly surprising. What else would he say at that venue and on such an occasion? He after all came to garner campaign capital and prescribed etiquette obliged him to declaim what his hosts and audiences waited to hear. Sderot’s inhabitants were all extras in his meticulously stage-managed extravaganza. They had to play the role of the grateful recipients of his beneficent commiseration with their travails.
The rest of us Israelis were cast as bit players in the rock star’s sideshow. We couldn’t rebuff the affection he seemingly bestowed on us. We aren’t so crazy as to snub a potential US president. We had to be gracious and perform the parts cynically assigned us – quite likely not for our own good. How could we react when the trendy harbinger of change opined omnisciently that it’s “in Israel’s interest” to achieve peace with the Palestinians? We could do nothing but exclaim: “Aw shucks! No kidding! Bless you for showing us the light that has evaded us for all these decades, until your trailblazing persona graced us with its fleeting presence!”
Did Obama really suppose we hadn’t figured that one out on our own? Why say the obvious? Because Israel provided nothing but the backdrop for an expedient publicity stunt, Israel hardly deserved anything more original than regurgitated slogans. At best Obama’s catchphrases could be meaningless lip service to mediocrity, feeding the masses with verbal junk food.
That’s the optimistic scenario.
UNHAPPILY THE more realistic likelihood is that already – even in the shallowest of contexts – Obama is preaching to us and indicating what he expects should he win in November. He places the onus for “making peace” on us, as if we hadn’t tried. His much-heralded “change” boils down to promising lots more of the same – greater meddling than even George Bush’s excesses – while unreservedly adopting Bush’s half-baked “two-state vision.”
Granted, Obama’s familiarity with the intricacies of our struggle for survival in this land for over a century is minimal. He may actually believe that terrorist intimidation arises from Israel’s existence, that so-called Palestinians harbor just grievances, that poverty and privation fuel their animus. He might not know that genocidal Arab belligerence preceded Israel’s birth and that Arab bloodlust is the root of the conflict, not its outcome.
But even someone with warped perceptions and severe information deficits must realize that peace prattles are the most hackneyed cliches in our troubled existence. What’s missing is Arab goodwill, not peace-brokers.
The fact that Obama consented to make allowances for Israel’s “need to defend itself” sounds too uncomfortably like all past preambles to bare-knuckled pressure from a host of unfriendly Washington administrations. None of them ever straightforwardly owned up to outright antagonism to the Jewish state. They all had our “best interests” in mind. They merely insisted that the road to peace must be paved with Israeli concessions, even if we bleed en route. They knew better than us what’s good for us, and it was no skin off their noses. Condoleezza Rice is merely the latest representative of such schoolmarm superciliousness.
The unsettling fact is that Obama is surrounded by characters who make Condi look like a Lover of Zion. Around him is a virtual rogues’ gallery of one-time honchos who spare no effort or wile to weaken Israel. At least some of them will get to whisper in the neophyte president’s ear should Obama make it to the White House.
Too many American presidential hopefuls, though they regaled us with endearing noises while running, proved actual horrors in office. Jimmy Carter’s name easily comes to mind. With Carter’s Israel-bashing gang hovering so closely around Obama, the vibes aren’t good. Zbigniew Brzezinski and Tony Lake in particular have much to answer for – not only vis-a-vis Israelis. These tireless promoters of kowtowing to the Third World and appeasing Islam orchestrated the policy that put Iran’s ayatollahs in power and allowed them to menace world peace to this day. Ahmadinejad’s threat of nuclear annihilation against Israel is their legacy.
When Carter demonizes Israel as an apartheid state, he echoes Brzezinski, who never spared Israel his bristling tongue-lashings. More recently Brzezinski censured Israel’s self-defense against Hizbullah and urged America and the international community to espouse Hamas as a worthy legitimate interlocutor.
The Brzezinskis, Lakes, Tony McPeaks, Madeleine Albrights, Lee Hamiltons and their ilk were obviously not going to hog the limelight during Obama’s lightning Israeli excursion. They knew they’d spoil the show. For that’s all it was – a show of making nice, of recruiting images of sleeping children to effect a lulling ambiance. Brzezinski et al. will bend Obama’s receptive ear out of our earshot.
Aye, there’s the rub.