web analytics
April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Mere PR Will Not Make A Successful Mideast Policy


Share Button

After running into a dead-end in its efforts to jump-start Middle East peace talks, the Obama administration has signaled that it has evaluated the situation and understands that all is not well. But instead of a course correction, senior administration officials have decided what they need to do is deploy their most effective weapon – the rhetorical brilliance of the president himself – on a recalcitrant state of Israel.

They say that in the next few weeks the White House will begin a public relations program in Israel and Arab countries to better explain the president’s intention to broker a comprehensive peace agreement. The highlight would be interviews with Obama on Israeli television as well as appearances broadcast in Arab countries.

In particular, the officials say they hope to convince the majority of Israelis who have been shown in polls to view Obama and his policies with distrust to support his stand on freezing building in Jewish settlements in the West Bank as well as in Jerusalem, rather than the policies of Benjamin Netanyahu, their own prime minister.

The idea here seems to be that if the Israeli people are sufficiently exposed to the charms of the American president, they will force Netanyahu to do as he has been told by Washington.

The administration clearly misunderstands the nature of its problem. The Israeli people already understand Obama very well. His problem is that they don’t buy what he’s selling. Indeed, this decision to launch a PR campaign reminds one of stereotypically “ugly American” tourists who believe the proper response to foreigners who don’t understand English is to merely speak English louder. What the administration needs in order to win the trust of Israelis isn’t a bigger megaphone but more realistic policies.

The reason many Israelis think they have been singled out for rough treatment by Obama is not because they don’t understand that his intentions are good and that his motives are pure; it’s because he has unfairly singled them out.

The dispute about settlements between the two governments was a calculated decision on the part of Washington to pick a fight with its smaller ally and raise the stakes until Netanyahu gave in. That would have handed Obama an easy triumph and a way to show the Arab world that friends of Israel no longer have a decisive say in American foreign policy.

But that’s not what happened and the administration appears to be baffled by the reaction inside Israel to the ginned-up settlements squabble. Instead of behaving as most liberal American Jews have done and blindly backing Obama’s pressure because of partisan loyalties and support for the administration’s domestic agenda, ordinary Israelis are supporting their prime minister and viewing Obama with suspicion.

Why? It’s true that part of the problem lies has to do with perceptions. Obama’s Cairo speech in June was offensive because of the way he equated the Holocaust with the predicament of Palestinian refugees and the fact that he pointedly snubbed the Jewish state by avoiding it during his Middle East tour. But the problem is bigger than either the president’s penchant for false moral equivalences or his travel schedule.

Obama’s policy seems to be based on the notion that Israel’s refusal to make new concessions on security and land is the primary obstacle to a breakthrough on peace. Though most Israelis would actually be willing to give up most settlements, they know that neither the Fatah-ruled Palestinian Authority in the West Bank or the Hamas mini-state in Gaza are interested in a peace that would recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where the borders were drawn.

The failure of the Oslo Accords, the July 2000 Camp David summit, the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and last year’s desperate effort by former prime minister Ehud Olmert to hand the PA a state on a silver platter all illustrate the Palestinians’ lack of interest in signing such a deal.

In the clear absence of a credible peace partner, what point is there, Israelis are entitled to ask, in bullying their government to make concessions? Nor has anyone been impressed by the administration’s half-hearted attempt to get the Saudis and other Arab states to act as if they mean it when they claim to want peace.

Obama has not turned out to be a conventional liberal Democrat who is also willing to be a faithful friend of Israel as many, if not most, Jewish Democrats expected when they pulled the lever for him.

Though the vast majority of Jewish voters dismissed Republican claims that Obama’s associations with anti-Israel extremists such as the Reverend Jeremiah Wright and Palestinian scholar Rashid Khalidi would color his judgment in office, it turns out there was more to this line of argument than mere partisanship.

As demonstrated by his decision to bestow the presidential Medal of Freedom on former Irish President Mary Robinson – best remembered for presiding over the festival of anti-Semitism that characterized the 2001 UN Durban conference – Obama is not a man who understands or respects mainstream Jewish sensibilities.

Obama’s eloquence is a formidable diplomatic tool, but the idea that it can be used, as the president has said, to convince Israelis to “reflect” on their policies and change their tune is not only astoundingly arrogant, it’s wrong.

Israelis already want peace and have shown time and again they are ready to make sacrifices to achieve it. What is lacking is a similar commitment from the Palestinians. No amount of presidential eloquence or American PR ought to convince Israelis that further concessions on their part will bring peace until Palestinian leaders match Obama’s words with deeds.

Share Button

About the Author: Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this first appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at jtobin@commentarymagazine.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “Mere PR Will Not Make A Successful Mideast Policy”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Who will he take to the dance?
It’s Prom Time, and Abbas Must Choose a Dance Partner – Israel or Hamas
Latest Indepth Stories
Al-Aksa Mosque was claimed to be the site from which Mohammed ascended to Heaven, but it was built nearly 50 years after Mohammed died.

Jerusalem only seems important in the Islamic world when non-Muslims control or capture the city.

Israeli police enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City to disperse stone-throwing Palestinian protesters.

Jordan’s king is adding fuel to the fire on the Temple Mount, blaming Israel for violence by Muslim Arab rioters.

Imam Suhail Webb who boasted his Muslim community persuaded Brandeis President Fred Lawrence to withdraw an invitation to Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

At Brandeis, much of what counts as Western civilization got cold feet and won’t stand with Hirsi Ali.

Text of anti-Semitic flyer distributed to Jews in Donetsk, Ukraine on Passover 2014.

But the lesson from this meditation is that hidden behind the anti-semitic act is the greatest light.

As support of their messianic dream, Halevi and Antepli approve dishonoring Hirsi Ali as a ‘renegade.’

If itis a mitzva to eat matza all Pesach, then why is there no berakha attached to it?

When we are united with unconditional love, no stone will be raised against us by our enemies.

The reporter simply reports the news, but it is greater to be inspired to better the situation.

The Big Bang theory marked the scientific community’s first sense of the universe having a beginning.

Freeing convicted murderers returns the status of Jewish existence to something less than sanctified.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall” describes what God had in mind for Olmert.

We, soldiers of the IDF, who stand guard over the people and the land, fulfill the hopes of the millions of Jewish people across the generations who sought freedom.

How much is the human mind able to grasp of the Divine?

Jews have brought the baggage of the galut (exile) mentality to the modern state of Israel.

The Haggadah is an instruction manual on how to survive as strangers in strange lands.

More Articles from Jonathan S. Tobin
Mahmoud Abbas, acting leader of the Palestinian Authority

To admit Israel is a Jewish State would undo Arabs’ claimed victimhood and plans to eliminate Israel.

Robert Malley

When it became known in May 2008 that Malley had met with Hamas terrorists, the Obama campaign severed ties with him.

Friedman has been writing the same column for decades in which he asks Israelis whether they will leave the “West Bank.”

Issuing a statement dredging up Wildstein’s life, Christie’s office raised as many questions as it answered.

No matter how wrong Israel’s leaders may think their American counterparts are, little good comes from public spats.

Lieberman has repeatedly dismissed the Palestinian Authority as not being a peace partner.

This is a political version of replacement theology.

Like Chamberlain, Obama sued the ayatollahs for peace, insisting the only alternative to appeasement is war.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/mere-pr-will-not-make-a-successful-mideast-policy/2009/08/12/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: