Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Subtle Menace of the Day: Barack Obama

Now, as I said before, I haven't said anything yet.... —Barack Obama in an interview with Steve Inskeep and Michele Norris

Well, to be fair, some context is needed. The question previous to the one in which Obama made this glib remark was—

Inskeep: Mr. President, you mentioned a freeze on settlements. The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was quoted today saying to Cabinet members in Israel that he will not follow your demand for a freeze on settlements in the West Bank — that it's not going to happen. What does it suggest, that Israel is not taking your advice?

Obama responded diplomatically by saying—

Well, I think it's still early in the process. They formed a government, what, a month ago? I think that we're going to have a series of conversations....

Inskeep then followed up with—

But if the United States says for years that Israel should stop the settlements, and for years, Israel simply does not, and the United States continues supporting Israel in roughly the same way, what does that do with American credibility in the Muslim world which you're trying to address?

To which Obama replied—

Well, I think what is certainly true is that the United States has to follow through on what it says. Now, as I said before, I haven't said anything yet, because it's early in the process. But it is important for us to be clear about what we believe will lead to peace and that there's not equivocation and there's not a sense that we expect only compromise on one side; it's going to have to be two-sided, and I don't think anybody would deny that, in theory. When it comes to the concrete, then the politics of it get difficult, both within the Israeli and the Palestinian communities. But, look, if this was easy, it would've already been done.

As best I can read this, Obama is saying that the United States—which is to say, Barack Obama—must follow through on what he says. But with regard to Netanyahu's refusal to halt the settlements, he hasn't yet made a statement. Instead, he expects there to be "a series of conversations."

It must be said that Obama is suggesting a firmness toward Israel that we have not seen for many a year.

The interview opened with this—

Michele Norris: .... If you want to improve relations with the Muslim world, do you have to change or alter in some way the strong U.S. support for Israel?

No, I don't think that we have to change strong U.S. support for Israel. I think that we do have to retain a constant belief in the possibilities of negotiations that will lead to peace. And that's going to require, from my view, a two-state solution that is going to require that each side — the Israelis and Palestinians — meet their obligations.

I've said very clearly to the Israelis both privately and publicly that a freeze on settlements, including natural growth, is part of those obligations. I've said to the Palestinians that their continued progress on security and ending the incitement that, I think, understandably makes the Israelis so concerned, that that has to be — those obligations have to be met. So the key is to just believe that that process can move forward and that all sides are going to have to give. And it's not going to be an easy path, but one that I think we can achieve.

Obama's demand that Israel halt the "natural growth" of the settlements is in fact a very strong demand. Settlers do have children.

Is this real? Can Obama really bring pressure to bear on Israel? Expect to hear from the Israeli lobby today in your national news.


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