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Stephanie d'Arc Taylor

Why Israel, why now?

The touch sparked an electricity both of them felt. As soon as the photographer turned away, Peres’ heart began to pound as Obama leaned down for a tender kiss. (AFP photo)

Obama arrived in Israel this morning. During the welcome ceremony at the airport, he made all sorts of declarations, such as stressing that the “alliance” between the US and Israel is “eternal,” and that the US is “proud to stand with Israel as its strongest ally and greatest friend.”


This contrasts with Obama’s first-term stance that he would only visit Israel if he had something concrete to accomplish. Now that he’s safely ensconced in his second term, why has he chosen to visit, now that it doesn’t matter?


Obama’s people have been careful to downplay expectations surrounding the trip – Obama is not bringing with him even a modest peace package, and White House officials shot down talk of a “reset” of the rocky relationship between Obama and Netanyahu (hilariously demonstrated in this open-mike snafu). Rather, Obama aides say, the trip is meant to reinforce to the Israeli public Obama’s commitment to them and their government, to go to any length to protect against threats “near or far.”


The visit and the vehemence of Obama’s rhetoric is surprising, not because he has previously proven to have any real moral courage, but because he has very little at this point to gain politically from such posturing. The only conceivable benefit to such kowtowing would be hope for some respite from Republican blockading of any and every Democrat-led initiative back in the States.


But what if there’s some other reason for his visit? Obama aides were careful to say that the President isn’t physically carrying with him any kind of peace proposal, but what if some project is in the works, a project that would require some serious lubrication of Israel prior to its introduction?


Americans (and people more generally) of conscience may be forgiven for hoping for such an outcome, however unlikely it may be. The US-Israeli relationship is one that both parties seem wedded to, however unreasonable and offensive the US’ support for Israeli settlements, violence towards Palestinians, and segregated public transportation may be to any reasonable human. Without some far-fetched, and, dare I say it, audacious hope for some long-term, back-burner ulterior motive, Obama’s latest fealty towards Israel would be just another reason to feel ashamed of my country.

The touch sparked an electricity both of them felt. As soon as the photographer turned away, Peres’ heart began to pound as Obama leaned down for a tender kiss. (AFP photo)

Without some far-fetched, and, dare I say it, audacious hope for some long-term, back-burner ulterior motive, Obama’s latest fealty towards Israel would be just another reason to feel ashamed of my country.