Obama Won’t Stop the Rain
By Leon Hadar
Translated By Hannah Stork
19 February 2013
Edited by Rachel Smith
Israel - Haaretz - Original Article (Hebrew)
In an episode of the television series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” comedian Larry David tells of a meteorologist on a television station in Los Angeles who warned his viewers to expect heavy rain on Sunday. David speculated that the meteorologist actually just wanted to make sure that the golf course at his local club would be empty that day.
The suspicion that predictions in general — particularly political predictions — are contaminated by political persuasion and by the desire to further a personal agenda, including the agendas of editors of professional surveys, has strengthened considerably in recent times. There is a tendency today in political systems and in the media to accuse commentators of having such a persuasion when they predict a victory for the side opposite the side doing the accusing. In this way the conservative media, especially Fox News, accused New York Times political commentator Nate Silver of supporting the Democrats when his polls predicted a clear electoral victory for Barack Obama.
The conservative pundits, who were certain that Mitt Romney would win, simply refused to believe that Silver was a professional, objective individual trying to present reality as he saw it, like a doctor informing a sick man of his illness. It isn’t pleasant to hear, but this is the situation. It could be, by the way, that many Israeli pundits’ bias explains why most of them didn’t foresee the Yesh Atid party’s success in the Knesset elections.
I felt a little bit like Larry David’s meteorologist after the White House announced that Obama will visit Israel this spring. Immediately after the announcement, I was flooded with emails from friends and “friends” reminding me that, in recent months, I had published articles in Haaretz in which I asserted that Washington was becoming fed up with the Israel-Palestine conflict and that Obama would let both sides stew in their own juices, not willing to pull the chestnuts from the fire by imposing order for the sake of peace.
“You have to be thankful that you were wrong,” wrote one person. “Now it is clear that Obama will come to Israel in order to pressure Netanyahu to reach a peace agreement.” Another writer contended that my predictions reflected my support for Netanyahu and for the Likud party. According to his reasoning, if I were actually interested in an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, I would have decided that Obama would do what the reader hoped he would do.
The writer F. Scott Fitzgerald said that a man's intelligence can be measured by his ability to hold two opposed ideas while still continuing to function. That is to say, I can think that American pressure on Netanyahu to support an agreement is desirable while, at the same time, asserting based on my assessment of reality that it will not happen.
From this perspective, Obama’s plan to visit Israel doesn’t change my previous assessment. The president will come to Israel not in order to impose a national arrangement on the new government; he will come essentially because of his obligation to Jewish donors and supporters from within his party, which are in fact the majority of the Jewish-American voting public that voted for him and want to see him speak to the Knesset.
Obama didn’t visit Israel during his first term because he was at a place of political weakness as long as Bibi was king of Israel. Now the tables have turned; Obama won a big victory, and Netanyahu’s friends in Washington took an electoral defeat. The election results in Israel weakened Netanyahu’s standing and strengthened the Israeli politicians who don't buy his national-religious agenda.
From Obama's perspective, the time is certainly ripe for a visit to Israel and for conversations with Netanyahu (minus the artificial smile and the arrogance). It will be necessary for Netanyahu to take into consideration the stances of Yair Lapid and Tzipi Livni during his discussions with the American president. Obama can also speak in the Knesset without worrying that one of its members will call him “Hussein” (party discipline works sometimes).
In fact, he has nothing to lose from a visit like this. If Israel’s government expresses unequivocal willingness to enact a two-state plan — including the freezing of settlements — and the Palestinians jump on board, Obama will be willing to offer diplomatic assistance and to pressure the Saudis, Turks and Egyptians to support the process. In the end, he’ll present it as an American success. But if, as expected, his visit only succeeds in creating a second round of the diplomatic masturbation that characterizes the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, Obama will express his disappointment and will criticize both sides — including criticism of the continued building of settlements — and will simultaneously be able to present an alibi to the Europeans and to the international community: Hey, I tried. It didn’t work. The people in Jerusalem and Ramallah have the White House’s phone number. They can give us a ring when they come up with a serious idea.
In short, the African-American did his part. Now he can return to Washington and take care of the actually important problems occupying the United States: the fiscal crisis, continued unemployment, the war of attrition between the White House and the Republicans, America’s position in the Far East (including relations with China) and the danger of a military conflict between China and Japan.
We’re talking about a long list. Syria is found toward the end; the E1 settlements and the battles between Fatah and Hamas are at the very bottom. Obama won’t get into a bloody diplomatic battle with Netanyahu over these issues at the moment. He will reserve his political ammunition for later use in case he needs to deal with the Israeli prime minister on the issue of Iran.
I know that Israeli and American friends of peace will be disappointed and will refuse to believe it. Larry David also refused to believe the meteorologist in Los Angeles and reserved a spot on the golf course for Sunday. But guess what happened? It rained heavily.
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