Obama, Israel, & The Muslim World

“And Israel’s vaunted intelligence services can’t tell their superiors what Obama will do, since few (if any) of the president-elect’s supporters know what he intends to do.

In fact, the president-elect may not know himself. He’s a babe in the woods, and the woods are full of wolves.” — Ralph Peters

Over at the Guardian, Simon Tisdall is complaining that the Muslim world is ALREADY losing patience with Barack Obama,

“Barack Obama’s chances of making a fresh start in US relations with the Muslim world, and the Middle East in particular, appear to diminish with each new wave of Israeli attacks on Palestinian targets in Gaza. That seems hardly fair, given the president-elect does not take office until January 20. But foreign wars don’t wait for Washington inaugurations.

Obama has remained wholly silent during the Gaza crisis. His aides say he is following established protocol that the US has only one president at a time. Hillary Clinton, his designated secretary of state, and Joe Biden, the vice-president-elect and foreign policy expert, have also been uncharacteristically taciturn on the subject.

But evidence is mounting that Obama is already losing ground among key Arab and Muslim audiences that cannot understand why, given his promise of change, he has not spoken out. Arab commentators and editorialists say there is growing disappointment at Obama’s detachment – and that his failure to distance himself from George Bush’s strongly pro-Israeli stance is encouraging the belief that he either shares Bush’s bias or simply does not care.

The Al-Jazeera satellite television station recently broadcast footage of Obama on holiday in Hawaii, wearing shorts and playing golf, juxtaposed with scenes of bloodshed and mayhem in Gaza. Its report criticising “the deafening silence from the Obama team” suggested Obama is losing a battle of perceptions among Muslims that he may not realise has even begun.

“People recall his campaign slogan of change and hoped that it would apply to the Palestinian situation,” Jordanian analyst Labib Kamhawi told Liz Sly of the Chicago Tribune. “So they look at his silence as a negative sign. They think he is condoning what happened in Gaza because he’s not expressing any opinion.”

First off, to be fair to Obama, he’s not even the President yet and so staying mum publicly is the wisest course of action for him. To expect him to get involved in the fighting between the Israelis and Palestinians at this point is expecting too much.

That being said, there are two things people around the world need to realize.

#1) The conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians has been going on since even before Israel was a state and the chances of it ending peacefully in the next 4-8 years are remote.

#2) The Muslim nations in the region aren’t truly going to be satisfied with Obama unless he blatantly takes the side of Palestinians over the Israelis.

Given the political situation in the United States, that is extremely unlikely. The Palestinians are virulently anti-American, pro-terrorist, pro-genocide, and the aggressors in the situation. The Israelis are pro-American, anti-terrorist, anti-genocide, and defending themselves. Because of those factors, Americans tend to side with Israel.

Plus, the political situation makes it difficult for a politician to be anti-Israel. Christian conservatives consider Jews to be God’s chosen people and they consider Israel to be an ally besides. Because of that, the GOP is not going to turn on Israel. On the other hand, there are more Jews than Muslims in the US, Jews vote Democratic 2-to-1, and percentage wise, Jews are over-represented in Hollywood, the media, and in wealthy donors. That keeps the Democrats in line as well.

So, will Obama be as pro-Israel as George Bush? Probably not. He’s likely to put more pressure on Israel and he may push to reach some kind of deal on paper, whether it means anything in the real world or not.

That would be likely to disappoint a lot of Americans even as it fails to satisfy “the Muslim world.” I guess that’s just the price you have to pay when you sell yourself as an everything to everybody candidate who will bring whatever “change” people want if you get elected.

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