President Obama’s remarks urging Israeli empathy with Palestinians is yet another indication that his (and his Administration’s) understanding of the world around him is woefully lacking, and remains, after four years, not the slightest bit grounded in reality. A nation whose founders were survivors of mass extermination attempts, a nation that sees mortal ideological and religious enemies in every direction, enemies that have openly vowed that nation’s destruction, is being lectured by America’s President as to where their sympathies should lie.
The President’s remarks reflect an astonishing arrogance. Worse, they reveal a startling ignorance (and lack of propriety) that reflects the amateurish and muddled character of US foreign policy under this Administration. President Obama is making no friends among our Israeli allies, which is reflected by his barely civil relationship with Prime Minister Netanyahu and his low regarding among the Israeli public.
When prodded in the early 1970s about Israel’s hyper-vigilant posture, Golda Meir remarked, “If the Arabs lay down their weapons, there would be no more war. If the Israelis lay down their weapons, there would be no more Israel.”
In the forty years since she made those comments, little has changed for the good for Israel. Israel’s neighbors are as fanatical as ever about her destruction, with one of those neighbors possibly less than a year away from being a nuclear power. Her closest ally has a President whose lack of understanding of the Middle East and barely concealed hostility toward Israel is cause for real alarm. Despite the platitudes of solidarity this week, the US-Israel relationship remains decidedly cool. Remarks like today’s certainly won’t help. Israel’s enemies are taking notice, to be sure.
If President Obama really wants to talk about people putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, here is what he can do. His wife Michelle and his two daughters can take up residence in Beersheba for one year. No special protection, no armored cars. The girls can wait on the street corner with the other children for the school bus, and Michelle can shop at the mall and the grocery other places, like the other parents. Perhaps then, as three thousand rockets and mortar rounds are fired into Israel from Gaza (with the blessing and encouragement of the leadership of the very people Obama believes deserve nationhood), President Obama can better put himself in the shoes of Israelis who live day to day with the spectre of violent death of loved ones at the hands of Palestinian terrorists. Doubtless, news reports of dead and wounded from bombings and rocket/mortar attacks emanating from Gaza may tend to get his attention just that much more.
Perhaps then, also, President Obama will be less prone to lecture Israelis about empathy for Palestinians, and a little more willing to understand that of which he speaks.