President Obama said some good things in Israel. The good things he said contradicted the thesis of his first-term approach to Israel. In the style of what might be called Obama knows best — knows best what is good for you — he also said some foolish and patronizing things that represented continuity with his first-term approach. In his speech to Israeli students, for example, Obama gave the impression that continuing war on Israel emanating from Gaza and the West Bank derives from the Israel’s lack of willingness to take risks for peace.
At a press conference yesterday in Ramallah, Obama addressed the assembled journalists while standing under a banner of Yasser Arafat. This was notable, so it seems to me, in at least two respects. First, Arafat was the man who couldn’t say yes to Israel or to peace. Abbas was his partner in crime and war, and the war continues. One wonders how many times Israel is supposed to trade for its right to exist.
Second, Arafat was a cold-blooded murderer of Americans including United States Ambassador to Sudan Cleo Noel. It is a gross humiliation of the United States for Obama to stand willingly under Arafat’s banner. It may be less humiliating than having repeatedly received Arafat at the White House in person as an honored guest, as did Bill Clinton, but it is a humiliation nonetheless.
When Obama spoke at Georgetown Univeristy, the White House asked the university to cover up prominent Christian symbols that would have appeared behind him. The symbols — the letters “IHS” which stands for Jesus Christ, and a cross — were engraved on a pediment that stood behind the stage from which Obama delivered his address. The university covered them upon request.
The contrast, shall we say, is striking.