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Obama in Jerusalem

12:15 PM, Mar 21, 2013 • By ELLIOTT ABRAMS
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Obama was most persuasive when discussing American-Israeli bonds, and least persuasive in his descriptions of the Arab Middle East. In his remarks today he pictured an Arab world, and a Palestinian political system, yearning for peace with Israel through negotiated compromises. This ignores the vast ocean of anti-Semitism in the Arab world, and the inculcation of hatred of Jews and Israel in generation after generation of Arabs—including Palestinians. And it ignores the rising tide of Islamism in the region, which threatens to engulf all those political figures who would really like a compromise peace. The Arab world Obama described is a place far more desirous of, and far closer to, peace with Israel than the one Israelis actually see around them.

Obama urged Israelis to push their own government toward peace: “Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see.” This may be taken as a swipe at the new Israeli government or at Netanyahu, but even if it is not he is again addressing it to the wrong audience. Israelis cannot “create the change they want to see” in the hearts of Palestinians, Egyptians, and other Arabs. “Now is the time for the Arab World to take steps toward normalized relations with Israel,” Obama said. And he is right, but does anyone want to take bets on how likely that is? At his press conference in Ramallah, Obama said, “Secretary of State John Kerry intends to spend significant time, effort, and energy in trying to bring about a closing of the gap between the parties.” Note who is missing in that sentence: Obama himself, who is apparently not promising to “spend significant time, effort, and energy” on this—because he has quietly made a judgment about the chances that is far more realistic than his speech.

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