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Obama and the Jewish minefield

[Middle East News Service comments: Those of you who are on Facebook would be aware of the huge volume of discussion on the subject of the relationship between the Jewish Diaspora and Israel. Akiva Eldar looks at the implications for Israel itself.

The following quote gives his message in a nutshell: Obama's Jewish camp is not buying the message of the poor weakling that the right wing is selling with some success in the local market. A Jewish student at Princeton feels greater affinity to his Muslim classmates than to Effi Eitam, Netanyahu's public-relations messenger to U.S. university campuses who is calling for the eviction of Arab MKs from the Knesset. A Jewish lawyer in Los Angeles doesn't see which justice serves as the basis for throwing a Palestinian family, refugees from the Jerusalem neighborhood of Katamon, out of their home in Sheikh Jarrah, only to put in their place settlers from the extreme right. The Jewish lecturer in Boston finds it hard to explain to his children why Israelis prevented his colleague, Prof. Noam Chomsky, from speaking at Bir Zeit University.

One side effect which Eldar does not mention is the way in which the message emanating from the hard-line Likud-like supporters of Israel is presented in louder shrieks and more rabid tone the more isolated they feel- Sol Salbe.]

Obama and the Jewish minefield

By Akiva Eldar, Haaretz

In an overtly self-deprecating comment last week during a meeting with Jewish congressmen, U.S. President Barack Obama said he had stepped on a few mines as he took his first steps in the Middle East. The delegation left the White House assuaged, feeling perhaps that a president who has been hurt by mines would be wary of much bigger bombs. But it appears that the Obama administration has realized that it will not succeed where its predecessors have failed. If no peace with the Arabs emerges from the president's initiative, why should he fight with the Jews? When Republicans are threatening to take over the House of Representatives in six months, it's not so bad if the Israeli occupation continues for another 43 years.

Obama's efforts to woo Jewish politicians are like our secular politicians who make a pilgrimage to Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. The meeting with the congressmen was preceded by one with Elie Wiesel - his dinner with the president after the Nobel peace laureate called on the administration to remove Jerusalem from the negotiations. Also, two senior members of the National Security Council at the White House were sent to calm the leadership of the Anti-Defamation League. And White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel held private talks with a group of concerned rabbis. All went home pleased; they were promised that Obama would not pressure Benjamin Netanyahu's government to give back land. In simpler words: They don't want peace; there is no need for it.

It's possible that Obama's withdrawal from his vision of peace ("when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims .... It is time for these settlements to stop .... T he continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security," Cairo address, June 5, 2009 ) will open the purses of a handful of Jewish donors to his party. However, it's not at all certain that a business-as-usual approach toward a right-wing government in Israel will improve Obama's lot among Jewish voters. The vast majority of them are not interested in the ethnic origin of their congressmen. Very few know the names of the Jewish congressmen who are being presented to them by Obama and his aides.

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[The independent Middle East News Service concentrates on providing alternative information chiefly from Israeli sources. It is sponsored by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the AJDS. These are expressed in its own statements]

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