Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Why won't America speak to Israel?

Thoughtful article in today's International Herald Tribune, by Aluf Benn, editor at large of the Israeli paper Haarets.  Points made include:

Mr. Obama’s quest for diplomacy has appeared to Israelis as dangerous American naïveté. The president offered a hand to the Iranians, and got nothing, merely giving them more time to advance their nuclear program. 
....

Mr. Obama seems to have confused American Jews with Israelis. We are close emotionally and politically, but we are different. We speak Hebrew and not English, we live in the Middle East and have separate historical narratives. Mr. Obama’s stop at Buchenwald and his strong rejection of Holocaust denial, immediately after his Cairo speech, appealed to American Jews but fell flat in Israel. Here we are taught that Zionist determination and struggle — not guilt over the Holocaust — brought Jews a homeland. Mr. Obama’s speech, which linked Israel’s existence to the Jewish tragedy, infuriated many Israelis who sensed its closeness to the narrative of enemies like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.
....
Mr. Obama has made a mistake in focusing on a settlement freeze. For starters, mainstream Israelis rarely have anything to do with the settlements; many have no idea where they are, even when they’re a half-hour’s drive from Tel Aviv....
Which leads to the settlement issue, including that of East Jerusalem.  Celestine Bohen's article in today's IHT makes the incorrect statement that the US has not recognised Israel's claim to East Jerusalem.  Her article here.  My letter to the IHT refuting her point, here.