Thursday, June 11, 2009

Two Issues: One Silly, One Serious

A minor uproar erupted yesterday over this picture of President Obama putting his feet up on his desk while talking on the phone to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Apparently, many Israelis (and some Jews outside of Israel) feel that by putting his feet up and showing the soles of his shoes, Obama was insulting Israelis and asserting his superiority over Netanyahu. One news article from AOL stated that "It is considered an insult in the Arab world to show the sole of your shoe to someone. It is not a Jewish custom necessarily, but Israel feels enough a part of the Middle East after 60 years to be insulted too." (Seriously? Have Israelis really adopted this purely Arab way of thinking?) I think that this is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Obama didn't "show the sole of his shoe" to Netanyahu- they were on the phone. There are countless pictures of Obama putting his feet up on his desk, on coffee tables, while riding in airplanes- it seems to be his default "comfort position". And Americans don't think like that. I don't believe that this photo was intended to be anything other than what it is- simply a picture of the President talking on the phone.

On the other hand, the AOL article also contains this alarming bit of information: "Israel's Channel One TV reported that Netanyahu was told Tuesday by an "American official" in Jerusalem that, "We are going to change the world. Please, don't interfere." The report said Netanyahu's aides interpreted this as a "threat." Please don't interfere? The source of this quote was not cited, but I find it hard to believe that any high ranking representative of the American government would be so stupid and undiplomatic as to tell the Prime Minister of Israel to butt out of any decisions that would involve the Middle East.
I like Obama; I voted for Obama. I felt (and still do) that he is a fair minded man that is honestly interested in generating positive changes in this world. But if this is going to be the administration's official position regarding Israel, then I will be the first one to hit the streets in protest. The problem is, I don't know if this "official" was speaking for the administration or just shooting off his mouth, but I would sure like to know. As far as I can tell, no one from the White House or the State Department has confirmed or denied that this statement was made. In the meantime, I think that we need to watch this situation carefully. It's very nice that the Obama administration wants to change the world, but they can't do it unilaterally. It's not just their world.

4 comments:

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Obama was merely showing the world the soles of the shoes he's going to kick Israel in the ass with.

Seriously, Raizy, how many warnings to do you need to have? Hilary has already announced that all previous understandings Israel has had with the U.S. are null and void. George Mitchell has announced his intention to force Israel to hold by the Road Map even if the Arabs don't. And Obama, in his big speech in Egypt, equated the Holocaust to the self-imposed suffering of the Arabs over the last 60 years.

What kind of spell does this man have over you guys?

DYS said...

Raizy,

I agree with you, pretty much. But even if this American official said that, I doubt he was speaking for the administration.

I've also been a little troubled at the heavy-handed approach that the Obama administration has taken with Netanyahu. But Netanyahu has been an idiot in dealing with them. Instead of using broad diplomatic terms to avoid committing to anything and airing concerns to the Americans in private, he's created an adversarial relationship, squabbling over every little minor issue and acting like a spoiled child.

Where are Netanyahu's fabled diplomatic skills? Maybe he never had them. After all, he alienated Bill Clinton just as thoroughly. I don't blame Obama for being disgusted with him.

But Obama should be more diplomatic than he has been. Telling the world press that (paraphrasing, can't find the exact quote now) "Israel's our friend, and sometimes you have to tell friends what they don't want to hear" is condescending and certainly not going to help diplomacy at all.

SuperRaizy said...

I think that the Obama administration is tripping all over itself when it comes to Mideast diplomacy.
But I have always thought that the ultimate outcome of "Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations" depends a lot more on the decisions of the Israeli government than on the Americans. In the past, various Israeli Prime Ministers have signed peace deal after peace deal, promising to stop settlement expansions, give up land, and share sovereignty over Jerusalem. They made these stupid promises, and now the U.S. wants Israel to keep them. I say that we've brought this upon ourselves.

Shalom, Cherry Hill said...

To DYS--
"Where are Netanyahu's fabled diplomatic skills? ...he alienated Bill Clinton just as thoroughly. I don't blame Obama for being disgusted with him."

Sure; we saw the pictures of Obama being so warm with Abbas off the bat-- there's no bias there. (I'm sure you can sense the sarcasm).

Perhaps both Obama and Clinton just had a visceral discomfort with a man who served in special forces like both of his siblings, instead of dodging the draft (that would be Clinton) or smoking pot and sitting in the church of a disgusting bigot while 'organizing the community' (that would be Obama).

I'm very comforted with how Obama goes to mollify the Turks, who immediately have their first ever military manuevers with the Syrians, and announces that he wants to cut our missile defence, as No Korea and Iran are both publicly testing missiles and developing nukes.

Now let's go blame all of it on the nasty Netanyahu-- oh wait, it was the peace loving Olmert and Livni who couldn't make peace over the last couple of years!!

Shalom