Jewish World Review May 23, 2011 / 19 Iyar, 5771
The Latest Futility: New President, Same Middle East
By Paul Greenberg
Remember our president's speech in
Yet some things can change in that part of the world -- with the speed of wildfire. See events this year from, west to east,
We've seen this movie before. Recall all the ballyhoo that accompanied the new president's appearance in
If there is a single phrase to sum up this administration's policy in the
It all fits into a disappointing pattern. Our president's first official venture into the shifting sands and ephemeral winds of the
Yet there was much to be learned from the new president's initial appearance in that troubled region even if he didn't learn it. For instance, there was that telling moment, the significance of which may not have been fully recognized at the time, when he almost apologized for introducing what he called a "controversial" subject: democracy and the need for it in
Mr. Obama needn't have hesitated, as it turned out. His university audience broke into applause when he spoke of democracy. But its significance was lost on this stranger in a strange land. Our still new president seemed surprised, even nonplussed at the enthusiastic response to his throwaway line. But then he recovered and went on as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn't just accidentally bumped into the future.
His first venture into Middle Eastern speechmaking and peacemaking having proved a bust,
In a speech before his Mideast speech Thursday, a trial run earlier in the week, he fell back on every platitude, banality and meaningless generality that has marked presidential speeches about the
Speaking just after his meeting with
"… (I)t-is-more-vital-than-ever-that-both-Israelis-and-Palestinians-find-a-way-to-get-back-to-the-table-and-begin-negotiating-a-process-whereby-they-can-create-two-states-that-are-living-side-by-side-in-peace-and-security. We-will-continue-to … encourage-an-equitable-and-just-solution-for-a-problem-that-has-been-nagging-the-region-for-many-many years."
You still with me? If you haven't nodded off, please note that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict must always be described as "just-and-equitable." Or sometimes "fair-and-equitable." It's against house rules for that elusive solution to be only one or the other.
By now justandequitable must have become just one word in the style book for presidential addresses on the
A president can be excused for rising above the sordid facts now and then. An American leader, like an American preacher, should make it a point to sound a note of hope. It is part of the Western tradition. Not for us the fatalism of So It Is Written, So It Must Be. Which is why an American president should side with the forces of freedom now sweeping across the
The course of freedom, like true love's, never did run smooth. In any part of the world. But that's no excuse for withdrawing from the struggle. On the contrary, it is another good reason to stay committed to it.
The moral of this story: An only fitful attention to the securing of freedom every couple of years just won't get it.
As for the oldest established permanent floating mirage in the
American policymakers still talk of the conflict between
That last point is only underscored by the inclusion of
Some may call this a territorial dispute, but for Israelis with eyes to see and experience to learn from, it is an existential one. And may always have been. Even that untiring negotiator,
It is good for an American president to have his hopes, but they will not be realized if they are founded on a basic misunderstanding of what is at stake in this conflict -- not just
So long as an American president will not recognize that elemental, brutal, obdurate truth, and confront it openly, directly and honestly, then one futile presidential speech will follow another. That's the
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JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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