The White House responds

November 24, 2016 22:51

Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic - whose blog is essential reading, incidentally - followed up Aluf Benn's piece in the NYT, which I wrote about yesterday, with two administration officials close to Obama.

Benn had argued that President Obama is losing Israel, including its left, because he has not spoken directly to them.

According to Goldberg, the officials

seemed to feel fairly strongly that Benn doesn't understand what the President is trying to do...

These two senior officials -- sorry, those were the ground rules -- made the plausible argument that the Cairo speech was, in fact, directed at Israelis as much as it was directed at Arabs. "The President went before a Cairo audience in a speech co-sponsored by Al-Azhar with Muslim Brotherhood members in the audience and spoke of America's strong, unshakable support for Israel," one of the officials said. "He could have gone to a million different venues to say this, but he went to Cairo, and it wasn't exactly an applause line. Isn't it more important to say this to the Muslim world than it is to say it to an audience of Israelis or American Jews?"

The answer, I believe, is in this essay by Harvard's Michael Doran, published earlier this month. He says:

The Cairo speech cast Israel as a bit player in a U.S.-Muslim drama. The President, stressing his Muslim ancestry, did not take the time to fly to Jerusalem, where he might have reasoned with the Israeli public about the value to it of abandoning the Bush-Sharon agreement [allowing for 'natural growth' in settlements]. Instead, his advisers denied flatly (and falsely) that such an agreement had ever existed. As a consequence of this disingenuousness, many Israelis fear that the administration aims to buy goodwill from the Muslim world by distancing itself from Israel...

Historian Yaakov Lozowick, incidentally, takes issue with the officials' assertion that Benn does not understand the President.

November 24, 2016 22:51

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