Obama’s trip to Israel: Don’t expect much

posted at 10:41 am on March 18, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

As Joe Biden wings his way to Rome to celebrate the installation mass of new Roman Catholic pontiff Pope Francis at the Vatican, his boss will make a pilgrimage — of sorts — to Jerusalem. Despite his high-profile visit to Israel in 2007 as a candidate with little foreign-policy experience, Barack Obama never bothered to visit the close US ally during his first term — not even when Obama was in Cairo in 2009 for a speech to Muslim nations. Now he wants to pay a visit not so much to strengthen ties but to strengthen his own position in Israel. CNN reports on the goals of the trip from the perspective of the White House, which seems to want to set low expectations ahead of this week’s visit:

The big push is about Iran rather than any movement on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and it’s mainly to pull Israel back from taking unilateral action against Tehran. He will make stops at the West Bank and Yad Vashem, but that’s mainly just to check boxes; oddly, Obama won’t address the Knesset while in Israel. After his disastrous intervention in the peace process in the first term, Obama now seems to want to stay clear of any personal involvement, and will probably leave that to Secretary of State John Kerry.

If the Obama administration wants to set low expectations, the BBC wants to set them even lower.  Mark Mardell quotes a former US ambassador to Israel in calling Obama a “rock star,” but also notes that Israelis seem immune to his charm, and that spells trouble for Obama on this visit:

The main purpose of Obama’s visit seems to be to re-make his image with the Israeli people. A recent poll indicated only 10% of them had a favourable view of the president.

Obama critics at home have long claimed that he’s no friend of Israel and say the proof positive is that he hasn’t bothered to go there as president. By making this the first foreign trip of his second term he at least gets that out of the way.

He’ll be only the fifth US president to go to Israel, but his recent predecessors Bill Clinton and George W Bush invested a lot in the relationship.

Obama offended some early on in his presidency by going to Cairo to make a high-profile speech to the Arab world but not continuing on to Israel. The speech also offended some Israelis because of the way he made a case for Israel’s existence based on the horrors of the Holocaust rather than Jewish origins in the region. Expect him to correct that on this trip. …

One aim of the visit will be to present a chummier image. A sense of unity is important if Iran is going to believe that the two countries are capable of concerted action over its nuclear programme.

But it is the speech at a convention centre in Jerusalem, where he will talk directly to the Israeli public and the public watching at home, that is the real centrepiece of this trip.

Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel, says: “He’s a rock star. They will welcome him. He’s bound to get a bounce. And that is very important. This is a public who will punish a prime minister who mishandles his relationship with a popular president.

“Netanyahu eats [opinion] polls for breakfast. He will know if the balance changes.”

Netanyahu just won an election, so it may not be much of a match, especially if Obama’s only around 10% approval in Israel.  Will he get a bounce?  Certainly; that is to be expected from a personal visit, and unless Obama makes a major gaffe, his image will improve temporarily.  However, Obama’s problem hasn’t been so much a lack of a visit as it has been his handling of Israeli concerns in the peace process and the firestorm of the “Arab Spring” surrounding Israel.  That will take more than a one-week junket to resolve.  Absent that, this is just a box-checking enterprise, as Mardell explains at length.

Politico says the point of going now is the abysmally-low expectations:

President Barack Obama spent his first term dismissing the idea of a symbolic visit to Israel: He didn’t want to go there unless he had something concrete to accomplish.

But his four-day trip that begins Tuesday night is symbolism on steroids.

The Israeli government was just finalized Saturday night. The peace process is frozen. And Obama has a complicated relationship with both the nation and its prime minister.

Indeed, the White House seems to have concluded that expectations are now so low that it’s the perfect time for Obama to make the trip. He has a chance to mollify some of his domestic critics and improve his standing with Israelis, all without the pressure of achieving a breakthrough on peace.

In other words, he’s just checking off the box — and perhaps to immunize himself from accusations of being anti-Israel when his later policies and actions clash with expectations of Israel’s supporters in the US.


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Last time, Obama put a prayer into the Western Wall asking for humility, and someone filched it and got it to the newspapers. This trip I predict he asks for 3 strokes off his handicap.

Paul-Cincy on March 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM

He’s treated Putin better than Netanyahu. Sorry Israel.

Dongemaharu on March 18, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Low expectations are important b/c O will never own anything b/c he doesn’t want to be held accountable. With no expectations, no one can accuse him later of failing – he never did anything while in Israel.

It is amazing that someone like him got so far without really doing anything or being held accountable. Must be a nice life. He’ll never do anything to be held accountable so, why should this trip be any different.

MN J on March 18, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Jooooos are smarter than Obama. Plus, they all own firearms. Good ones, too.

BobMbx on March 18, 2013 at 10:47 AM

Satan-in-a-hoodie shows up in Israel? There’s gotta be something in Revelations about that!

I wonder if he is going to repeat his administration’s position that a return to the 1968 borders is a non-negotiable point.

Happy Nomad on March 18, 2013 at 10:55 AM

The main purpose of Obama’s visit seems to be to re-make his image with the Israeli people. A recent poll indicated only 10% of them had a favourable view of the president.

Meaning that roughly 90% of Israelis have a realistic view of him.

Obama critics at home have long claimed that he’s no friend of Israel and say the proof positive is that he hasn’t bothered to go there as president. By making this the first foreign trip of his second term he at least gets that out of the way.

It depends on what he says. My guess is, nothing that would offend the “Arabist” clique’ in State, or his own party.

He’ll be only the fifth US president to go to Israel, but his recent predecessors Bill Clinton and George W Bush invested a lot in the relationship.

Bush, yes. Clinton, not so much. OTOH, Clinton didn’t seem to have Obama’s compulsion to go out of his way to b***h-slap all of our allies, either.

Obama offended some early on in his presidency by going to Cairo to make a high-profile speech to the Arab world but not continuing on to Israel. The speech also offended some Israelis because of the way he made a case for Israel’s existence based on the horrors of the Holocaust rather than Jewish origins in the region. Expect him to correct that on this trip. …

Do you? I don’t.

One aim of the visit will be to present a chummier image. A sense of unity is important if Iran is going to believe that the two countries are capable of concerted action over its nuclear programme.

Only if they believe it. And I don’t think they are as gullible as most of State, and the MSM, believe they are.

But it is the speech at a convention centre in Jerusalem, where he will talk directly to the Israeli public and the public watching at home, that is the real centrepiece of this trip.

Martin Indyk, former US ambassador to Israel, says: “He’s a rock star. They will welcome him. He’s bound to get a bounce. And that is very important. This is a public who will punish a prime minister who mishandles his relationship with a popular president.

“He’s a rock star”? That’s the best recommendation he can come up with for the leader of the Free World?

Actually, comparing him to Mick and the Stones is probably an insult. To Mick and the Stones.

And I agree, the Israeli public would probably savage a PM who bilged his relationship with a popular U.S. President. This is a problem Netanyahu is unlikely to have re this particular U.S. President.

“Netanyahu eats [opinion] polls for breakfast. He will know if the balance changes.”

It is only likely to change if the Israeli people have had a sudden, precipitate drop in aggregate IQ. Which I don’t believe they have.

This is purely a PR blitz, on the principle of “Ignore everything I do, just listen to my dulcet voice.” What will be interesting will be where he, and/or his staffers, go after leaving Israel.

And who they’ll be meeting with, after the media types have gone to bed.

clear ether

eon

eon on March 18, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Soetoro is about as popular in Israel as genital herpes. Given that restraint and message discipline were never Israeli crowd’s forte, I predict some very colorful (and very impolite and/or politically incorrect) slogans to greet him there. Don’t count on CNN to show them.

Archivarix on March 18, 2013 at 11:03 AM

This trip I predict he asks for 3 strokes off his handicap more terms as our Imperial President.

His handicap is irrelevant. He already has his caddie fill in his score sheet out before he takes his first stroke off the tee.

His hope for a rather lengthy stay in the WB, on the other hand.

hawkeye54 on March 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM

This trip I predict he asks for 3 strokes off his handicap more terms as our Imperial President.

His handicap is irrelevant. He already has his caddie fill in his score sheet out before he takes his first stroke off the tee.

His hope for a rather lengthy stay in the WH, on the other hand.

hawkeye54 on March 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM

I hope Obama is left at the dinner table by himself, what s schmuck.

tommer74 on March 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

oops, should have been “a” schmuck.

tommer74 on March 18, 2013 at 11:06 AM

Obama’s trip to Israel: Don’t expect much

The only I expect from Comrade O are 1) an unending effort to take from the “wealthy” so he can redistribute to his constituents, 2) a constant effort to expand the size and scope of government, 3) a lot of arrogant finger wagging and self-righteous lecturing directed at those who oppose and disagree with him, and 4) a lot of finger pointing at someone else for every real or perceived “problem”. All that and a lot of lies.

He’s a liberal and a hard core modern socialist. That’s what you can expect from all of them.

Best case you just hope they don’t do anything really stupid on the foreign policy front. But I’m afraid I have no hope for Dear Leader on that front. He is a weak and all of the belligerent bad guys in the world who are running countries know it. I assume our “allies” know it, too.

farsighted on March 18, 2013 at 11:09 AM

I don’t expect much – maybe a garden variety face slap.

forest on March 18, 2013 at 11:10 AM

The only All I expect from Comrade O…

farsighted on March 18, 2013 at 11:12 AM

Best case you just hope they don’t do anything really stupid on the foreign policy front.

farsighted on March 18, 2013 at 11:09 AM

He sent Joe Biden to the Vatican. That ship has already sailed.

Happy Nomad on March 18, 2013 at 11:16 AM

I live in Jerusalem and I expect much…
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… traffic.

:(

This coming Wednesday through Friday are “don’t even think about driving” days in Jerusalem. All this in the midst of mad-rush Passover shopping throughout the country.

I hope Obama chokes on a matzah. You heard it hear first!

Shy Guy on March 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Shy Guy on March 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Palm Sunday is six days away. Jerusalem is getting its rat-eared ass early.

Happy Nomad on March 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM

I hope he completes his NCAA basketball bracket prior to leaving. I can’t be expected to fill out the office one without his help.

I need to know who NOT to pick

Ditkaca on March 18, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Palestinians to Obama from The Jerusalem Post

“President Obama, don’t bring your smart phone to Ramallah; you won’t have mobile access to Internet; we nave no 3G in Palestine!” It was not clear on Sunday who was responsible for the posters. Some Palestinians said they did not rule out the possibility that the two local mobile phone companies, Jawwal and Wataniyeh, were behind the signs for purely commercial purposes.

Just bring us Obamaphones!!

fourdeucer on March 18, 2013 at 11:26 AM

Shy Guy on March 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

The lentil soup at Cafe Hillel is killer!

tom daschle concerned on March 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM

“Don’t expect much” You can count on that.

Hummer53 on March 18, 2013 at 11:34 AM

More charm from dear leader.

Kissmygrits on March 18, 2013 at 11:37 AM

Shy Guy on March 18, 2013 at 11:17 AM

I hope the yarmulke burns or at least itches while its on his head.

Fallon on March 18, 2013 at 11:48 AM

Guess bho will have his ‘food taster’ along with him on the trip? Can’t be too careful now can you bho?

Wonder if a hurd of locusts will swarm around bho’s head while the is there? He has flies here that seems to like his face several times?

God be with you Israel.
L

letget on March 18, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Does anyone think that all these claims about no progress while there is signaling the Obama’s attempt to lower expectations so that when he pushes and gets some agreement he gets credit for super negotiation skills??

georgealbert on March 18, 2013 at 11:52 AM

While in Jerusalem, Obama will be traveling in a large armored tank-like vehicle which the SS refers to as “The Beast”. I kid you not.

tommyboy on March 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Beware of Geeks bearing gifts……..

(tho, an insult to geeks everywhere)

FlaMurph on March 18, 2013 at 12:17 PM

He already has his caddie fill in his score sheet out before he takes his first stroke off the tee.

hawkeye54 on March 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM

And then later, he goes golfing.

The Rogue Tomato on March 18, 2013 at 12:28 PM

This is purely a PR blitz, on the principle of “Ignore everything I do, just listen to my dulcet voice.” What will be interesting will be where he, and/or his staffers, go after leaving Israel.

And who they’ll be meeting with, after the media types have gone to bed.

eon on March 18, 2013 at 11:02 am

Based on past experiences, the State department staffers and SS would probably go to a nearby country with cheap prostitutes, Cyprus, maybe :)…well, assuming their ATM machines still work :)…who will they be meeting with there, well, am thinking the local Russian Mafia capo, to negotiate a good price for his intl team of ‘foreign policy’ experts…

jimver on March 18, 2013 at 12:46 PM

Don’t expect much

and you will never be disappointed in him.

hillsoftx on March 18, 2013 at 1:51 PM

Obozo will find a way to fall below expectations no matter how low you set them. I just pray he doesn’t start WWIII in the next 4 years and we can get a conservative in office to repair half of his damage.

sauldalinsky on March 18, 2013 at 1:56 PM

The lentil soup at Cafe Hillel is killer!

tom daschle concerned on March 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Overwhelmed by cumin, no?

My wife’s lentil soup is tops. :)

Shy Guy on March 18, 2013 at 2:22 PM