There is, however, nothing idle or ambling about his itinerary. Yes, it’s heavy on symbolism. But it’s a symbolism that will cast a shadow for generations—possibly over all Israeli history.
Obama will honor the founder of modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl, by laying a wreath on his tomb. Herzl introduced the idea of a Jewish state in his 1896 book Der Jundenstaat. Obama’s gesture will not only convey the presidential imprimatur to Zionism, it will also seek to erase the common Arab notion that Israel is an outgrowth of the Holocaust. Obama will also read the Dead Sea Scrolls and in so doing personally immerse himself—and therefore America—in a two-millennium-old Jewish connection to the Holy Land.
The president will speak throughout this visit about his desire to deter Iran with diplomacy. So far, talks have produced nothing to reassure anyone that Iran is anything but hell-bent on developing nukes. On this trip, much will be made of whether Obama’s red line (that which triggers military action) is the same as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s. Obama’s red line is nuclear-weapons development—that is, having one. Netanyahu’s line is capability—being able to build one, but not yet having one. This is not semantics…
If Obama doesn’t follow through, Israel’s history will never be the same, and all will know America blinked. If he does follow through, proving he was not bluffing, war will likely come in the next year or two. And the declaration will have come, for all practical purposes, while Obama was indulging in “symbolic tourism.”