By now it’s clear that President Barack Obama isn’t going to visit Israel in his term of office. And yet that’s pretty curious, isn’t it? After all, American politicians who seek Jewish support usually find a trip to Israel a pretty good way to claim pro-Israel credentials. And Obama has been desperate to do so, especially this year.
Why, then, isn’t Obama going to visit Israel? Of course, we cannot definitively answer that question, but here are some thoughts:
1. His personal distaste for Israel is so great that he doesn’t want to come here. Of course, he did do so once as a senator but now Obama may feel he can give freer rein to his feelings. While it is silly to say that Obama hates Israel and wants to destroy it, if you believe that he has a single warm feeling toward the Jewish state I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might want to buy. Certainly, Obama has an extreme personal dislike for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he revealed to a microphone he didn’t know was on when meeting with French President Sarkozy. And while some of Obama’s best friends were Jewish, they were also anti-Israel or, at best, in the we-know-better-than-those-dumb-Israelis camp.
2. He fears being booed and rejected by Israelis. Let’s be clear, Israelis can behave like star-struck provincials ogling celebrities. There would be a certain amount of drooling worship of that type. Still, Obama is very unpopular here, too. There could be some nasty scenes of booing and anti-Obama signs that might persuade American Jews that all is not well.
3. A visit counters Obama’s efforts to distance himself from Israel and act as if he’s the buddy of Muslims, especially those who hate the Jewish state. Of course he could go to Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq again since he’s been to all of those places.
For the last 40 years American presidents have stood with Israel and urged Arab states to make peace with that country. Think of President Bill Clinton. Their policies relied on the principle that the United States can nurture excellent relations with both sides. And guess what? That policy worked as well as was possible. The radical Arabs would have opposed America under any conditions and the moderates worked closely with Washington. But no matter how much lip service Obama gives such a strategy — most of the time in front of Jewish groups — this is not the president’s approach.