Scenes from President Obama’s arrival in the West Bank:
“The right of return [for Palestinian refugees] is a red line,” an old man swathed in a keffiyeh yelled passionately.
Ahmad, 27, was nursing a broken arm having been shot with a rubber bullet by Israeli soldiers during a protest at Qalandiya checkpoint last Friday but supported the demonstrators.
“When he got the presidency, he said he would do lots for Palestine but he did nothing,” he explained. “Now Palestine is angry, as you can see. Most Palestinians hate Obama – he will only make more problems for us”.
You might have forgotten the contents of Obama’s big 2009 Cairo speech, but you can bet the Palestinians hadn’t. He really did make it seem as though he would “do lots for Palestine,” but of course he couldn’t deliver. Middle East peace is the elusive unicorn and the sticky tar baby of presidential foreign affairs. American presidents keep trying to broker historic deals to cement their legacy as the great peacemaker, but all come away unhappy.
However, no one before Obama had given the Palestinians so much false hope, and the Israeli’s so much to distrust. That’s a sure formula for losing.
Now Obama has made a belated attempt to win back Israel’s trust, and I suppose this trip might have helped some. But that’s only one side of the equation. On the other side are the Palestinians. First Obama raised their hopes, then he dashed them. And then to add insult to injury, he made nice with Bibi.
But now — and perhaps this is the most bizarre part — Obama leaned on Netanyahu hard enough to get him to apologize to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the Gaza flotilla fight from a couple years back.
Obama even felt the need to hop in on the phone conversation halfway through, which must have made an awkward conversation even worse. Any goodwill Obama might have earned with Bibi during his trip was surely ruined then in its last moments.
The Army has a term for this kind of thing, and it rhymes with “buster duck.”
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