Now Obama the Brave Has Israel to Contend with ; the President Has Been Bold on Healthcare and the US Economy -- but the Middle East Is a Much Trickier Issue
Fenton, James, The Evening Standard (London, England)
PRESIDENT Obama is a born conciliator in an intransigent world. At home and abroad, he has to deal with astonishingly uncompromising opponents and allies. He is admired and distrusted with equal intensity.
In Jerusalem, posters depict him as a PLO agent in the White House. In America, around a quarter of Republican supporters believe he is a Muslim, while the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, speaks of the recent passing of the health reform act as the start of Armageddon. When asked if this is not something of an exaggeration, Steele deliberately repeats the line.
As the historic bill was being given its final push last Sunday and Democrat victory began finally to seem assured, one conservative voice found something unusual to say. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George Bush, was arguing on television and through his blog that the Republicans had inflicted on themselves an enormous and unnecessary defeat.
The bill itself was bad, Frum said, but it was not going to go away. And besides, it contained elements that Republicans could have lived with had they taken the opportunities Obama offered, had they compromised and negotiated instead of going all out for total defeat of the Democrats. What they had trumpeted as a coming Waterloo for the Democrats had turned into Waterloo for the Republicans, and sooner or later someone was going to have to take the blame for a selfinflicted injury.
By Tuesday morning, when Obama left-handedly signed the act at the White House, there was little sign that this realisation was shared by the opposition leadership, let alone among the more hysterical elements of the socalled Tea Party. This Right-wing grassroots movement has grown up over the past few months, articulating a fury against big government and what it calls fiscal irresponsibility, invoking the Founding Fathers while flirting all the time with an anarchic, terrorist tendency that shades off into lunacy.
Turning from his dealings with this furious domestic opposition, Obama at once became engaged with another kind of intransigence in the visiting Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
For the rest of that day, until late into the night, he was involved in administering what appears to have been a dressing- down. As a writer on Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz put it: "Instead of a reception as a guest of honour, Netanyahu was treated as a problem child, an army private ordered to do laps around the base for slipping up at roll call."
The immediate cause of American frustration in the past weeks has been a series of announcements of Israeli building plans in East Jerusalem -- announcements which seem sometimes to have caught Netanyahu off his guard but which he has defended robustly. In the background, however, is a growing disquiet among the American military at the lack of progress in setting up Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.
One might have supposed that this …
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Publication information: Article title: Now Obama the Brave Has Israel to Contend with ; the President Has Been Bold on Healthcare and the US Economy -- but the Middle East Is a Much Trickier Issue. Contributors: Fenton, James - Author. Newspaper title: The Evening Standard (London, England). Publication date: March 26, 2010. Page number: 14. © Not available. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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