U.S. headed for major embarrassment come September

4 comments on the D.C. Debating Championship and what lies ahead

1. What a talent

Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech in Congress should be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s obviously the longest time any human being has taken (45 minutes) to say only one word: “NO”.

And if they don’t accept him, then he should at least be nominated for a Tony, or even better – a guest appearance on Glee. I mean, let’s face it: the acting talent, the drama, the way he paused for effect, the comic timing – he’s got the whole package. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got an “A” in improv after the way he handled that heckler who cut him off. So smooth, so natural. It almost looked like he was prepared for it…

I won’t go into every aspect of the speech and where he was fundamentally wrong. It’s already been ripped apart by so many. And I also won’t go into all the 19,000 conditions he put down for a Palestinian state (apparently, condition #19,001 was “Palestinian state – when Venus and Mars collide” – but I saw he crossed that out at the last minute). Once again, he gave Obama nothing. Didn’t budge an inch.

But what do you expect from a guy who pretty much said the exact same things over 30 years ago? If you’ve never seen this clip of 28 year old Ben (Bibi) Nitay – you must now:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8FRry_60FAU&sns=fb [/youtube]

(On a side note: Notice how at the end of this discussion, when the American “attorney” asks Bibi to sum up, he does so politely. But when the Arab asks the same thing – Bibi reprimands him for not listening. Oh, and there’s also that disconcerting fact that nothing has changed in over three decades)

2. The scary part

But when it comes to Barack Obama’s part in this year’s “D.C. Debating Championship”, a grim picture emerges. If there was ever a moment that showed the need for campaign finance reform, it was the President’s speech at AIPAC. That speech was the magnum opus of big money calling the shots. Big, Jewish money.

How sad (and frightening) is it that an American President can fight for what he believes in when it comes to issues such as health insurance or the budget, to the death, forcefully against every Republican – but when it comes to Israel he is handicapped. He can not rule. He can not make the decision he wants to. He can not even got out to battle – I’m not talking about winning or losing yet.

The flip flop between his speech on the Arab world and the “appeasement speech” at AIPAC was embarrassing. It wasn’t that the two speeches were that much different content-wise. They weren’t. But they sure were different when it came to tone and delivery. Obama was just as smooth as Bibi, but the pandering reached new heights, particularly when he did the name dropping of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod:

“I know very well that the easy thing to do, particularly for a president preparing for reelection, is to avoid any controversy. I don’t need Rahm [Emanuel] to tell me that. Don’t need [David] Axelrod to tell me that,” Obama said at AIPAC.

Wow. Deep in the lion’s den, to have the guts to say you’re going against your advisers? Your Jewish advisers? Impressive.

So, apparently Obama thinks that by saying that he went against that advice, that Jewish advice, he’s not afraid of controversy. He’s sticking to his guns. AIPAC doesn’t have him.

President Obama – allow me to define what “controversy” really means. “Controversy” does not mean mentioning some names, appeasing the Jewish leadership and then going back to the White House and doing nothing for another few years. “Controversy” is using your power and influence to make peace, to devise a plan, to force Israel to make tough decisions, to stop the procrastination. To stop apartheid. That’s “controversy”.

Now, as we have proof that Bibi and Barack are great at speeches but not much else, the waiting game begins. What else can be done when some people only talk the talk?

3. Death Blow to Wild Card Campaign

When I wrote my first “Wild Card” post back in October, many had their doubts. Just a reminder: The Wild Card campaign is an effort to bring about U.S. recognition of a Palestinian state this summer at the UN.

First, many believed the U.S. would veto such a move. But many more thought that UDI (unilateral declaration of independence) would never reach the UN to begin with. Well, nowadays, UDI is pretty much the only thing people are talking about these days. I also stand by my assessment that the UDI is the best option of being a game changer, particularly if the chances of violence are higher after a U.S. veto, as Yossi Gurvitz points out.

But Obama did indeed deal the Wild Card a death blow last week, when he promised to work against the Palestinians’ attempt to go through the UN. So, is the Wild Card campaign over?

I gave it some thought, and the answer is “No”. There’s only one reason to keep going with this campaign – and that’s to show how ridiculous the policies of this administration are.

Obama will once again make the mistake of torpedoing something he believes in. Last time the U.S. embarrassed itself when it vetoed a UNSC resolution against settlements – even though President after President has been against settlement activity. Come September, should Obama fail in his effort to make the Palestinians drop it, he will once again vote against something he supports – a Palestinian state. The exact same state that he mentioned in both his recent speeches.

Obama said that the parties must negotiate the borders themselves, that UDI is not the way. But that’s exactly what UDI is all about. It’s about returning to the negotiation table and discussing borders – as equals. It’s about giving the Palestinians the push they need.

One can only wonder how Obama reached the conclusion that if UDI was successful, that there could not be negotiations afterwards. When in fact, it makes negotiations more probable.

Obama said that first the land swaps must be negotiated: “By definition, it means that the parties themselves — Israelis and Palestinians — will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4, 1967. That’s what mutually agreed-upon swaps means.” So, why can’t there be mutually agreed swaps after UDI? What’s the problem?

Well, it won’t be the first embarrassment of Obama’s Mideast policies – but it will definitely be the biggest. Especially if the debate in Israel warms up to the option and Netanyahu decides to agree with people like Meir Dagan, the former Mossad chief, who recently said that Israel should not oppose UDI.

If you still have hope the U.S. will avoid embarrassing itself, join the Wild Card campaign Facebook group – U.S. should recognize Palestinians Statehood in 2011.

4. A few last words for both leaders

President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu – this past week, you have both shut the door on ending the occupation, and it is us Israelis and Palestinians who will suffer the consequences of your ill judgement, probably sometime around September.

After a week of spectacular yet fruitless dissemination, I have three words for the both of you:

“Thanks for nothing”.

The Wild Card Campaign
Part I The Wild Card campaign starts with a bang through an op-ed in the Jerusalem Post
Part II Where French FM and President Abbas hint towards a future Palestinian state
Part III Egyptian FM joins the party
Part IV The NYTimes puts the Wild Card on the agenda
Part V The right wingers start to get nervous about unilateralism
Part VI The peace talks die, a call for Obama to think again about the Wild Card
Part VII EU sets the ground for recognition of Palestine
Part VIII AIPAC flexes its muscle – but who cares?
Part IX Obama’s Litmus test just around the corner
Part X Unilateralism is the only way left
Part XI Southern Sudan as a precedent for Palestine

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