Jeffrey Goldberg says President Obama needs to “make Israel feel special again“:
To the Israelis, Obama needs to say two things at once. The first is simple: He needs to tell Israelis that he loves them. President Bill Clinton understood the value of telling an isolated and widely despised people that he was on their side. In this speech, and especially during his visit, Obama could go a long way toward demonstrating similar sympathy.
The second message is more difficult: Obama needs to tell the Israelis that, because he loves them, he is worried about their behavior. He needs to say that the West Bank settlement project is imperiling Israel’s future as a democratic Jewish state. Delivering this message from Washington is one thing, however. Saying it in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in the bluntest manner feasible, might shock the system.
Isn’t there a better way for a president to tell the people of a besieged democracy that “he loves them” than by traveling to their capital and demanding they make unilateral concessions in a conflict to which the United States is not a party? Israel already seems to be “special” in the eyes of Obama since he makes demands on that country that he does not make on any other ally. One way for Obama to show the Israelis he is “on their side” would be to continue his rhetorical support of Israel while not trying to impose an unrealistic settlement on recalcitrant neighbors. That truly would “shock the system.”