What a difference of a few months make. The 2 August 2009 issue of 'Jeune Afrique' wrote glowingly of 'l'effect Obama' in the Arab world. Patrick Seale enamoured by US president Barack Obama's [BHO] oratory, waxed eloquent on the way the American chief of state cleverly was squaring the circle in matters Israeli and Palestinian and engaging Iran. Three months later, BHO & co. have begun talks with Tehran. But sad to say, he squandered the capital he earned among the Arab world by tripping badly on picking up the stitches on Israel and Palestine.
As the world has come to know BHO's style of engagement, he's a mediocre hand at poker; he throws in his cards too easily. Consider his thunderbolt on illegal Israeli settlements which sent Arctic shivers up and down Israel. The right wing Likud government under the sorry leadership of Benjamin Netenyahu at first was caught up short. It didn't take him long to take BHO's measure, in order to make mince meat of BHO's speech in Cairo. He stared down BHO, and BHO folded like a tent.
This was never more obvious during secretary of state Hillary Clinton's 'visite eclaire' to Jerusalem. There she announced that the halt in illegal grabbing of Palestinian land was off the table, in the vain hope she could breathe life into the moribund 'road map to peace'. Standing besides her was Netenyahu looking very much like the cat that swallowed the US canary, and with the glint of hypocrisy in his eye, announced Israel sets no 'preconditions'[sic] in negotiating with the Palestinians. Wink, wink, wink. Who did he think he was kidding? Apparently everyone in the mainstream global press! No one had the courage to say aloud that Israel in negotiations with Palestinians always threw 'preconditions' in the spokes of any progress. Jerusalem would only do 'x' if the Palestinians did 'y'. And then the Palestinian authority would jump through the Israeli hoop, and get nothing in return from Israel.
BHO has strong cards in forcing Israel back to the bargaining table, but he won't use them since if he did his party's chances in the 2010 by elections would be sabotaged by the powerful Israel lobby and the philo Israeli members of Congress who depend on the largesse of lobbies, among which the Israeli is very powerful, and has proven very skillful in killing the hopes of many a Congressman or woman seeking re election, not to mention the Christian evangelicals who throw immense support behind Isreal.He has heard the rumble of discontent even among the most supine Arab rulers, and Mme. Clinton got an earful of Arab ministers' anger in a meeting in Morocco these past days. As a result, instead of returning to Washington, she immediately boarded a plane for Cairo, to soothe Hosni Mubarak's feather and to enlist him in cooling Arab tempers.
But the harm was done. BHO has lost any good will he may have garnered in June in Cairo.
BHO as is his wont, sets his sails to the lee side; he's cautious when he should be bold. In consequent, he does too little to be effective.
As Guam Diary keeps repeating--an it is not the only one--BHO has the whip to keep Israel in line.A mere threat of cessation of military and economic aid, would make Netenyahu & co. sit up straight, stand at attention, and salute smartly. BHO won't for his sense of Realpolitik. And thus no matter how pretty the speech making, the clever and insincere appeal to noble sentiments, the Obama effect has faulted and failed. BHO has the spine of a wet noodle when it comes to exercising political skills and will in the Middle East.