Rock-star Obama, meet sceptical Israel

Benjamin Netanyahu looks towards Barack Obama, the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, May 2009

Some Israeli media outlets are calling Barack Obama’s first trip to Israel as US president “operation unbreakable alliance”.

It is the sort of overkill that underlines the fact that both sides have something to prove. Just don’t hold your breath for history to be made.

The main purpose of Obama’s visit seems to be to re-make his image with the Israeli people. A recent poll indicated only 10% of them had a favourable view of the president.

Obama critics at home have long claimed that he’s no friend of Israel and say the proof positive is that he hasn’t bothered to go there as president. By making this the first foreign trip of his second term he at least gets that out of the way.

He’ll be only the fifth US president to go to Israel, but his recent predecessors Bill Clinton and George W Bush invested a lot in the relationship.

Obama offended some early on in his presidency by going to Cairo to make a high-profile speech to the Arab world but not continuing on to Israel. The speech also offended some Israelis because of the way he made a case for Israel’s existence based on the horrors of the Holocaust rather than Jewish origins in the region. Expect him to correct that on this trip.

The White House of course attempts to counter all this criticism, retorting that Israel has no better ally, citing the defence co-operation since he became president.


BBC has the full article

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