Et tu, Obama?

Et tu Brute ?
Et tu Brute ?

Et tu, Brute? After all, in your Cairo speech you promised a new dawn for the Muslim world, you promised a new America to the Arab world.


by Gideon Levy


How is it that the supposedly new America is continuing to sing the same old songs from its evil past??

What is the American president going to say to his citizens? What will he say to the citizens of the world? How will he rationalize his country’s opposition to recognizing a Palestinian state? How will he explain his position, which runs counter to the position of the enlightened – and less enlightened – world?

And above all, what will Barack Obama say to himself before he goes to bed? That the Palestinians don’t deserve a state? That they have a chance to get it through negotiations with Israel? That they do not have equal rights in the new world that we thought he was going to establish? Will he admit to himself that, because of opportunistic election considerations – yes, Obama is now being exposed as quite an opportunist – he is also harming his country’s interests as well as the (real ) interests of Israel, and is acting against his own conscience too?

It is difficult now to understand Obama’s America. The man who promised change is turning out to be the father of American conservatives. With regard to Israel, there is no difference between him and the last of the celebrants at the Tea Party. We did not expect a great deal from Hillary Clinton; she can continue to recite hollow speeches about negotiations-shmegotiations – but Obama?

Et tu, Brute? After all, in your Cairo speech you promised a new dawn for the Muslim world, you promised a new America to the Arab world. And what came of this? The same old American wolf – which blindly and automatically supports every whim of Israel’s to such an extent that it is not clear which is the world power and which is the protectorate – and not even dressed in sheep’s clothing. The riddle remains unsolved: How is it that the supposedly new America is continuing to sing the same old songs from its evil past? How is it that Obama is behaving as if he does not understand that the Palestinians will no longer agree to live another four decades without civil rights, certainly not in view of all that is taking place around them in the awakening Arab world?

The riddle remains unsolved because it is difficult to comprehend how a black president, who believes in justice and equality, can bow down with such unbearable lightness to a right-wing government in Israel, to narrow election considerations in America, and to Jewish and Christian lobbies. It is difficult to comprehend how his America does not understand that it is shooting itself with a lethal bullet in the heart by supporting the Israeli refusal to make peace. After all, deep in his heart this American president knows that the Palestinians’ demand is justified because they too are worthy, finally, of becoming independent – and that Israel supports occupation. Why does one have to wait for the book of memoirs that he will surely write one day in order to hear this? He knows that the Arab Spring, that erupted to a certain extent in the wake of his promising Cairo speech, will now turn its anger and hatred toward America, once more toward America, simply because of its insistent opposition to Palestinian freedom.

Obama is also supposed to know that concern for Israel’s future, and genuine friendship toward Israel, must include support for the establishment of a Palestinian state. That is the only way to neutralize the explosive fuse that is going to set off the entire region, against Israel and against the United States. He also knows that America’s stance against the entire world will once again arouse the hostility of the world against the U.S. leader. And all of that – for what? For a handful of votes in the next elections. That cannot be considered an excuse on the part of someone who was seen as so promising a leader with such a highly developed awareness of history. A person who sells his country’s interests and his own weltanschauung during his first term of office will display similar opportunism during the second term.

How pathetic is the vision of the two American emissaries who are once again shuttling back and forth now in the region and distributing threats. And to whom? To the Palestinians who are turning to a new diplomatic route, but not to the Israeli government for its destructive refusal. How pathetic it is to see Dennis Ross, the eternal American Mr. Negotiations of almost all its administrations, scuttling around with nothing to do between Ramallah and Jerusalem as he has been doing for decades. That is the old, bad America, as if there were no Obama.

The American president this week has the historic opportunity of improving the status of his country, of justifying retroactively the Nobel Prize for Peace that he was awarded, of demonstrating real commitment to imposing peace in the most dangerous region for the fate of the world, and of showing genuine concern for the well-being of Israel – but what do we get instead?

George Bush. George Bush for the poor.

Gideon Levy is a Haaretz columnist and a member of the newspaper’s editorial board.


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