Saturday, March 20, 2010

No-drama-Obama's 'rage' against Israel

The Economist report on the current Israeli-US spat explains:

Since becoming prime minister for a second time in 2009, Mr Netanyahu has struggled to befriend Mr Obama and enlist his help against Iran while presiding over a coalition dominated by ultranationalist and religious parties. One school of thought holds that Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton escalated their reaction to the Biden insult in order to make Mr Netanyahu abandon his rightist allies and tread the American path to peace; some say the president was waiting for a chance to destabilise him to force his replacement by someone more emollient. A rival theory is that there is no plan: Ramat Shlomo simply ignited the rage that has smouldered in Mr Obama’s breast since Mr Netanyahu refused his call last year for a total freeze on settlements, forcing Mr Mitchell to waste nearly a year niggling for a temporary compromise.

Aaron David Miller, a veteran State Department negotiator now at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, is one of those who suspect the administration has been driven more by anger than calculation and that its war of words could misfire.

Frankly, I'm not sure which of these two schools of thought is more disturbing. It's bad enough that the administration should take a cool and calculated decision to try and force Mr Netanyahu from office - blatantly interfering in the Israeli nation's democratic right to choose its own representatives, according to its own democratic rules.

But talk of 'the rage that has smouldered in Mr Obama's breast' is perhaps even more troubling. We're talking here about no-drama-Obama; part of his appeal in the election was the claim that he does not make decisions based on emotion but on rational consideration. A year into his administration, some of his supporters have come to the conclusion that his utterly cool temperament is actually a minus - but I've yet to hear anyone claim he really does have strong emotions.

Against this background, the idea that Israel and Netanyahu drive him to 'rage' and to lash out in anger - that these are the issues which he has been quietly stewing over for months - is frightening.

Not Ahmadinejad. Not Kim Jong Il. Not Hamas. Not Hugo Chavez. Israel and Netanyahu.

It is completely irrational, and it does not bode well. Let's hope he was merely trying to interfere in Israeli democracy....

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