Obama magic still works

A small milestone today for The World is Not Enough: this is our one hundredth post. Thanks to everyone for reading.

Expectations were low for Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, and they seemed to have been pretty much delivered. He made a stirring and apparently well-received speech to an audience of Israeli university students, but there were no new concessions from the government of Benjamin Netanyahu on peace with the Palestinians, and no indication from Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas that he would be willing to resume negotiations without such concessions.

But then on Friday, after Obama was already on his way to Jordan, came a breakthrough. The Israeli government ended its feud with Turkey by apologising for “mistakes” in the 2010 raid on an aid convoy to Gaza and promising to pay compensation for the nine Turkish nationals killed on the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara.

Until this week, Israel had doggedly maintained that its response to the aid convoy was justified, while the rest of the world considered it at best a badly-handled over-reaction and at worst a simple act of piracy. Although not the only factor, it was the primary cause of the rupture in the once-close relationship between Israel and Turkey.

Now they’re friends again. Al-Jazeera’s correspondent reports that Turkey got “almost everything it wanted” from Israel. Taking credit for the switch, Obama said “they don’t have to agree on everything in order for them to come together around a whole range of common interests and common concerns.” High on that list of common concerns is the continuing carnage in Syria, which threatens both Israel and Turkey in different but not entirely dissimilar ways.

Whether the formerly close co-operation between the two countries will actually be resumed remains to be seen, but it’s a start. As the BBC put it, the apology is “a clear indication of the diplomatic clout that the US still wields with its two key allies in a turbulent region.”

Will any of this help the Palestinians or the justly-derided “peace process”? Probably not directly, although apparently part of the conversation between Netanyahu and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan was the claim that Israel had “substantially” lifted its blockade of civilian goods into Gaza.

Indeed, out of the available options to try to mend fences with Obama, Netanyahu may well have picked the one least likely to impact on his core foreign policy interest, namely maintaining Israeli control over the occupied territories.

Nonetheless, the admission that not everything Israel does in keeping the Palestinians down can be justified is a significant step forward. And if Netanyahu gets into the habit of listening to Erdogan he may learn a few home truths that, if heeded, will ultimately work to Israel’s benefit.

5 thoughts on “Obama magic still works

  1. Charles Richardson:

    Your premise for this article is palpably naive.

    What Obama magic is still working?

    He has none now nor has he ever had, as he’s a stooge for those who really run the US Government in DC…don’t tell me you don’t know who they are?

    I’ll take the eminent US/Israeli commentator Richard Silverstein’s take on this Bibi turnaround over your Kumbaya deduction:

    “A country which has still not given up on the disappearance and likely death of airman Ran Arad decades ago in Lebanon, and which obsessed for the five years of Gilad Shalit imprisonment, doesn’t have the right to minimize Turkish bitterness over the cold-blooded murder of nine of its citizens.
    Given that Iran was at the top of the mutual Israeli-U.S. agenda on this trip. And given that Bibi didn’t object when Obama told the world that Iran was at least a year away from the nuclear threshold, despite the fact that Bibi placed that date right around now when he broached the subject in his fall UN speech; this leads to the sneaking suspicion that there was a Grand Bargain made that involved an American commitment to attack Iran with or without Israel in the coming year.
    A deep irony in this development is that the Israeli apology involves its acceptance of the fact that its actions were egregious, unwarranted and illegal. No nation apologies and pays money when it has done nothing wrong. Thus three years of Israeli whitewashes, fake reports, and lobbying in the international community for exoneration have ended in Israeli capitulation. There will be those who argue that despite its apology, Israel has admitted nothing. To which I respond, whether Israel admits it violated international law or not everyone will know as a result of this that it did precisely what it has denied for three years. It murdered nine Turks with no justifiable reason for doing so.”

    Crikey subscribers deserve better international affairs analysis than you provide, Charles. You should read more widely.


  2. Sorry Kevin, but I’m mystified as to where you think you (or Silverstein) and I disagree. Silverstein as you quote him explicitly says Netanyahu has capitulated, and that “everyone will know as a result of this” that the raid was illegal and unjustified. Isn’t that exactly what I said? And since Netanyahu did indeed spend three years denying that, I think it’s fair to say that dragging him round is a considerable achievement. And if Obama didn’t do it, who did?


  3. Charles Richardson:

    you say:

    “And since Netanyahu did indeed spend three years denying that, I think it’s fair to say that dragging him round is a considerable achievement. And if Obama didn’t do it, who did?”

    It’s hard not to sound patronising in pointing out yet again that your alleged ‘Obama magic’ has nothing to do with the man himself. As Richard Silverstein says:

    “….this leads to the sneaking suspicion that there was a Grand Bargain made that involved an American commitment to attack Iran with or without Israel in the coming year”.

    If that likely outcome (or something similar) constitutes Obama magic, then I suggest that you’re confusing ‘magic’ with ‘criminality’.


    1. Of course it’s possible that he brought Netanyahu round by promising to attack Iran (an exercise that I agree would be criminal), but there’s no evidence for it. Silverstein doesn’t claim anything more than a “sneaking suspicion”; he’s entitled to his suspicion, but I don’t share it.


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