The Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

Obama’s trip to Israel: ‘We have your back’

 

HeraldEd@MiamiHerald.com

President Obama’s trip to Israel last week went a long way toward allaying the resentments accumulated over the four years in which he failed to visit America’s most important ally in the Middle East. Four simple words broke the ice: “We have your back.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded with equally important words of his own: On the issue of intelligence about Iran’s effort to acquire nuclear weapons capability, the prime minister said, “We share information and we have a common assessment.” He repeated that for emphasis: “ We have a common assessment.

What Mr. Obama meant is that the U.S. commitment to guarantee the security of Israel is as strong as ever. Just as significant was the prime minister’s assurance, directed primarily at Israeli hawks, that there is no daylight between U.S. and Israeli leaders on the pressing question of Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear-weapons capability.

The statements underlined a new attitude by two men whose frosty relationship over the years has weakened the crucial U.S.-Israeli relationship. The sudden thaw is not so much a reassessment of policy as it is a recognition of political reality — both leaders are starting a new term in office and need each other. The change bodes well for an improved relationship that reaffirms the strong bonds between countries that share common values, a commitment to democracy, and a shared interest in forging a peaceful Middle East.

In that sense, Mr. Obama’s visit was a significant achievement, despite low expectations and even though there was no breakthrough on peace talks with the Palestinians and no significant new policy initiative. It helped to heal the rift between this White House and Israelis and sent a message to would-be foes that there is nothing to be gained in trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Israel.

Mr. Obama’s visit implicitly acknowledged that his policy toward Israel has lacked a vital ingredient — a personal commitment that can be achieved only by reaching out to Israelis on their own soil, addressing their concerns in person and reaffirming directly to them the U.S. commitment to peace and Israel’s security.

If the trip was strong on rhetoric and optics, it was also short on substance and policy. But even here there was important movement: While still criticizing Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank because it complicates peace efforts, President Obama also urged Palestinians not to demand a cessation of new construction as a precondition to peace talks.

In moving U.S. policy closer to the Israeli view, Mr. Obama was no doubt mindful that Palestinians have used the settlement issue as a convenient excuse to avoid engagement with the Israelis. An earlier moratorium on settlements by Prime Minister Netanyahu likewise failed to break the stalemate, deepening Israeli convictions that Palestinians are not interested in making compromises for peace.

Mr. Obama has a personal stake in the issue, as well. He does not want to be the president under whose watch a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict becomes impossible, and each passing day without progress on peace brings that unwanted prospect dangerously closer.

Without a strong U.S.-Israeli bond, however, no movement is possible. In reaffirming that bond, Mr. Obama hoped to give Israel the confidence to take risks for peace. The bond is not merely a political alliance of passing convenience, but rather a strong and lasting partnership.

Read more Editorials stories from the Miami Herald

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    From tragedy to farce

    OUR OPINION: Latest Guantánamo disclosures further discredit the justice process

  • Worth a thousand words

    The Miami Herald Editorial Board shares the viewpoints of cartoonists from across the country in this Saturday feature called “Worth a Thousand Words.”

  • Miami Herald | EDITORIAL

    Legislative lunacy

    OUR OPINION: Lawmakers shouldn’t cut funds for front lines of mental healthcare

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category