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Obama thought that ultimately wisdom would win out, yet wisdom lost Photo: AFP
Obama thought that ultimately wisdom would win out, yet wisdom lost Photo: AFP
 
 

 

President Obama’s mistake

Op-ed: Obama meant well but forgot that in Middle East one must first carry a big stick

Orly Azoulay
Published: 09.22.11, 10:02 / Israel Opinion

America is about to vote against its very own policy. When President Obama will be asked to raise his hand and impose a veto on the Palestinians’ request to recognize their state, he will in fact be voting against himself and against everything he believed in from the day he entered office.

 

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Obama did not expect to get to this junction. The man who believes that in the modern world there is no place for tyrants and dictators, oppressors and oppressed, occupiers and occupied, the man who truly wanted to bring an end to the occupation and conflict and whose worldview espouses the notion that there will be no calm in the Mideast without a Palestinian state – will now have to impose a veto on the Palestinian request.

 

Obama meant well, but failed in the execution. Nobody promised him a rose garden in the Middle East, yet nobody also prepared him for the rules of play prevalent in the grand bazaar.

 

Netanyahu and Abbas made a long series of mistakes, deliberately or not, yet the greatest error was made by Obama himself. He was elected as the first African-American president and made history. When he entered office, he rode an immense wave of sympathy and hope, bringing with him a new spirit and a refreshing air of goodwill and openness.

 

He won a majority in order to implement innovative policy and bring a new world order, not just talk about them.

 

A well-known dictum asserts that what a president fails to do in his first two years in office cannot be done later because elections are in store. Obama had two years to bring peace to the Middle East, but he wasted too much time on understanding the playing field. It isn’t easy to leap from the post of rookie senator to the Oval Office, and when the world reaches boiling point there are no 100 hours of mercy even.

 

We all lost

Obama wanted to bring the world the polar opposite of President George W. Bush’s policy: He did not seek the sheriff’s car or the cowboy boots; he believed that words touch more and that gestures of reconciliation have a way to reach and melt hearts.

 

The president is not naïve and most certainly not stupid; otherwise he would not have reached his position. However, he should have known that in the Middle East, if you reach out your hand first it means you are weak. The strong ones pull out a gun or at least threaten with a fist.

 

American President Theodore Roosevelt developed a policy doctrine premised on the following: “Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” Obama did not hold a big stick, or even a whip. He did not threaten Netanyahu, in a substantive way at least, and failed to scare Mahmoud Abbas. He tiptoed, and now he shall be walking on eggshells, because elections are in store and this is the finest hour of Jewish voters, whom Obama fails to appease regardless of how much he flatters them.

 

The president thought that ultimately wisdom would win out, yet wisdom lost. Obama lost along with it, and all of us lost as well.

 

 

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