If we can sum up Barack Obama’s AIPAC speech in two words, they would be “trust me.” After all the speculations and talk about his lacking commitment to Israel’s security, the president wanted only one thing: To instill a sense of security in his listeners whereby Israel is safe as long as he’s at the helm.
Given the political reality in the US and the pressure exerted on the president on the Iranian issue, and against the backdrop of grave concerns about a dramatic rise in oil and fuel prices, Obama delivered the wisest political speech imaginable.
Obama turned directly to his voters, took a jab at his Republican rivals, embraced President Shimon Peres, and spoke above Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s head – directly to Israel’s concerned, fearful citizens. To use a Netanyahu phrase, Obama spoke “dugri.” When you need me, I back you up, Obama said.
The president also made sure to take a jab at Netanyahu, in a sophisticated way. When talking about Israel’s leadership, he mentioned Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the same breath with Netanyahu, as if Barak was an integral part of the PM, or at least its better half.
Obama is in the midst of an election year. In recent months, he has been boasting an improvement in the US economy and a significant decline in unemployment figures. However, the skyrocketing oil and fuel prices are a dramatic factor in the American public discourse. Should they keep rising, US citizens may lose patience with the current Administration.
There’s still time leftThis is why Barack Obama spoke so logically to his listeners. This is why he almost spelled out the full list of diplomatic and security steps undertaken by his Administration in recent years in order to stand by Israel. This is why he emphasized so much the diplomatic option vis-à-vis Iran and turned to the logic of Israel’s citizens and to the common sense of our government ministers.
When he turned to Israelis’ common sense, Obama almost begged them to allay the tensions and asked for an end to the beating of war drums and the battle chatter that pushes global oil prices up. There is still time left, the US president said, the sanctions shall be tightened, the Iranians are feeling the pressure, and we are keeping our finger on the pulse. There’s a chance for diplomacy. There is no need to rush to pull the trigger. Stop talking about war. Trust me.
In a brilliant step, Obama’s speech writers made his words “Israeli.” At a certain point in his speech, he spoke “Israeli” – he talked about sending soldiers to the battlefield, about the fatalities that never returned, about his thoughts and about the trials and tribulations of war.
Obama spoke exactly like every Israeli leader spoke in recent decades. He spoke like Rabin, Peres and Barak, and even like Sharon and Olmert. He spoke of bereavement and the pain of the families, and said war should be the last option. If there is no choice, the president stressed, I will not hesitate to resort to the military option, and I will not prevent Israel from defending itself.
After such speech, and following the warm meeting between Obama and Peres, and the apparently less-warm meeting with Netanyahu, we can assume that the public discourse on Iran will change, at least for some time.