"I fear Greeks even when they bring gifts," said priest of Apollo at Troy Laocoön when he warned the Trojans in vain against accepting the Trojan Horse. This ancient warning was forgotten by many when American President Barack Obama went to great lengths to stroke our ego and tell we "are not alone."
The problem is that Obama's conduct during his fist term – from his speech in Cairo, to his demand for a construction freeze even in Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Gilo and his complete rejection of Bush's promise to Olmert regarding the settlement blocs, in addition to the initiated confrontations with the Israeli leadership – should raise some suspicions regarding the content of the "presidential horse," and lead us to suspect that behind the compliments and friendly banter hides almost the same man from the previous term.
While it is possible that Obama's failed attempts to jumpstart the "peace process" in his first term, mainly by applying pressure on Israel and hurling accusations at its leaders, contributed to the White House's reexamination of its Mideast policy, it seems that what tipped the scales in favor of changing the behavior toward Israel was the failure of his previous tactic. From here the road to adopting an alternative tactic - which has been proven to be effective by people such as Bill Clinton - was short. Despite the disastrous "Clinton outline," the former American president is still a popular figure in Israel. "Never interrupt a person who is complimenting you," Osho said. Clinton understood this, and all the signs on the ground indicate that Obama has internalized this principle as well.
Obama's hyped visit to Israel and his numerous gestures changed - to a great extent - the negative attitude toward him in Israel, although he has yet to capture the locals' hearts entirely. As far as Obama is concerned, this change in attitude may turn out to be quite beneficial when Israel will be asked to make territorial concessions.
'Israel is not alone.' Bibi greets Obama at airport (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)
During his "king's speech" in Jerusalem, Obama used some of the same rhetoric we remember from his first term. He spoke of occupation, expulsion and the lost hope of the Palestinians, and he called on young Israelis to pressure their leaders into taking risks for the sake of peace with the Palestinians. Beyond his baseless statement that "political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do" – throughout history leaders (including American leaders) did not tend to ask the people for their opinion before taking risks – the fact that he told Israel's youngsters "you must create the change that you want to see" is no less than an insolent call for a civil uprising against the legitimate decisions of elected officials in a democratic regime.
Did Israel not take a real risk when it signed the Oslo Accords and in return received a bloodbath in its cities and periphery? Did it not take a great risk at Camp David in 2000, which was followed by horrible acts of terror launched by its Palestinian partner? Did Ehud Barak not return empty handed, yet again, after making an improved offer to Arafat during the 2001 Taba Conference as Palestinian terrorists were killing Israelis? Did Israel not take a risk when it withdrew from Gaza in 2005? In 2007 did Abbas not reject the even more generous offers presented by Olmert - offers which amazed even the Americans?
Therefore, it is hard to imagine that Obama, who admitted during his speech that Israel "made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis (…) withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets," believes with all his heart that a peace agreement with the Palestinians is possible in our lifetimes.