According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah comes to Jerusalem on a donkey.
If the candidate is Barack Obama with aspirations for peace in the Middle East, something is amiss.
For some days now, it has been clear that he overstepped himself, or his advisors pushed too far, by saying that the freeze on settlements must include the new Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he would not keep Jews from living where they wanted in Jerusalem, just as leaders of other democracies could no longer keep Jews from living where they wanted in their capitals. Varda's new curtains are a blatant affront to the White House.
A Washington Post editorial has chastised the president for angering Israel as a price too heavy for limited success with Muslims.
With Netanyahu's help the president has provoked a spurt of anti-Americanism. Extremists have rushed to do God's work by creating 11 new settlements. They are illegal, but will take time to dismantle. Coming on the heels of other settlements being removed indicates that a cat and mouse game will continue.
There has also been an arousal of Israel's moderate right. Several writers have described the brilliance of Netanyahu. For the first time an Israeli leader has proclaimed that the Arabs must give something in order to get something. In his speech at Bar Ilan University, Netanyahu demanded Palestinian agreement to the disarmament of their state, and the recognition of Israel as Jewish. Palestinian refugees will not be return to the Jewish state.
Rejections from Palestinians and other Arabs were immediate.
Signs are that the White House has backtracked from a total settlement freeze. The discussion is now about a partial and temporary freeze, and the administration is asking the Arabs for a gesture to Israel. Arab governments see this as Obama's reversal of what he had offered to them, and are saying his new request is premature.
Things are also not going well at home. The unnecessary remark about Cambridge had some traction, perhaps reflecting the high status of police going back to Richard Nixon's war on crime. It is not clear what will come out of Congress for health care. Americans are insisting on keeping their "freedom of choice." Insurance companies may be paying for this campaign, as if they had not acquired control of the choices. Most people spend a great deal of time, often unsuccessfully, with indecipherable forms that must be completed in order to get what is available.
There has been a renewed flurry that Obama is Muslim, racist, and anti-Semitic, and an illegal occupant of the presidency by virtue of being born in Kenya. So far I have not seen that he is a Pentecostal snake handler, but that may come.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science