NYT: Obama 1st sitting American president to visit Israel as tourist

In article on upcoming Obama trip to Israel, NYT columnist Thomas Friedman writes Israeli-Palestinian conflict has become a hobby for American diplomats.

By Ynet Staff


The United States is quite apathetic to President Barack Obama’s upcoming visit to Israel and is not hanging its hopes on any political breakthroughs.

Obama as first presidential tourist? – Photo: AFP

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote on Wednesday morning, “it is hard for me to recall a less-anticipated trip to Israel by an American president.”

He cynically added that “Obama could be the first sitting American president to visit Israel as a tourist.”

According to Friedman, the American pessimism regarding the chance to advance the political process stems from the fact that the obstacles to peace between Israel and the Palestinians have never been greater.

“Israel has now implanted 300,000 settlers in the West Bank, and the Hamas rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza have seriously eroded the appetite of the Israeli silent majority to withdraw from the West Bank, since one puny rocket alone from there could close Israel’s international airport in Lod,” wrote Friedman.

The columnist further explains that “Little is expected from this trip — not only because little is possible, but because, from a narrow US point of view, little is necessary. Quietly, with nobody announcing it, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has shifted from a necessity to a hobby for American diplomats.

“Like any hobby — building model airplanes or knitting sweaters — some days you work on it, some days you don’t. It depends on your mood, but it doesn’t usually matter when that sweater gets finished,” said Friedman.

On the reasons the US president has taken a stance of nonperformance the NYT columnist said “Obama worked on this hobby early in his first term. He got stuck as both parties rebuffed him, and, therefore, he adopted, quite rationally in my view, an attitude of benign neglect. It was barely noticed.”

Friedman claims that the change in the US approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not new, but rather a byproduct of international, political processes occurring in recent decades.

Amongst others, he mentions the fact that the US is becoming less and less dependent on Arab gas and since the end of the Cold War, the likelihood of a war between Israel and the Arab countries igniting a worldwide clash, has decreased.

Friedman thinks that the real urgent conflicts in the Middle East, and thus those that worry the US most, are the ones between the Shiites and Sunnis in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Bahrain and Yemen.


View original Ynet publication at: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4356037,00.html