Around mid March President Obama will visit Israel where he is expected to reiterate US support for the Zionist state while its ethnic cleansing and land confiscation in Palestine continue unabated. For that reason, it would be hard to imagine that the visit will endear Obama to the majority of the peoples in the region, especially when the US invasion and occupation of Iraq are still fresh in their minds and the ongoing US fiasco in Afghanistan is so evident. One only needs to reflect upon the July 12, 2006 US-sanctioned Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the two Gaza invasions on December 27, 2008 and November 14, 2012 and the continuing turmoil that began with the Arab uprisings to recognize the negative role that the US has played all along in the Middle East region.
Given all this baggage that Obama has to carry all the way to Israel, a question arises: What does Obama hope to accomplish? It would be important to reflect on Obama’s previous Middle East excursions to better answer the question.
When Obama addressed the Turkish Parliament on April 6, 2009, he emphasized Turkey as «an important part of Europe,” praised its «secular democracy” and long history of cooperation with the US in security matters and trade. He expressed support of Turkey’s bid to enter the European Union and stressed its role as «a bridge between East and West,” seeking its assistance in solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bringing stability to Iraq and securing US rapprochement with Iran.
In his Cairo speech on June 4, 2009, Obama addressed the «Muslim world” by reiterating his Ankara theme that «America is not – and never will be – at war with Islam.” He then spoke of democracy, the nuclear issue (without mentioning Israel’s), troop withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, «violent extremism,” religious freedom, women’s rights, and economic development. But the most critical point was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obama spoke of the «unbreakable” bond between the US and Israel as a «Jewish homeland,” disregarding the anti-Palestinian racism that this latter phrase entailed. He called for the building of Israeli settlements «to stop,” but not to be dismantled, as required by international law. He reiterated his support for the two-state solution as he recognized the suffering of the Palestinians in their «pursuit of a homeland.” In so doing, however, Obama erased the Palestinian right of return. Furthermore, instructing the Palestinian National Authority to «develop its capacity to govern,” as Obama did, without mentioning Israel’s role in preventing that capacity from developing, was, at minimum, disingenuous. Only the likes of Mubarak and their supporters were enamored of Obama dictating to the «Muslim world.” But the response of the Arab masses to this charade reverberated in their respective uprisings.
Obama’s 2009 pronouncements about democracy and freedom, the fight against violent extremism and women’s rights all unraveled as the US and its allies collaborated with Islamist terrorists to fight in Libya and Syria. US collaboration with the Muslim Brothers and other Islamists in the Arab world derailed the demands of the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt and brought about pro US Islamist-led regimes. It appeared that the Turkish model of «soft” Islamists was finally in place in a few Arab states and ready to be nurtured by US support. But the streets of Tunisia and Egypt exploded once again and the jihadist fighters in Syria have, thus far, been unable to dismantle the Syrian state as the US and its regional allies intended.
Those developments compelled the US to reassess its imperial trajectory in its attempt to regain the regional dominant position it had prior to the uprisings. Obama’s impending visit falls within his attempt to map a new vision to achieve US strategic goals. One expects Israel to drive a hard bargain for its cooperation with the US agenda, even influencing it. Consequently, Obama’s real message to the «Muslim world” shall be delivered from Israel and etched in our memories with unspoken narratives of domination clad with expressions of peace and human rights. However, resistance to domination has not subsided and a third Palestinian Intifada might soon develop. In response, one can already hear the distant thunder approaching.