Op-Ed: Israelis Must Protest Obama's Visit
Att'y Steven M. GoldbergThe writer is National Vice Chairman of the Zionist Organization of America, Vice President of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Los Angeles. He practices law in Los Angeles.
"To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men." ---Abraham Lincoln
President Barack Hussein Obama is coming to Israel in March. This is ominous news. Only the naive can believe Obama's oleaginous promises of solidarity with Israel. Instead, it is painfully apparent that the President is coming to pressure Israel to make life-threatening concessions to the Palestinians.
According to U.S. Ambassador Daniel Shapiro, Obama is bringing "a very urgent agenda," and, among other things, wants to confer about ways of "bringing Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiation table." Although the Iranian nuclear threat and the deteriorating situation in Syria will also be discussed,
Obama is certain to seek "good faith gestures" from Prime Minister Netanyahu to lure the Palestinians to engage in peace talks, including a halt to building in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, "Any time the President and Prime MInister have a discussion, and certainly any time the President has a discussion with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, those issues are raised.
Of course the Israeli government has little choice but to feign enthusiasm. Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren gushed, "Listen, we're delighted he's coming.... He'll be received enthusiastically by the government of Israel, by the Prime Minister of Israel, by the people of Israel."
Obama is betting on a hero's welcome by the Israeli people, which he can then parlay into an attempt to strong-arm Netanyahu. The President senses that Netanyahu has been weakened by the mediocre showing of Likud-Beitenu in the recent election.
In May of 2011, Netanyahu came to Washington, D.C., gave a powerful speech in front of Congress and received a rousing reception. Although not Netanyahu's intent, the result was a chastened Obama.
The President would love to return the favor during his upcoming visit. Already there are calls among the Prime MInister's political opponents to invite Obama to address the Knesset. Expect Obama to repeat empty promises of his unshakable commitment to Israel's security followed by hard, clarion demands that Israel stop building in the settlements and prepare for the establishment of a Palestinian state within its borders.
The President intends to visit Ramallah to meet with Abu Mazen and Amman to meet with King Abdullah. Outgoing Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon predicts that Obama will compel a meeting among Netanyahu, Abbas, Abdullah and himself to begin the process of ramming through his agenda.
Netanyahu appears helpless to stop the oncoming Obama train. Outgoing Minister Dan Meridor launched a transparent trial balloon, undoubtedly authorized by Netanyahu, by calling publicly for a halt in construction in Judea and Samaria other than in the large settlement blocs.
Not a peep can be heard from any of the Likud MKs, including those who ran as committed nationalists, or even from the Bayit Yehudi group, all of whom appear to be hoping for plum ministry or committee assignments. It is leadership at its weakest.
If Obama's plans to impose his will on Israel are to be thwarted, it will be up to the people of Israel to make their voices heard. Polls show that most Israelis realize that Obama is no friend. Any lingering doubt about the President's coldness and indifference has been erased by his appointment of John Kerry as Secretary of State and nomination of the Israel-bashing, anti-Semitic Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
The President must not be granted his hero's welcome. Instead, he should be greeted by thousands, and perhaps tens of thousands, of concerned Israeli citizens who will demonstrate that they are not fooled by his insincere assurances and will not surrender their sovereignty to his imperious plans.
Several decades ago, when under unfair pressure from the United States President, Prime Minister Menachem Begin famously set Ambassador Samuel Lewis straight by exclaiming that Israeli is neither a vassal state nor a banana republic.
Now, in the absence of leadership from their politicians, the Israeli people must take to the streets and make the same statement, loudly and clearly. There are American Jews who will fly out to join them.
The time to plan the protest is now.