As usual, the right was all over Obama before he even delivered his Arab Spring speech on Thursday. The universal talking point from the right (and it’s eerie how they all used this exact language) was that the President “threw Israel under the bus” with his speech. Specifically, they point to the bit about 1967 borders as evidence, conveniently ignoring even the rest of the same sentence, which emphasizes mutually-agreed “swaps.”
Really, the right freaking out over Israel is nothing new. Many pundits on the right subscribe to the “Israel can do no wrong” theory of international relations, often for biblical reasons. This is a dangerous mix of religion and national policy, to be sure.
And, right wing or otherwise, the pro-Israel lobby in this country is extremely, immensely powerful. This weekend, President Obama addressed AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel group in the USA. (Interesting factoid from AIPAC.org: “Except for the State of the Union address, the AIPAC Policy Conference is the largest annual bipartisan gathering of U.S. senators, representatives, administration officials, diplomats and foreign ambassadors.”) The reaction to the President’s AIPAC speech was positive. So much for the hot air from the right that Obama is somehow anti-Israel.
Incidentally, Herman Cain served up his first gaffe as a declared Presidential candidate over Israel, when he flubbed a question about the “right of return,” a major Palestinian issue. His shoot-from-the-hip answer pulled him away from his otherwise pro-Likud narrative. (Netanyahu re-iterated Friday that right-of-return is something that Israel, under his leadership, is not interested in.) Basically, he pulled a Palin.
The Arab Spring has the potential to become a huge, sweeping pro-democracy movement across the entire middle east. President Obama is reaping the benefits of his 2009 speech to the Arab world as well as his carefully-considered approach to middle east countries (each situation is unique, no boilerplate diplomacy here) coordinated with Secretary of State Clinton. But don’t expect the right to give any sort of foreign policy credit to President Obama any time soon.