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Mark Caserta: Obama's visit to Israel spurs questions

Mar. 27, 2013 @ 09:15 PM

Last week, Barack Obama made his first trip to Israel as president, and many are asking, "Why now?"

I believe the president has shown marginal support at best to Israel during his presidency, and his strained relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu is certainly no secret. They've offered conflicting positions on many issues, including U.S. support of Israel in the disputed territory of the West Bank and Gaza.

In a departure from the tradition of previous American presidents, President Obama's decision to deliver his main speech to a group of university students vs. addressing Israel's lawmakers at the Knesset has drawn widespread criticism.

Could it be President Obama intends to promote his progressive ideology, as liberals did in the U.S., by initiating a "left of center" indoctrination of Israel's "free-thinking" younger generation by sowing a seed of tolerance and appeasement within an ensemble of individuals preparing to make their mark in life and in politics?

During the president's speech, he encouraged Israel's "new generation" to adopt a conviction that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine is indeed possible but will require new thinking.

"It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own," he told the students. "Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land."

Ironically, during the president's visit, rockets launched by the Palestinian militant group, Hamas, fell into a southern Israeli family's back yard. While no injuries were reported, the attack speaks to the very center of the conflict.

The Middle East turmoil has never been about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It's about the very existence of Israel!

There are no doubt Israeli factions who would welcome peace resulting from a withdrawal from the territory. But major Palestinian organizations have a common goal -- destroying Israel. Relinquishing these disputed territories would place Israel's enemies just miles from their most populous city, Tel Aviv, rendering it indefensible.

In a poor analogy offered during a press conference, President Obama compared the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the relationship between Canada and the U.S.

"The Israelis have concerns about rockets flying into their cities last night. And it would be easy for them to say... this is why we can't have peace..." the president said. "But my argument is even though both sides have areas of strong disagreement ... we have to push through those things to try to get to an agreement."

Of Israel and Palestine, he then said, "And those two states I think will be able to deal with each other the same way all states do. I mean, the United States and Canada has arguments once in a while, but they're not the nature of arguments that can't be solved diplomatically."

Mr. President, Canada isn't lobbing bombs over our borders and calling for the obliteration of the United States.

Regardless of the intent of the president's visit, it was not without results.

He did manage to undermine the legitimacy of the Israeli government in students' eyes and further embolden Israel's enemies.

Mark Caserta is a Cabell County resident and a regular contributor to The Herald-Dispatch editorial page.

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