Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Get Behind Obama--And Push

Daniel Gordis's op-ed in the this morning's Times leaves one wondering if Israel's brand managers still believe in Oldsmobiles. Only democracy. Settlements may be unwise but. Repressive Arabs coddled. Throw weight behind Netanyhu. Would even Pavlov imagine this kind of bell would cause the dogs to salivate?

On the other hand, Gordis's piece is useful in reflecting the inertia the Obama administration would have to overcome to seize the moment. Obama has been trying a difficult balancing act over the past week, advocating change without getting too far out in front of what the Egyptian protest movement can hope to achieve. What he can do, if he is not going to lose the Arab street for a generation, is signal change by changing the conversation on Palestine.

I wrote about the Olmert-Abbas talks in the hope (hubristic, but there you are) that the climate for the administration could be changed; that if columnists, bloggers, pundits, foreign policy experts,etc., broadly understood how doable a deal was, they would encourage a change of course from the administration and cover Obama's back. I still believe that there is a very narrow window here; that if Obama does not act on Palestine--formulating a plan based on the Olmert-Abbas gaps, and rallying the Quartet and the countries of the OECD to it--not only will young Arabs turn decisively on America, but Abbas will soon be gone, and Jerusalem will blow.

In response, many have written me over the past couple of days expressing their skepticism--their disappointment in the president, and so forth. But surely they miss the point. People like Gordis have framed things for many years. Obama needs others to change the conversation if he is to act.  Instead of expecting him to lead on all things, and complaining when he fails to slay dragons, we ought to be mobilizing, if not on the streets, then in the blogosphere and other media. Obama has many world-historical problems between now and November, 2012.  And other bullies have pulpits.