Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies: you’ve got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not “a lovey-dovey kind of guy”.
That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
The conference, in the words of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, marked “the birth of a movement, a coming-out party for those who want to widen the tent and are not stuck in the mindset that because we are pro-Israel, we must be anti- somebody else”.
Now director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Indyk was on a panel entitled “Why Two States? Why Now?” He responded to a question from the audience on the advisability of American presidents getting personally involved in Middle East peace-making. They shouldn’t get involved in procedural detail, he said, but for Obama it would be “really important” to go to Israel. Why?