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Obama didn't mention Israel-Palestine in the State of the Union

Sometimes a president sends a message by what he doesn't say. Some in the Middle East have concluded that President Obama did just that in his State of the Union speech earlier this week -- in which he failed to mention Israel, the Palestinians or the Middle East peace process, which was one of his most high-profile diplomatic initiatives during his first year.

The omission sent Israeli officials scrambling to the archives of past State of the Union speeches. Their conclusion: Obama's address, though one of the longest State of the Union speeches, was the first not to mention Israel in at least eight years. (I looked back further: Bill Clinton didn't mention Israel in 1998.) Some also noted that in remarks about countries that were providing humanitarian aid in Haiti two weeks ago, Obama also omitted Israel -- though its emergency team was one of the first to arrive. “He must be very angry at us,” said one official I spoke to.

In fact Obama defended Israel to a critical questioner at a town hall meeting in Tampa on Thursday, the day after the State of the Union. But for those reading tea leaves -- and there are many in the Middle East -- the president has offered a few signs recently that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have moved down his list of priorities. In an interview last week with Time's Joe Klein, he conceded that the administration “overestimated our ability” to advance talks at a time when the domestic politics of both Israel and the Palestinians “ran contrary to that.”

In Tampa on Thursday he said something similar. “The problem that we're confronting right now is that both in Israel and within the Palestinian Territories, the politics are difficult; they're divided,” he said. “The Israel government came in based on the support of a lot of folks who don't want to make a lot of concessions....On the other hand, President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, who I think genuinely wants peace, has to deal with Hamas, an organization that has not recognized Israel and has not disavowed violence.”

What does this all mean for former senator George J. Mitchell, whom Obama appointed with great fanfare to head his Middle East diplomacy effort immediately after his inauguration last year? Mitchell recently told Charlie Rose of PBS that he was undaunted; he said he still believed he could get the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table, along with the Syrians and Lebanese, and broker a comprehensive peace agreement within two years.

If Obama’s words — or lack of them — this week are any indication, the president has his doubts about that goal. If so, I agree with him. As I argued in a column earlier this month, the history of Israeli-Arab diplomacy clearly shows that only peace efforts that originate with the parties themselves have succeeded.

Or, as former secretary of state James A. Baker III once put it, we “can’t want peace more than the parties” themselves. Baker, a master of Middle East diplomacy, once publicly gave Israelis and Palestinians the White House phone number and invited them to call when they were serious about pursuing negotiations. In a more subtle way, Obama may be doing the same thing.

By Jackson Diehl  | January 29, 2010; 11:46 AM ET
Categories:  Diehl  | Tags:  Jackson Diehl  
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Comments

So what? Al Israel does is stand with their hands out for USA welfare checks!

Let the Middle East take care of themselves, instead of raping US taxpayers for more, more, more $$$$$$$.

We have our own problems, we do not need their problems.

And if the Jews living in America do not like it - go back!

Posted by: Sirius2 | January 29, 2010 1:21 PM | Report abuse

I see; so, the President of the United States did not mention another country in his State of the Union Speech, and this means that Diehl, an ardent Israel supporter, who just happens to be Jewish is what, miffed?

Why should the President of the US, mention a foreign nation in his SOTU speech? Why should Israel be the only country accorded this "privilege" of being included in part of a speech, which is to discuss the state of the UNION IN THE UNITED STATES, NOT ISRAEL?

Seriously, we have enough issues and problems in the US which need to be addressed by our politicians; our economy (lack of jobs, the ongoing foreclosures, decline of economic power, decline in consumer confidence, issues with our banks, issues with our manufacturing, our TWO wars, plus our involvement in YEMEN and Pakistan.
Do we not have enough issues to discuss regarding our own nation, that we must accord special attention to Israel?

Diehl, are you an american first, or an israeli citizen? where do your loyalties lie, that you must constantly promote the Israel agenda?

Posted by: thasmwm | January 29, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

Please don't try so hard.

Posted by: rlj1 | January 29, 2010 3:23 PM | Report abuse

I think what the commenters above are trying to say is that the Arabs have wasted too many opportunities for us to bother anymore. They hate Israel; we get it. They don't want peace; we can see that. Let them deal with their own problems. America's wasted enough of its energy and treasure trying to bring civilization to people who clearly don't want it.

Posted by: simpleton1 | January 29, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

Jackson Diehl was an ardent supporter of the U.S.'s $2 trillion Iraq fiasco and his pseudo reporting and columns are noteworthy for slanting the WA Post's coverage of the war. His voice his corrupt and contemptible.

Posted by: goyo1588 | January 29, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

There will be no peace because Israel has no interest in it. Israel has decided that the status quo is just fine and if they continue their oppression and occupation and blockade, the Palestinians may eventually accept the apartheid Bantustans which is all Israel is willing to offer them. Meanwhile, the status quo, with billions in US taxpayers money to support the various settlements and invasions is just fine, thank you. Netanyahu took the measure of Obama and found him to have no backbone, so Israel continues to rub America's nose in it.

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Posted by: setrjhytkytjefthtjhyju | January 29, 2010 10:03 PM | Report abuse

"So what? Al Israel does is stand with their hands out for USA welfare checks!"

Some welfare. It amounts to about 1% of Israel's GNP, and must be spent right back in the US.

Israel doesn't need it. The US wouldn't offer it if it didn't help the US to do so. Israel should tell the US to keep it.

Posted by: motherof3 | January 30, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

Not only was Israel's team among the first to arrive in Haiti, Israel built a field hospital that was better than any other. Many lives were saved that otherwise would've been lost. Obama was worse than disrespectful not to mention Israel's response to the earthquake in Haiti. I cannot wait till 2012, so I can vote against him.

Posted by: motherof3 | January 30, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

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