Obama serious 311.
(photo credit: AP)
United States President Barack Obama managed this week to do what no
American president has been able to do in over 100 years – reform the
country’s health care system.
The health care plan has been a
point of serious contention among Americans, fueling a bitter debate
that will undoubtedly last for years as the different stages are
gradually implemented. Obama’s plan has left many Americans confused
and many others ecstatic, but while the changes proposed in the bill
are of a domestic nature, the political aftermath of its passing will
be felt globally, particularly in the Middle East.
The man who
made history with his presidential election has once again made history
with a health care reform bill. Domestic issues? Check – and with 1,030
days left to go! What’s an American president to do once he’s secured
such a victory at home? Tackle the Middle East, of course.
American president since Eisenhower has sought to distinguish himself
through his own version of a Middle East policy. It seems that the
ultimate legacy for any US president is to have brought peace to what
the Western world considers the most volatile and hostile region in the
world. I say “considers,” as the West still seems largely unaware of
the entire African continent. Obama will be no different. If anything,
the level of confidence this major domestic victory has granted him
puts him in a unique position to change the face of US Middle East
policy forever, particularly toward Israel.
SINCE HIS election,
Obama has made his position on key Israeli issues clear, particularly
his opposition to the expansion of settlements – not an unusual
official stance for the American presidency, but something Israel has
managed to work around. Until now.
Surely the past week has been
somewhat humiliating for Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Having been
in this business longer than Obama, Netanyahu’s political career has
been typified by the cozy relationship Israel has enjoyed with the
United States under presidents like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
are the days when the Israeli prime minister had a direct line to the
American president, the days when the Israeli leadership could sleep
soundly at night knowing that no matter what, at least the US was
behind them. Sure, there have been tensions between the two countries
before, but as Examiner columnist Jim Kouri expressed this week, what
is particularly telling is that “this is a president who bowed to a
Saudi king, who has repeatedly held his hand out to Iran only to have
his face slapped in response, and who has regularly suffered the slings
and arrows of insults from Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea, to
name a few. For whom does he reserve his anger, toughness and
vehemence? For Israel, the only reliable ally we have in the Middle
WHY THE hostility? What happened to the “special” relationship with which Israel has gotten so – perhaps too – comfortable?
looks as though the Obama administration is operating under a misguided
belief that by pressuring Israel into a full-blown settlement freeze,
the Arabs will respond favorably by taking significant steps toward
normalizing relations with Israel. A naïve and deeply flawed take on
the Arab-Israel conflict to be sure, but if the Netanyahu government
believed that Obama’s lackluster first year in office meant his
presidency could just be waited out, this health care victory must have
been a nasty surprise.
Obama has successfully cemented his
position as a strong leader and a powerful negotiator domestically. How
far this course can take him abroad remains to be seen, but who among
the world’s leaders wants to take on an American president who is
currently 2-for-2 when it comes to making history?