The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 20, 2013

The 10 Commandments of Visiting Israel


7. Thou shalt not rush.

The Arab-Israeli conflict will not likely be solved by bold new ideas but by tireless work on the old. It may not be definitively solved in our lifetime. Some disputes drag on for decades — even if they garner less press coverage. The independence movement in Baluchistan began in 1948, the same year as the first Israeli-Arab war, and has claimed roughly the same number of lives (20,000) without a resolution. The Korean War started the same year, and six decades and five million deaths later, has (like Israel and the Arabs) produced a truce but no peace deal. Last week, North Korea even declared that six-decade-old armistice "null and void." Publicizing expectations for a final resolution after a year of talks was setting oneself up for disappointment. This time around, the administration's soft-pedaling of expectations for a peace agreement is a welcome change — not because a deal is an unworthy objective, but because it can't be forced.

8. Thou shalt touch the people.

The White House has hinted that one of the visit's main objectives is resetting relations with a newly reelected Netanyahu. And yet the gaps between the two leaders — Obama's sensibilities were formed at Columbia, Netanyahu's in the commandos — mean they'll never be great friends. Four years ago, Obama's conciliatory Cairo address helped endear him to Arabs and Muslims worldwide (but inevitably, alienated Israelis). This week, his "Jerusalem address" to 600 Israeli university students is a prime opportunity to flip the script.

9. Thou shalt make thy own case.

Israeli officials from Ehud Barak (the left-leaning outgoing defense minister) to Danny Ayalon (a right-leaning former ambassador to Washington) have touted the Obama administration's military cooperation with Israel as the strongest in memory. The Iron Dome rocket-intercept system — funded mostly by U.S. dollars, and which Obama will visit on his trip — is but one example of that cooperation, and one for which Israelis are deeply grateful. If the president can convince them their misgivings towards him have more to do with style than substance, he may well emerge from the Holy Land unscathed.

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