What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

President Obama will visit Israel for the third time next week, becoming only the fifth sitting president to visit Israel. President Obama’s visit will emphasize the strong, historic ties of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. Shimon Peres will award him the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction, the first time a US president has received such an honor.

Some Republicans, having criticized President Obama for not going to Israel, are now criticizing him for going. No matter what happens, they’ll find something wrong.

More after the jump.
Next week, President Obama will visit Israel for the third time. He previously visited in 2006 and 2008. This will be his first trip to Israel as a sitting president. The only other sitting presidents who visited Israel were:

  • Richard Nixon (last year of second term),
  • Jimmy Carter (first term),
  • Bill Clinton (first and second terms), and
  • George W. Bush (last year of second term).

Every president who visited Israel previously visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The only Middle East nations President Obama has visited thus far as president are Turkey, Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia (the visits to Iraq and Saudi Arabia were just a few hours).

President Obama has a strong relationship with Israel. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes noted on Thursday that President Obama has spent more time with Prime Minister Netanyahu than any other foreign leader since he has been in office.

Rhodes said that President Obama’s trip to Israel will include a visit to see the Dead Sea Scrolls as a “testament to the ancient Jewish connection to Israel.” President Obama will also visit Yad Vashem. Why Yad Vashem? Writes Jeff Goldberg:

Since Obama’s visit is focused on Israel’s future, and on the deep past, will the Israeli government encourage him to skip Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial? Of course not, I was told by one Israeli official who asked not to be identified so he could speak freely. There’s no way he could come to Israel and not visit Yad Vashem. But wasn’t the complaint the last time around that he talks too much about the Holocaust? The official gave me a knowing smile and asked this question: If he didn’t visit Yad Vashem, what would the Republicans say?

Israeli President Shimon Peres will present President Obama with the Israeli Presidential Medal of Distinction. President Obama is the first president to receive this award. Israeli President Shimon Peres said that:

Barack Obama is a true friend of the State of Israel, and has been since the beginning of his public life. As president of the United States of America, he has stood with Israel in times of crisis. During his time as president he has made a unique contribution to the security of the State of Israel, both through further strengthening the strategic cooperation between the countries and through the joint development of technology to defend against rockets and terrorism.

 

One would expect Israeli leaders to praise any president of the United States, but Peres is going far beyond the requirements of diplomatic niceties in recognizing the strong friendship between President Obama and the State of Israel and in his unprecedented awarding of this medal to President Obama.

Read more from Marc Stanley about President Obama’s medal-worthy record on Israel. Click here for details on the President’s itinerary.

So what could possibly go wrong? If the criticism from our Republican friends during the campaign was sincere, one would expect them to be praising President Obama for fulfilling a campaign promise and visiting Israel. Our Republican friends claimed last June that the reasons President Obama didn’t visit Israel were his personal distaste for Israel, his fear of being booed and rejected by Israelis, his desire to distance himself from Israel, and a desire to avoid drawing attention to the failed peace process.

And what do they say now? These same Republicans now say that going to Israel is a mistake on President Obama’s part. Not the right time. I’m not making this up. If President Obama had visited Israel last year, do you think they would have praised President Obama for going or decried it as an election stunt? The President can’t win with this crew. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d say he couldn’t swim.

When you’ve excoriated President Obama for four years for not visiting Israel, and then he does exactly what you’ve said was so important, maybe it’s time to acknowledge that the President is doing something we should all be proud of and thankful for. The President of the United States is visiting the State of Israel. That’s good. There is never a bad time to visit Israel.

President Obama will make a major speech in Israel. No matter what he says, if our Republican friends are true to form, they will either

  1. tell us he said what he didn’t actually say,
  2. take what he actually said out of context,
  3. tell us what he should have said, or
  4. imply or outright say that what he said is new US policy when it really isn’t.

I hope I’me wrong, but they’ve been doing it for more than four years. Don’t expect them to stop now. Please keep these four techniques in mind when you read about his trip this week.

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