Yes, Obama is running for re-election, and it is hard to leave Ohio and Florida . But a trip to Israel -- a place he hasn’t visited as president -- would put Iran on notice that Obama is deadly serious about thwarting their plans. Combined with stops in Jordan and Saudi Arabia , such a visit would also allay the fears of our Arab allies. Most important, such a visit could prevent war. Which, of course, is a very presidential thing to do.
And Jonathan Tobin agrees--after all, it would steal all of the media attention away from Romney (without any risk of the media reporting any gaffes, real or manufactured). An additional campaign plus, of course, is that such a visit will give a much-needed boost to Obama's sagging support among Jewish voters.
Yet, with so much to gain, Tobin still finds it necessary to raise that nagging question and explore: Why Obama Still Won’t Go to Israel --
The only possible answer is the one we always are forced to return to when discussing the problematic relationship between the Obama administration and Israel: the president’s equivocal feelings about the Jewish state. As veteran diplomat Aaron David Miller memorably put it a few weeks ago, Barack Obama is the first president in a generation “not in love with the idea of Israel.” That’s compounded by his open and very public dislike of Benjamin Netanyahu.
While Obama’s defenders are right to note that there’s nothing all that unusual about the lack of a visit to Israel during a first term, this is a president who has gone out of his way to pick fights with Jerusalem and to avoid the country during trips to the region. It appears that if Obama is to go to Israel, as his campaign hinted earlier during this summer, it would only be as a re-elected president with the whip hand over Netanyahu and not as a candidate who has to show some deference to his ally.
So just how stubborn will Obama be in his refusal to visit Israel?
The determining factor will not be the increasingly heated rhetoric from Iran or the louder assurances of intent from Israel.
No, look at the polls.
If Obama does drag himself off to Israel, you can expect the smile on his face will be in reverse proportion to where the level of his Jewish support is at the time.
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