On Real and Ideological Topography
As I’ve noticed before, Obama’s June 4 speech to the Muslim world has received a lot of — well-deserved — positive attention in world media.
However, many of the European commentators who focus on President Obama’s words about Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to be under the impression that he said something new or even revolutionary.
In fact, from the point of view of policy, what Obama said is basically what former President Bush said, what former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, and what the head of the Israeli opposition, Zipi Livni also says. That is, we need one more state and a lot less settlements.
Of course, the present Israeli government doesn’t share Obama’s, Bush’s Olmert’s and Livni’s take on things, but that doesn’t make the June 4 speech ground breaking — it just makes the Netanyahu government detached from reality.
A small detail that amused me when I browsed yet another of these comments, this time by Wolfgang Hansson in Aftonbladet, was Hansson’s claim that Obama’s insistence on a two state solution and dismantling of settlements had annoyed people in — Tel Aviv.
What? Has he ever been to Tel Aviv?, I asked myself at first. In fact, I can’t imagine a place in Israel where Netanyahu is less popular and where Obama is met with greater enthusiasm than in this great White City of ours.
Then I realized: Hansson probably isn’t referring to the actual Tel Aviv. He’s most likely referring to the imaginary Tel Aviv, which — in some parallel universe — is the capital of Israel. Some people who don’t think that Israel has a de jure right to Jerusalem like to pretend that it doesn’t have the de facto control, either.
And when reality doesn’t fit the ideological map, then just go with the map.