Do you remember “Kremlinology,” the study of what was actually going on behind the walls of the Soviet citadel? Experts would scrutinize photos of Soviet officials to see who was standing closest to the leaders, who had moved farther away, or, ominously, who was not present at all. Since the Soviets were not exactly transparent about their policies, a known ‘hawk’ moving closer to party chiefs might signal a threat.
A free society is expected to be more transparent. Officials should announce policies, which are more or less the policies that the government then tries to carry out.
But in the America of today — and particularly with regard to Middle East policy — this is not the case. At least the pro-Israel community finds it necessary to microscopically examine the behavior of important officials, to try to determine what the administration intends. At times like this — immediately preceding the presidential visit to Israel — speculation reaches a high pitch. We find ourselves engaged in Obaminology.
There are some simple methods that can be employed. First, what doesn’t work: it is usually a waste of time to listen to the President’s actual words. As we can see by his recent comments to “Jewish leaders” and to representatives of American Arab organizations, he will tell his audiences what they want to hear. Such statements are carefully calibrated so that they will be technically true but either vacuous or open to multiple interpretations.
One useful technique is to look at the ‘friendly’ media. For example, the New York Times often presents the official line or floats trial balloons for the administration. And the Times has run no less than four anti-Israel op-eds or stories in the past seven days: the Joseph Levine piece arguing that Israel did not have the right to exist as a Jewish state (which I commented on here); an op-ed by Columbia professor and Palestinian apologist Rashid Khalidi which claims the US has enabled Israel’s “apartheid” policies; a long story in the magazine by Ben Ehrenreich, blaming the IDF and ‘settlers’ for provoking ‘resistance’ by saintly Arab residents of Nabi Saleh; and a front-page news story by bureau chief Jodi Rudoren critical of Israel for allowing Jews to live in what she calls “Arab East Jerusalem.”
All of these articles had this in common: they are intended to reduce sympathy for Israel, to establish the ‘Palestinian’ narrative of both historical and current events, and to weaken the Jewish one.
This is nothing new for the Times, but the concentration of coverage makes one wonder. And it is not only the Times: this weekend NPR presented an interview with Khalidi making the same points as his op-ed.
If the President’s words are not useful in sniffing out his intentions, his actions are. Wednesday, President Obama will be visiting Israel, where he will snub the democratically elected Knesset by speaking at a nearby convention center, unlike Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush, who chose to speak at Israel’s parliament. This is apparently because of the unprecedented lengths to which the Obama Administration has gone to deny Israel’s sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem. To add insult to injury, students from one of Israel’s accredited universities — the one that happens to be located in Ariel, east of the armistice line — were left out of the invitations offered to students at other universities.
I believe that the administration believes that it has set all of its ducks in a row for the upcoming visit. I do not believe that it will be “merely a photo-op,” as some have suggested, because Obama has no need for a photo-op today. The visit is costly and complicated, and will have objectives that the President and his advisers think are important.
It has also been suggested that the President will concentrate on issues involving Iran and the Syrian civil war rather than the question of the Palestinian Arabs. But this is not what is implied by the media offensive and the deliberate snub of Israel’s parliament and government.
Obaminology tells us that these objectives will be related to the ongoing effort to force Israel to withdraw from Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. Probably there will be renewed pressure to freeze construction east of the armistice lines, including Jerusalem. It would not surprise me if support for Israel in possible future actions against Iran were conditioned on concessions in the Palestinian arena.