If Obama Had Given That Speech at AIPAC ...

By Jeffrey Goldberg

If Obama had delivered the speech he just gave in Jerusalem to the annual AIPAC convention, he might have been booed. No, check that, he definitely would have been booed. Not by everyone, of course, but by quite a few people. (I've been to enough of them to know.)

He would not have been booed for his vigorous endorsement of the Zionist idea, of course; nor for his promise to stand by Israel though thick and thin; not for his expressions of admiration for Jews and Judaism; and not for the promise to maintain Israel's qualitative military edge; but for asking his audience to sympathize with ordinary Palestinians, who have lousy lives in good measure because of the occupation. He definitely would have been heckled for that one. And I'm sure of one other thing: His endorsement of a Palestinian state, as an answer to the existential dilemma of the Palestinians, and as an answer to the question of whether Israel can maintain itself as a Jewish-majority democracy, would have been met at AIPAC by a combination of tepid applause, silence, and scattered heckling. It's obvious to me that from now on, Obama should deliver his pro-Israel speeches at the Jerusalem Convention Center, not the Washington Convention Center.

The speech was, overall, quite eloquent and strong, and very moving from the Jewish perspective (there were bits that were too naive for me, but more on that later). It is the setting, though, that made it brilliant: Standing ovations from young Israelis for an endorsement of a Palestinian state by an enthusiastically Zionist African-American President whose middle name is Hussein. How, exactly, did he pull that one off?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/03/if-obama-had-given-that-speech-at-aipac/274260/