President Obama's Operation Desert Shmooze

By Jeffrey Goldberg
This Thursday, the seemingly-endless White House campaign that I've taken to calling "Operation Desert Shmooze" -- the concerted attempt to woo back to the fold Jews made uncomfortable by Operation Desert Shmooze's predecessor campaign, "Operation Hammer Bibi" -- reaches its apogee when the President hosts a White House reception in honor of "Jewish American Heritage Month."

I have heretofore not celebrated "Jewish American Heritage Month" but I was excited to receive an invitation to the reception, in part because the King David of American Jewry, Sandy Koufax, is said to be attending. Unfortunately, I am currently visiting an even larger and longer-running Jewish socio-political phenomenon, the State of Israel, and so I had to send my regrets. Also in Israel, by the way, is another obvious invitee, who from what I hear is having a very good time. In any case, the White House should have known that there was no reason to invite Goldblog; Barack Obama had me at "Philip Roth."

What is so interesting to me about Operation Desert Shmooze -- the meetings with Jewish members of Congress; the summits with Jewish leaders; Rahm's come-to-Jesus session with 15 rabbis; the President's lunch with Elie Wiesel; the mass conversion of the National Security Council staff to Judaism (that last one might in fact be a rumor) -- is that it is so obviously designed to preemptively smooth feathers that will once again be ruffled come late September, when Bibi's temporary settlement-building freeze comes to end, and the Obama Administration, once again, is forced to grapple with the non-existential problem of building permits and apartment starts in East Jerusalem. The next time, of course, I hope the Obama Administration does it better, which is to say, I hope it figures out what it can extract from Bibi's coalition before it attempts the extraction. And I hope Bibi's coalition realizes that annoying an otherwise friendly and supportive American President precisely at the moment when Israel's most serious adversary, Iran, is on the cusp of developing nuclear weapons, is not behavior that conforms to the stereotype that Jews are smart, presumably a characteristic that will be celebrated on Thursday.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/president-obamas-operation-desert-shmooze/57068/