President Obama's pledge that the United States "will always have Israel's back" and will attack Iran if it develops a nuclear weapon reverberated across the world Monday. His first remarks occurred during a Sunday conference hosted by the pro-Israel group American Israel Public Affairs Committee and his second remarks took place during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Here are the bits of commentary coming from countries around the world:
The president's strong pledge of support understandably garnered wide praise in Israel. "A masterpiece of political work," wrote Nadev Eyal in the daily Ma’ariv. Ben-Dror Yeminin, a conservative columnist who writes for the same newspaper said Obama sounded like a member of Israel's hard-right Likud party. ”He didn’t say he would vote for the Likud. But aside from that, one should pay attention, he sounded almost like the Likud leader," he said. In the country's largest paid daily, Yedioth Ahronoth, Sima Kadmon said "We heard in it everything we wanted to hear—and heard that we have someone to rely upon.”
While the country's nascent blogosphere is a little more difficult to tap into, Iran's state media organs followed the address closely. Citing Obama's assurance that the U.S. "at every crucial juncture, at every fork in the road" supported Israel, Press TV reports that "the US defended Israel against the Goldstone report, which accused Tel Aviv of war crimes against Gazans"—actions the article calls "atrocities." The website's opinion section features an interview with Mark Dankoff "a political commentator in San Antonio Texas" who says Obama "is a captive of the Israeli lobby." “The bad news is that so are the leading contenders of the Republican Party,” Dankoff said. "The real bad news is that if Barack Obama does not do what Israel wants in this particular situation [possible use of military force against Iran]….he can be easily replaced with a Republican in the fall elections.”
In Thailand's Asia Times, Pepe Escobar gives a somewhat poetically ominous depiction of what goes on at AIPAC. "The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) get-together in Washington takes place in an intimidating, cavernous Colosseum where the wealthy crowd ululates in unison for Iranian blood." Ululates, eh? Escobar laments the state of U.S. foreign policy saying "the graphic proof that Israel exercises virtual complete control of US foreign policy was the sight of an American president defensively addressing the AIPAC Colosseum."
In the U.K., The Independent's Avi Shlaim says it's time for Obama to stand up to Israel. "Benjamin Netanyahu is a bellicose, right-wing Israeli nationalist, a rejectionist on the subject of Palestinian national rights, and a reactionary who is deeply wedded to the status quo," he writes. "If Obama cannot stand up to Bibi Netanyahu in defence of vital American interests, who will he stand up to? His own credibility as the leader of the free world is on the line."