Karl Vick reports: If there was any question about why President Obama came to Israel on the first overseas trip of his second term – and the question has come up – it vanished into the brilliant blue sky above Ben Gurion Airport when he reached the end of the red carpet and the microphone waiting there. The leader of the free world had come to issue a correction. Four years ago, delivering an address to the Muslim people in Cairo, Obama had irked Israeli Jews by citing the Holocaust as the justification for the 1948 founding of modern Israel. Israelis prefer to reach a bit further back — they find their deed to the land in the Bible – and the misapprehension was aggravated by what Obama did when he left Cairo: Fly past Israel to pay a call at Buchenwald, the World War II concentration camp.
There was none of that Wednesday. “More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here,” Obama began, getting right to it on the tarmac. “And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history. Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be ‘masters of their own fate’ in ‘their own sovereign state.’”
Benjamin Netanyahu looked on beaming. “I thought that was a wonderful line that I will cherish because it really gets down to the essence of what this state is about,” the prime minister said a few hours later, as the two leaders took questions at his Jerusalem residence. On the same page at last – somewhere in Psalms, just going by the praise-singing – the famously frosty pair appeared determined to project a budding buddydom. At the airport, when Obama shrugged off his suit jacket and flicked it over his shoulder, Netanyahu glanced over and, after first hitching up his pants, did the same, like a little kid imitating an older one. When they reached the display of Israel’s anti-missile systems, including Iron Dome, Netanyahu directed his guest through the exhibit by the colors painted on the tarmac: “Follow the red line.” Obama quipped: “He’s always talking to me about red lines.” An Iran joke. They can laugh about it now.
Obama kept calling Netanyahu “Bibi,” and choked both of them up a moment reading from the published letters of his brother Yonatan Netanyahu, who was killed leading the raid to rescue Israeli hostages at Entebbe. Netanyahu kept looking at Obama the way he spoke of him: approvingly. The handshakes were vigorous, the thanks effusive, and though they continue to differ on when it might be necessary to go military against Iran, the differences are no longer emphasized publicly. [Continue reading…]