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Obama's Israel Apology Tour

Askia Muhammad | 3/20/2013, 12:13 p.m.

President Obama is now in Israel for his first trip there as (well) "Commander in Chief." In my ongoing scenario where the Israeli tail wags the American dog, the president has finally come to "heel."

You see in American Kennel Club obedience trials, "heeling" is when a team walks a predetermined pattern with the pooch remaining on the handler's left side and reasonably close and attentive to the handler's every command. Let's watch and see what happens in Jerusalem, and observe who "wags" whom.

It's no secret that President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are wary of each other. The prime minister went so far in an appearance on "Meet The Press" last fall as to all but state his desire that Americans elect Republican Mitt Romney president last November.

You see it's just not "kosher" in modern diplomatic terms for countries to permanently seize land that was conquered by military arms, as the Israelis did in 1967 when they occupied what had been recognized as Arab land during what was the "Six Day War." But Israel has always played by a different set of rules than the rest of the civilized world. It's as though they "answer to a higher power," so they don't have to play by the rules of laws crafted by mere mortal men.

Despite the idea that Israel would one day exchange "land for peace," in order to win a permanent peace agreement with its Arab neighbors, the Netanyahu government has accelerated his country's expansion of illegal settlements with the apparent idea that once in place, the Israeli settlers can never be removed, no matter what the Palestinians try to negotiate at the bargaining table. So it is. So it shall be.

So the president is off to Jerusalem, and by the way, to make it look like the trip is more than simply an "Apology Tour to Israel," he will also travel to the Palestinian towns of Ramallah and Bethlehem, and to Amman, the capital of Jordan.

It is well known that the U.S. cooperates very closely with Israel on security, intelligence and economic issues, and gives Israel more foreign aid than to all the African countries combined. And there will be a broad agenda for the two governments to address while the president is there, especially the U.S. efforts to do Israel's bidding, preventing Iran from developing any legitimate peaceful nuclear technology, though it will be framed as stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

Another longtime Israeli opponent - Syria - will also be a part of the bi-lateral discussions during the president's visit. And the Obama administration hopes to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace, but how that can be done without the Israelis curtailing their expansion of illegal settlements, and without the U.S. pressuring them to do so is simply a mind boggling proposition.

The irony is that President Obama - Prime Minister Netanyahu's endorsement notwithstanding - won a landslide election victory in November, 332 Electoral College votes to Romney's 206; he won a majority in 27 of the 50 states; and he polled 5 million more votes than his opponent. Meanwhile, Netanyahu remains in power by a narrower margin than before, and his new governing coalition has jettisoned some of the ultra-conservative parties which were in his first administration.

And yet the perception remains that it is Netanyahu, and not Obama who will be calling the tune and dictating the agenda in their series of meetings. The Israeli "tail" (population 8 million) is still apparently wagging the American "dog" (population 313 million). The president will have to win the prime minister's approval for this visit to be judged a success by the pundit class in this country, and in order to do that, he may just have to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard as a gesture of goodwill.

There will be one token victory for the first Black president however. At the gala dinner hosted by Israel's President Shimon Peres, one of the 120 dinner guests - insisted on by the White House advance team - will be 22-year-old Yityish Aynaw, a woman of Ethiopian descent and the first ever Black woman to win the title Miss Israel.

Post-racial Israeli style, meet post-racial American style.