Obama stopped through for two nights and a day, as if he were writing one of the New York Times travel pieces about how to spend 36 hours in some locale. At first glance, the trip was purely about photo-ops, gathering footage for later campaign ads that will air in south Florida. But there were some hints of real political content, as I explain in my new article at The American Prospect. Here’s one piece:
Hamas Walks It Back: On Wednesday morning, Israel Radio reported responses to Obama’s arrival, including this one: “A Hamas spokesman said, ‘The American senator is trying to reach the White House via Tel Aviv, at the expense of the Palestinians.'”
The immediate meaning of that comment is that John McCain best stop arguing that Hamas has endorsed Obama. In April, McCain leapt on a report that Hamas political adviser Ahmed Yousef had said “actually we like Mr. Obama, and we hope that he will win.” McCain’s campaign also used the quote in a fundraising appeal. Even if the initial report was accurate, Obama has since succeeded in changing Hamas’s mind.
The slightly deeper significance of the spokesman’s criticism is that Hamas, typically for a hardline group, thinks in zero-sum terms. Perhaps believing Obama’s domestic critics, Hamas originally thought he had a low commitment to Israel, and was therefore pro-Palestinian. McCain was happy to use Hamas as character witness. Now the movement has see-sawed the opposite way: Obama is pro-Israel, and thus bad for Palestinians.
But in promising a new diplomatic direction, Obama is arguing that Israeli-Palestinian peace is win-win. Even the more pragmatic elements in Hamas don’t yet speak this language. So Hamas is no character witness, for or against Obama. McCain’s real error was treating the organization’s judgment as relevant.
Read the full article, with more political subtexts of Obamania in Israel, here.