Caroline Glick

You have to hand it to US President Barack Obama. He is relentless. Just when you thought he was shifting gears - easing up on Israel and turning his attention to Iran's nuclear weapons program - he pulls out a zinger.

His recent courtship of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu led some Israelis and supporters of Israel in the US to believe the administration had seen the light. After 18 months, we were told Obama finally realized that contrary to what he had thought, Palestinian statehood is not the most urgent issue in the Middle East, Iran's nuclear weapons program is.

In the past week alone, two prominent commentators - Aluf Benn from Haaretz and Ehud Ya'ari from Channel 2 both wrote articles claiming that Obama's Middle East policy has undergone a transformation. As Benn put it, "President Barack Obama's campaign of wooing Israel reflects a fundamental about-face in US policy in the Middle East."

And in Ya'ari's words in an article in the Australian, "The foreign policy team of US President Barack Obama is undertaking a reassessment of its policy all over the Middle East, including Israel."

Both claimed the administration has resolved to cooperate with Israel as an ally rather than attack it as an obstacle to peace, and that Washington has recognized that Iran must be prevented from acquiring nuclear weapons.

The basic notion informing both of these nearly identical articles is that the Obama administration's foreign policy is fundamentally pragmatic rather than ideologically motivated. Both Ya'ari and Benn, like many of their fellow commentators on the Left, argue that Obama's decision to invite Netanyahu to Washington and treat him like an ally rather than an enemy is proof that when stripped to its essentials, his foreign policy is pragmatic.

After a year and half in office, Obama recognized that his previous view of the Middle East was wrong. And as a pragmatist, he has embarked on a new course.

Yet before the ink on their proclamations had a chance to dry, Obama demonstrated that their enthusiasm was misplaced. Late last week the administration decided - apropos of nothing - to upgrade the diplomatic status of the PLO mission in Washington.

From now on, the PLO will be allowed to fly its flag like a regular embassy.

Its representatives will enjoy diplomatic immunity just like diplomats from states.

Indeed the PLO delegate in Washington Maen Areikat claimed that the administration's move equates the PLO's diplomatic status in the US to that of Canada and states in Western Europe.

Some in the media have claimed that this is a symbolic act and essentially meaningless.


Caroline Glick

Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.

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