.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Deference

From all accounts, Barack Obama went to Saudi Arabia last month asking for some specific symbolic concessions - and was rebuffed:
Mr. Obama, officials said, was frustrated by his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, when he met with King Abdullah and failed to extract any meaningful gestures toward Israel to revive the peace process.
But two sources, one a former U.S. official who recently traveled there and one a current official speaking anonymously, say the meeting did not go well from Obama's perspective....

Sources say Obama was hoping to persuade the king to be ready to show reciprocal gestures to Israel, which Washington has been pushing to halt settlements with the goal of advancing regional peace and the creation of a Palestinian state.

"The more time goes by, the more the Saudi meeting was a watershed event," said the former U.S. official who recently traveled to Riyadh. "It was the first time that President Obama as a senator, candidate, or president was not able to get almost anything or any movement using his personal power of persuasion."

Another official, speaking not for attribution, said last month that the 85-year-old Saudi monarch had launched a tirade during Obama's long meeting in Riyadh, and that other Saudi officials had later apologized to the U.S. president for the king's behavior.

The Obama administration pushed back hard on those allegations about the meeting, and said furthermore that the sources could not know what went on. "It was a very small group of folks who planned that trip," a White House official said, disputing every aspect of the accounts. "The Saudi addition came on late."
Assuming that it is true, it would hardly be the first time that an Arab ally told the United States to drop dead. It happens all the time. Egypt reacted furiously to Congressional moves to tie US aid to Egyptian cooperation on weapons smuggling, Saudi Arabia told President Bush that it had no intention to increase oil production during last year's gasoline crisis, Lebanon rejected Condi Rice when she asked the government to treat Hezbollah as a terror group in 2002, saying that Hezb was a perfectly fine resistance organization that happened to have an independent army on its territory.

And all of these disagreements were handled quietly. No one ever seriously suggested that these serial rebuffs of US requests and demands were going to affect the relationship between the countries. The Saudi kerfuffle is being strenuously downplayed and denied by the Obama administration.

Only when Israel - a true ally, not an ally of convenience - disagrees with the US, does everybody freak out. People are demanding that Israel be punished, that aid be jeopardized, that Israel's intransigence is endangering the entire region. Mahmoud Abbas, who has added new demands before deigning to negotiate with Israel (demands he never made before,) is not vilified at all for his intransigence. No, only Israel's government - the supposedly right wing obstructionist racist government that has done more for Palestinian Arabs in four months than the dovish peace-loving Kadima did in years - gets slammed for attempting to keep a status quo that has existed since 1967.

There is something seriously wrong when real friends get treated worse than fake friends, let alone enemies.