Sunday, November 9, 2008

Obama, Rahm Emanuel, and Arab Disillusionment

Time magazine's Middle East blog has published an excellent analysis of the impact of Obama's appointment of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff (and Tony Karon's piece in The National is also a must-read). My impression is that Obama wanted for that post someone he knew, someone who'd been through the in-fighting wars in Congress and could be counted on to take care of his boss. OK, fine. But from the perspective of reassuring hopeful Arab leaders and citizenries across the Middle East that the new US president would be a "fair broker" in any ongoing peace process, I cannot imagine a worse choice. Emanuel hails from a family with direct involvement in ultra-violent right-wing Zionist movements, including both the Irgun (which perpetrated the terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in 1947 and the massacre of Palestinian Arabs at Deir Yassin) and LEHI - aka the Stern Gang, which assassinated the UN diplomat Count Folke Bernadotte around the same time.

For a man embarking on a new presidency that needs to redefine the US's relationship with the Middle East at a critical time, Obama's first major decision represents, not the "change we need," but disappointment and foreboding.

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