In Israel, President Obama's rhetoric was compassionate on Palestine but tone deaf on Iran.

Obama's visit last week to the Jewish state, the West Bank and Jordan dealt with American-Israeli relations (security and the occupation of Palestine), Iran (nuclear ambitions) and Syria's crises (anticipated regime change).

Obama's televised public address to a large audience of university students in Jerusalem was very well received.

He bypassed the politicians and went directly to the people, as he reflected on the most sensitive aspects of US-Israeli relations.

In his speech, the President was sincere, wise and effective. He assured Israelis that America's support for their state is eternal. He made the young feel proud of their "vibrant democracy", which he described as the "strongest" and the most "innovative". He explained that, under secure conditions, Israel's ingenuity could stimulate unlimited prosperity in the Middle East. He rightly argued that the Jewish state needs and deserves good neighborly relations.

After telling his audience what it needed and liked to hear, the President addressed the 1967 occupation. He asserted that a viable Palestinian state is possible, just and vital for the security of Israel. Obama was bold: no security wall is "tall enough"; no Iron Dome is "strong enough" to protect an "isolated" Israel. All may be "lost" at the end of the day, if the occupation continues. For millions of domestic and global listeners, Obama's analysis, authenticity and compassion to the suffering of Palestinians may have been the highlight of this visit.

Regrettably, Obama changed his previous tone when he spoke about Iran. His threat that "America will do what it must to prevent a nuclear Iran" was provocative. On the eve of his visit, Obama announced that the Islamic Republic will need about a year to acquire a nuclear weapon. A few days later, in Israel, he added that: "Iran must not get a nuclear weapon. .... All options are on the table for achieving our objectives."

Is Washington today in a position to start a new military front to control Mideast security? There is ample evidence from Iraq and Afghanistan that war does not lead to peace. We are now on a Mideast diplomatic cliff. Granted, if Iran soon halts its nuclear adventure in response to sanctions and military threats, Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu would have achieved a diplomatic victory. But if Iran does not yield, the United States and Israel are now expected to launch a new Mideast war-of-choice.

In dealing with Syria, the U.S. administration needs to reexamine its partnerships. Israel has occupied (in 1967) and annexed (in 1982) the Syrian Golan Heights. The Jewish state cannot be expected to play a neutral role in U.S. planning for the post-Assad regime. For Arab solutions Washington should look elsewhere. Russia and Iran may be key players in dealing with the current Syrian crisis.

In a highly interconnected political landscape, the United States misguidedly treats the problems of Iran, Syria and the Palestine/Israeli conflict separately.

If Washington would examine the many-sided benefits of solving the Iranian crisis, the war option would be shelved. US respect for Iran, with strong economic and security incentives, could help solve the nuclear crisis. Treated as a regional player, Iran could facilitate a non-violent regime transition in Syria, Tehran's closest ally. And when Israel is no longer anxious about Tehran's nuclear ambitions it may start taking the Arab-Israeli peace process seriously.

Obama has effectively used his first visit to Israel to encourage measurable risk-taking for forging peace with the Arabs. But, ironically, in pushing Iran into a diplomatic corner, the United States may be unintentionally, and unnecessarily, exposing the region to further instability. With such a combative temperament toward a regional power like Iran, neither Washington nor Jerusalem could contribute much to peace in the region.


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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

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