By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
I've talked to several American Jews who share Republican strategist Dick Morris's angst over Obama's decision to skip Israel on his first trip to the Middle East as president:
Visiting the Middle East and not going to Israel would be like touring North America and omitted a stop in the United States. It only makes sense if you interpret it as a deliberate slap in the face of Jerusalem and a statement to the Arab world that America's pro-Israeli policy is changing.
The president's Middle East itinerary, which included stops in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, where he addressed the Muslim world yesterday, sent a clear message that Obama intends to be a more evenhanded player in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict than was George W. Bush. It also tells the Muslim world that he'll stop in and say hello even when he's not already in the neighborhood to visit Israel.
But it's no mistake that Obama visited Buchenwald the day after his huge Cairo address. It sends as strong a message about his commitment to and empathy for the Jews as skipping Israel and visiting Cairo did about his desire to reset relations with Muslims.
In fact, Obama's brief speech at Buchenwald echoed a key line about Holocaust deniers in the Muslim world from his Cairo speech:
We are here today because we know this work is not yet finished. To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened—a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful. This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts; a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history.
Before touring the former Nazi concentration camp, Obama told NBC News that the Holocaust-denying Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, should visit the site. "I have no patience for people who would deny history," Obama said.
Will Jews who watched footage of his trip to Buchenwald, which included a very moving address from Elie Wiesel, forgive Obama for snubbing Israel?