Obama in Israel…At Last

As I discussed on Arise TV last night, Air Force One touched down in Tel Aviv yesterday following a 6,000-mile flight from Andrews Air Force Base bearing America’s most pampered tourist. Israel will close its airspace for his arrival and maintain this lock-down whilst he takes a ride in Marine One to Jerusalem, providing Obama with the sort of visual appreciation of Israel that few tourists will ever experience.

During his arrival and hop to the nation’s capital, Obama may get to appreciate the physical scale of the nation, dwarfed by most, if not quite all, of America’s 50 individual states. He may take a moment to wonder at the events and tribulations that have transpired on the land beneath him as he glides serenely through its skies.

Travelling in his security bubble, it is likely to be the one opportunity he gets to really see the land and appreciate its precarious position. He will certainly be reminded of this in talks with Israeli leaders in the coming hours, for that is the duration that this trip can be measured in. When he arrives he will discover that the advance staff at the White House either have a macabre sense of history or else none whatsoever as they have chosen to take over the King David Hotel for the president’s duration. It is not a location that bodes well for visiting members of an unloved foreign power.

On his long flight, Obama may have been advised to watch The Gatekeepers, the Oscar nominated documentary featuring 6 former leaders of Israeli security service Shin Bet, who speak candidly and openly about the failings that have impeded the quest for peace. During the flight, Obama will no doubt have given thought to his imminent meeting with Netanyahu and how the two of them will deal with one another in the coming years. This will be the tenth meeting between the two men and despite the lack of chemistry no leader has met Obama more.  Since both have newly minted mandates, they will doubtless both claim to be in the right, which may get both of them nowhere.

The White House has announced that the American entourage are arriving in the Holy Land in ‘listening mode.’ This is an inauspicious announcement with an inauspicious precedent. Twenty years ago, America’s least memorable Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, marked his first trip to Europe with the same tepid line. It does not inspire confidence or any sense of leadership, quite the opposite in fact. This approach has led to a peculiar position for Obama. Machiavelli questioned whether a leader should be loved or feared. Right now, Obama is neither and his leverage will only decrease as time passes. The 2014 midterms are a little over 18 months away and after that all eyes turn to the presidential race of 2016. Obama, therefore, has only a short time to act before his transformation to a lame duck is complete.

For this trip to have been capable of achieving anything, a great deal of legwork would have already have been done by dignitaries, diplomats and officials. They would have prepared plans for the two leaders to finalise and agree terms upon. This has not been done. Indeed, the Obama White House appears to be turning diplomacy on its head by having the president visit ahead of a return trip by Secretary of State Kerry! This is not how successful diplomacy or international negotiations have traditionally succeeded, and demonstrates a lack of commitment by the administration to securing a long term solution in the region. Having believed he could personally deliver a solution in his first year in office, it appears that Obama is now merely paying lip service to the idea of a solution. His trip to Israel allows him to tick the country off his list and claim that he has continued the recent history of American presidents making the journey, all to little effect other than that of symbolism, which has as much to do with domestic constituents, as it has to do with international relations.

In his first term Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. It is unfortunate that at the start of his second term, he appears not to be willing to earn such a prestigious award.

Still Paying off ‘The Debt’

Last night I attended a pre-release screening of The Debt, the new movie starring a host of famous faces, including Tom Wilkinson (still in purgatory for his turn as Joe Kennedy in my book), Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington and Ciaran Hinds.

Based upon a small, never before heard of Israeli film, the debt tells the tale of three Mossad agents ordered into east berlin to snatch (dare i say ‘render’?) a former nazis back to justice in sunny Tel Aviv. Needless to say all does not go to plan, or it would have been a far shorter, though perhaps more satisfying film.

It’s not a sentiment that will gain much traction at cocktail parties, but if there is a message to take away from The Debt, it is surely this: if you have a crazed nazis doctor under lock and key, don’t bother with legal niceties. You may not live to regret it.

I had been expecting an improved version of Munich, and certainly the signs were good; great cast and director and from Miramax. Hang on, you are no doubt thinking, Miramax went the way of the dodo years ago.  Exactly. Welcome to the last gasp from a dead studio. It is a rule of thumb that films that sit in cans for years should probably stay there.

A film with great potential has some serious flaws at its dark heart. A major flaw in this case is that the fine cast are playing the wrong characters. Ciaran Hinds’ younger self is a buttoned down square, whilst Tom Wilkinson’s younger self is something of a swinger. Yep, right actors in the wrong roles. Think Harrison Ford playing Luke Skywalker. Exactly.

The producer (who introduced the screening) was at pains to note how director John Madden had insisted on filming in Israel. Well it could be Israel, or anywhere else with a beach. There was little else of this fascinating country on the screen.

The production had a ‘made for tv’ feel to it and this contributed to a rather underwhelming reaction.

As a friend of mine noted, the film is a treatise on the failure of the liberal mentality. Quite right as usual Tim.

This is ultimately a film about secrets. It supposes that three secret agents can’t cope with the guilt over keeping sect the details of a botched mission. The flaw is perhaps in sipping that theses are normal people asked to keep stum. Not top Mossad agents. Not sure how much you know about the Mossad but I wouldn’t mess. The film turns into one complicated love triangle (how original) when it would have been far mire interesting if it had focused on the moral implications of rendering justice.

The film’s climax ultimately feels like a tacked on ending as the grandmother secret agent heads off to do what the two men cannot, namely face down their nemesis is a Ukrainian asylum. I wonder if Helen Mirren realised she had already played this role in RED?

So, points for effort, and hugs and kisses from the lovies for reminding us that lying is bad, but killing ageing Nazis in cold blood is worse, but if push comes to shove, I’ll call the real Mossad, not the Hollywood variation, if I really want a job doing properly!