Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Osama and Obama

I remember seeing a photo many years ago of a respectable and very wealthy Saudi family, the Bin Ladens. At the corner sits Osama, one of the younger brothers. At the time he had no beard, and wore jeans, a cowboy hat on his head. He looked a bit like an American, or rather like a young Arab who wants to look like an American.

Later came the years in which Osama bin Laden went to Afghanistan to fight against the Soviets, with aid and funding from the CIA. At that time the United States did not consider him a terrorist, President Ronald Reagan praised Bin Laden and his fellows as Freedom Fighters. And then came the big change, a desillusioned Bin Laden became a sworn enemy of the United States, full of hatred, and spent the rest of his life waging an uncompromising war on the Americans . Maybe not a coincidence that it was him who conceived the idea of setting hijacked jet planes to bring down New York's highest skyscrapers.

For ten years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden played cat and mouse with the Americans, migrating secretly from the Tora Bora caves to the well-equipped villa near the Pakistani Army's military academy. George W. Bush dreamed in vain of the moment when he would make to the press the dramatic announcement of Bin Laden's death. It fell to the lot of Barack Obama to make it, just in time for the launching of the campaign for the second presidential electoral campaign.

Did anyone seriously mean to catch Bin Laden alive and bring him to an American jail and the Trial of the Century in New York, complete with dramatic courtroom scenes and impassioned speeches from the dock and the international spotlights turned on him for the next five years, until the gallows and after? None of this will happen now, the US Navy Seals came back with a body riddled with bullets, which was taken to a hasty burial at sea, where his final resting place will never be known.

What will be the next step of the U.S. President now that he became the idol of the crowds celebrating the blood revenge in the streets of New York? Will he use it to get out of Afghanistan and end with a resounding Declaration of Victory a long and exhausting war which had not been exactly a success story?

And in our region? Extreme right Knesset Member Aryeh Eldad already warned his fellows not to rejoice too much at Osama bin Laden's fall, stating that "Obama is more dangerous". And in Yedioth Ahronoth Orly Azoulay wrote: "Obama would now apply his might in other arenas around the world. Now, when he will pressure Netanyahu to accept a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders, Israel's leaders will not be able to whisper to each other 'Obama is a weak leader'. The time is over for this kind of talk."

By September we will know more.