Obama with Drama: Translating his comments on Israel’s Netanyahu from the Vulcan

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Informed Comment

Obama with Drama: Translating his comments on Israel’s Netanyahu from the Vulcan

President Barack Obama working with senior staff on Air Force One in this file image. (Photo: Acclaim Image/Public domain)

Now that Leonard Nimoy is most unfortunately no longer with us, Barack Obama is the primary exemplar in American popular culture of the maddeningly calm, excruciatingly logical way of speaking that Star Trek creator Gene Rodenberry forever associated with the alien race, the Vulcans and the character Mr. Spock. Mr. Spock’s opposite was the plain-spoken, irascible Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (played by DeForest Kelley). Obama needs a little Bones-speak sometimes.

In an interview with The Huffington Post on Saturday, Obama reacted to the Israeli election campaign, the victory of far right wing Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu, and his electoral rhetoric pledging no Palestinian state. What exactly he said, however, is a little obscured by Vulcan-speak, and here I offer a translation into plain, blunt English:

The Vulcan: “Well, I had a chance to speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, congratulated his party on his victory. I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic. And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”

English translation: “For appearances sake I had to call that son of a bitch and pretend to congratulate him. But I let him know that his outrageous torpedoing of any Palestinian state has two consequences:

1. Israel isn’t a democracy any more– you don’t get to call yourself that if you plan to rule 4 million Occupied people with martial law forever.

2. The Palestinians and the Americans are not falling ever again for this two-faced lying bastard’s charade of “peace talks” that actually just provide a fig leaf to massive and expanding Israeli theft of Palestinian land. (And I’d just like to apologize to George Mitchell and John Kerry for putting them on that Judas Cradle, which we can now rename “Netanyahu Cradle.”

The Vulcan: OBAMA: “… the status quo is unsustainable. And … while taking into complete account Israel’s security, we can’t just in perpetuity maintain the status quo, expand settlements. That’s not a recipe for stability in the region.

HUFFPOST: “Is there any reason at this point to believe that he’s serious about a Palestinian state?”

OBAMA: Well, we take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”

English Translation: “Hell will freeze over before Netanyahu lets the Palestinian people go. But with all the turmoil in the Middle East, the Israeli creeping annexation of the Palestinian West Bank and permanent siege of the Gaza Strip are going to blow up in his face and in America’s. We don’t really care if he gets popped in the kisser, but the USA is not going down with the “INS Netanyahu.” Since he’s a roadblock in the way of a superpower achieving its policy goals, we’ll just go around the s.o.b. If we have to, we’ll haul his ass before at the United Nations Security Council or the International Criminal Court.”

The Vulcan: “HUFFPOST: And what was your reaction to his warning on Election Day about Arab voters heading to the polls “in droves”?”

OBAMA: We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly. And I think that that is what’s best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.

English Translation: “Israelis of Palestinian heritage going to the polls in droves is bad? Netanyahu’s attitude toward Palestinian-Israelis makes 1960s Southern governors like George Wallace and Orval Faubus look like effing Nelson Mandelas in comparison. He’s creating a Jim Crow atmosphere, coding 6 million Israeli Jews as “white people” and putting all the other nearly two million Israelis under the sign of the N-word. That isn’t a democracy and if it is what Israel stands for now, no one but the other flaming racists and fascists in the world is going to be pro-Israeli. And you can imagine how I feel about the mofo basically using the N-word. You have to wonder if that’s his real problem with me.”

The Vulcan: “HUFFPOST: … “What impact do you think the Israeli elections are going to have on your ability to sell any Iranian nuclear agreement to both the American public and this Congress?”

OBAMA: “I don’t think it will have a significant impact. . .

What is going to have an effect on whether we get a deal done is, number one, is Iran prepared to show, to prove to the world that it is not developing a nuclear weapon, and can we verify that in an intrusive, consistent way.

And frankly, they have not yet made the kind of concessions that are I think going to be needed for a final deal to get done. But they have moved, and so there’s the possibility.

The other thing is going to be me being able to show not just the American people or the Israeli people but the world that, in fact, we have mechanisms in place that will prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon. And that the deal that is made not only is verifiable, but it also makes it much less likely that Iran is able to break out than if we have no deal at all. And that’s an argument that we are going to have to make, if we have a deal.”

English Translation: “That little piss-ant isn’t what’s standing in the way of a deal. It’s the Iran side’s unwillingness to accept terms we can sell to the Europeans. If Iran comes through, Western European corporations are going to descend on Tehran like revelers descending on New Orleans at Mardi Gras, and there won’t be a thing Nutty-yahoo can do about the collapse of international sanctions on Iran. We’re doing the Israelis a favor here by getting Iran under regular inspections and back under an NPT regime, and if they can’t see that they can go suck on a lemon.”

Juan Cole

Juan Cole

Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His new book, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East (Simon and Schuster), will officially be published July 1st. He is also the author of Engaging the Muslim World and Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (both Palgrave Macmillan). He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at Salon.com. He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

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