September 22, 2009

Middle East Body Language

Netanyahu Abbas Obama.jpg

Given Netanyahu’s foot dragging on negotiations, the public handshake between Obama, Bibbi and Abbas in New York today offered something of a reflection on the political dynamics.

You can catch the video here showing how Obama, per U.S. interests, shook hands with Netanyahu first, but did so in a vigorous way as if trying to shaking him loose somehow. (As touched on before, Netanyahu has probably been more successful than anyone at publicly trying Obama’s patience.) You can also see in the video how Abbas made friendly eye contact with Netanyahu while clasping the Prime Minister’s hand, but for only as long (or short) as courtesy dictated.

Otherwise, where things landed in the next instant was: a Palestinian leader so dependent on the American president that he oriented himself (expectantly, and perhaps a little helplessly) toward Obama even before he and Netanyahu had even unlocked hands. And on Netanyahu’s face (and in the strength of the clasp), in contrast, we had an over-accentuated expression of assurance and solidarity otherwise spelling all show, no go.

(image: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters. caption: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) shakes hands with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in front of U.S. President Barack Obama (C) during a trilateral meeting at President Obama’s hotel in New York September 22, 2009. Obama, making his most direct foray into Middle East diplomacy, on Tuesday called Israelis and Palestinians to act with a sense of urgency to get formal peace negotiations back on track.)

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Michael Shaw
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