March 16, 2010

The Perils of Visiting the Middle East

From Netanyahu Offers an Apology, but No Shift in Policy
WASHINGTON — An ill-timed municipal housing announcement in Jerusalem has mutated into one of the most serious conflicts between the United States and Israel in two decades, leaving a politically embarrassed Israeli government scrambling to respond to a tough list of demands by the Obama administration. . . .

The prospects for peace in the Middle East seemed murkier than ever, as a year’s worth of frustration on the part of President Obama and his aides seemed to boil over in its furious response to the housing announcement, which spoiled a visit to Israel by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Mr Biden was said to be inconsolable following his trip, struggling to retain his composure as tears brimmed at the corners of his eyes and he told reporters that "this was supposed to be the experience of a lifetime."

"You know," continued Mr Biden, "you wait and wait and wait for an opportunity like this. I had such high expectations. We were going to go swimming in the Dead Sea, and visit the Wailing Wall, and have dinner with some friends of grandpa — and then they have to go and announce more Israeli development in East Jerusalem." Mr Biden then sniffed. "They might as well have given me food poisoning."

After arriving in Israel, Mr Biden's hotel room smelled of cigarettes, despite his specifically requesting a non-smoking room, and the TV only picked up two channels. His luggage was also held up in transit and arrived a day late.

Although some photographs of Mr Biden meeting with Mr Netanyahu seemed to show the vice president in high spirits, he later claimed he had only been smiling because the pictures "might be the only positive memory I have from this stupid visit," which he described as "a disaster from start to finish."

"Anyway," he added, tears once again welling in his eyes. "Most of my best pictures got ruined by the x-ray machine at the airport."

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