President-elect Barack Obama has picked “the anti-Obama” to be his chief of staff, said Barrie McKenna in Canada’s Globe and Mail. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, a fellow Chicagoan and former Clinton advisor, is a political fighter whose hard-hitting style earned him the nickname “Rahmbo.” Where Obama exudes “poise, self-control, and even-temperedness,” Emanuel is “prone to angry, profanity-filled outbursts.” Former Democratic aide Paul Begala says Emanuel’s style is “a cross between a hemorrhoid and a toothache”—and that’s coming from a friend.
With Emanuel on staff, the Obama administration is already tilted toward Israel, said Dubai’s Al-Bayan in an editorial. “Emanuel is the son of one of the top terrorists in the Irgun gang,” a militant Zionist group that “has the black record of committing the mass slaughters against the Arabs in Palestine before and after its usurpation in 1948.” His father, Israeli citizen Benjamin Emanuel, admitted in a recent interview in Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper that Rahm, who speaks Hebrew, would influence the president to be pro-Israel. “Why wouldn’t he?” the elder Emanuel said. “What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to be mopping floors at the White House.”
But Israelis can’t be complacent just because Obama has a few Jews on his staff, said Elyakim Haetzni in Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth. After all, Rahm Emanuel wasn’t such a great friend to Israel when he was serving under Clinton. In 1996, Emanuel actually “threatened” then–Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with “a harsh response from the U.S. administration” if Netanyahu continued his hard line against the Palestinians. Palestinians who have met with Obama, meanwhile, report getting a sympathetic response that “they hadn’t heard from any other president.” That’s troubling, and it explains why some Israeli analysts fear that Obama will drop the demand that Palestinians renounce terror as a precondition to negotiations.
Let’s all “take a deep breath,” said Claude Salhani in Egypt’s Middle East Times. It’s too early to tell how Obama will deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Some Arab journalists have been spewing “verbal diarrhea,” accusing Emanuel of being a secret agent for Israeli intelligence. The truth is, he is loyal to just one entity: the Democratic Party. As for his fluency in Hebrew, that should bother the Israelis, not us. During the Wye River negotiations in 1998, Emanuel “made members of the Israeli delegation very nervous” because he told Clinton everything the Israelis were saying among themselves. It remains to be seen how Obama will approach the Middle East. But for now, let’s “give the next American president and his team the benefit of the doubt.”