Former Obama family friend and Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi joined HuffPost Live in anticipation of President Obama's trip to Israel this week, and said that the trip is less about brokering peace between Israel and Palestine and more about staving off war with Iran and Obama's own domestic political critics.
"I think he's traveling to Israel partly because of Iran," he told HuffPost live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin. "I think that our government from top to bottom -- intelligence, military, diplomats -- know that war with Iran would be a catastrophic mistake. They will not do it under any circumstances. In fact, I think they think that Israel going to war would be a catastrophic mistake for the United States and they will do everything they can, I think, to prevent that."
Khalidi said the trip is also about silencing critic's about Obama's Israeli policy.
"I think there's a domestic political calculation there," he added. "He's trying to settle some of these nasty things that are said about him on the extreme right of the American Jewish community."
Khalidi predicted "more palliatives, more of the same" from his former friend when it comes to the peace process between Israel and Palestine.
"I don't think he intends in the near future to do anything at all about Palestine and Israel," he said. "I think that he may indeed, during his second term, intend to do something Palestinian-Israeli and maybe he's planning...this is a building block towards that."
Khalidi, whose new book, Brokers of Deceit, analyses several of Obama's speeches about Israel and the Middle East, also criticized Obama's rhetoric around America's biggest ally.
"All of [Obama's] rhetoric, in fact, reprises tropes of an Israeli narrative of being victimized, and of other aspects of the Israeli narrative," Khalidi said, granting that the Obama administration, while stopping short of calling Israeli settlements illegal, has escalated rhetoric compared to previous administrations.
"The term 'illegitimate' is actually an escalation," Khalidi said of the administration's recent characterization of the settlements. "American presidents have not even used anything so severe as the term illegitimate. Back in the Reagan administration, the settlements ceased to be described by US policy as "illegal," which is what they are, and started to be described as 'obstacles to peace.'"