One major foreign policy issue that was missing from the first presidential debate was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So I was curious how Edwards-Cheney would handle it. Sure enough, John Edwards had a golden opportunity when Cheney burbled about how toppling Saddam caused a decrease in the number of Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis (another one of Cheney’s lying, scummy statements in the same vein as Saddam was involved with 9/11 and allied with Al Qaeda).
This handed the issue to Edwards on a platter. He could’ve said some or all of the following: the Bush Administration is MIA when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When it comes to U.S. interest or involvement in resolving the conflict, no one’s home. Bush and Powell said and continue to say that we support the Road Map. But Bush cravenly capitulated to the Sharon steamroller and publicly stated that the U.S. accepts Israeli retention of its major West Bank settlements AFTER a peace agreement. So much for the road map which calls for the dismantlement of settlements and a return to pre-1967 borders (except for minor adjustments).
Lo these many years ago, Bush appointed General Zinni as his special Mideast envoy. He lasted about 2 or 3 trips before he realized he was getting nowhere and his initiative was shelved. Interesting to see that Zinni has publicly flayed the Bushites for the miserable mess they’ve made of Iraq. I guess the general isn’t going to be invited back to the White House until there’s a new occupant (hopefully soon).
Here’s more specifically what I would’ve said in the debate if I were Edwards:
“The Israelis and Palestinians live in one of the most dangerous places on earth. Many have said that if there is a nuclear conflagration, it’s likely to start here. That’s why every prior U.S. government going back to Richard Nixon has made serious efforts to resolve the Mideast conflict. What has this administration accomplished? Nothing. Their policy is an abject failure. There is no leadership. There is no vision. There is only confusion and befuddlement. George Bush doesn’t know what to do regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict any more than he knows how to fly a rocket ship to Mars. This is a travesty and a tragedy. Because of his inaction, thousands are dying and will continue to die until a new president is elected who takes this bull by the horns.
John Kerry will immediately on being elected invite Israeli and Palestinian leaders to reenter negotiations using the Barak-Clinton-Afafat Taiba proposals as the basis for a negotiated settlement. Will it be easy to make these negotiations happen and bring them to a fruitful resolution? No. But is it worth a valiant effort? You bet it is. George Bush has let this tinderbox blow up into a conflagration that might engulf us all. John Kerry knows how to put this fire out and before he leaves office there will a negotiated solution to this conflict. That’s a firm promise.”
What did Edwards say? Precious little. He blathered on about the dangers Israel faces, how there isn’t a Palestinian partner, etc. He missed a golden opportunity to score major points. And it’s a crying shame that he did because Bush-Cheney are terrifically weak on this issue.
Here’s what he actually said according to the New York Times transcript:
We’ve been largely absent, not entirely absent but largely absent, from the peacemaking process over the last four years. And let me just say a couple of preliminary things and then talk about where we are now.
First, the Israeli people not only have the right to defend themselves, they should defend themselves. They have an obligation to defend themselves. If I can just for a moment tell you a personal story. I was in Jerusalem a couple of years ago, actually three years ago in August of 2001, staying at the King David Hotel. We left in the morning, headed to the airport to leave, and later in the day I found out that that same day not far from where we were staying the Sbarro pizzeria was hit by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. Fifteen people were killed. Six children were killed.
What are the Israeli people supposed to do? How can they continue to watch Israeli children killed by suicide bombers? Killed by terrorists. They have not only the right but the obligation to defend themselves.
Now, we know that the prime minister has made a decision, an historic decision, to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. It’s important for America to participate in helping with that process. Now if Gaza’s being used as a platform for attacking the Israeli people, that has to be stopped and Israel has a right to defend itself. They don’t have a partner for peace right now. They certainly don’t have a partner in Arafat. And they need a legitimate partner for peace.
What a waste! Largely empty platitudes and rhetoric when he could’ve really scored points in a sharp attack on Bush’s policy failures.
Russ Wellen says
I agree with you about what Edwards should have said about Israel-Palestine. (Though not Jewish, I’m a big fan of Michael Lerner.)
Nice blog. See mine (Running Commentary).
Yours, from the southern part of the Hudson River Valley, Sleepy Hollow (previously known as North Tarrytown, in case you haven’t been back in a while),
I mean it kindly when I say “get real.” Your candor on this site is so refreshing, has made me a fan, but before November 2, NOBODY running for office wants to say a word about Israel-Palestine other than, “What we’re doing is good for it.”
It’s all about advertising and spinning, and a great ad man once described that perspective as “Fear in a dark suit.”
Even to say the obvious, that Sharon provoked the Intifida by bringing armed men to the Dome of the Rock to generate terrorist acts and Jewish fear just so he could win an election — even to say that as personal opinion is to open up to a variety of virulent attacks — even milder, just to say “There can be two countries and the Palestinians have rights, too” will get some people on the warpath … so politicians who cavil and preen and bow and scrape and beg to get people to vote for them are never going to come right out and say what’s on their minds — if anything other than getting elected.
Bush’s Fundamentalism believes in the End Times, The Rapture marked by total war in the Middle East, etc… Book of Revelations interpreted as an instruction manual instead of a poetic vision about one’s own soul … and he and his henchmen are doing their damnedest to bring on the end times…
Between the two extremes, blowing up a few people and oneself in order to get to the 72 virgins is slightly preferable, if only because they kill fewer people and are at least willing to take the consequences. But comparing sociopathic insanities is not a very profitable venture.
I hope and believe, if and when Kerry becomes president, IF IT’S NOT TOO LATE, he will present some seriously feasible steps to reduce the strife and will kick BOTH Sharon and Arafat’s asses enough to make them want to settle it…
Or so we can hope. But nothing until after the election. (Oh, since I’m Jewish, the crazy can start attacking me as “self hating” instead of “anti-semite.”)