My new Comment is Free post, Giving Up the Golan, was published today. It calls on President Bush to engage with Syria and Israel to jump start a negotiating process that would lead to peace. And if Bush fails to lead, it calls for the presidential candidates to call Bush to task for his failure. I’m hoping that American Jews will tell their respective candidates AND their president to show leadership in bringing the parties together. Israel and Syria have gotten this far. It would be a tragedy if we didn’t do what we can and should to help them go the rest of the distance toward peace.
I’ve written to Eric Lynn, one of Obama’s Jewish liaison staff with my suggestion. He hasn’t replied. Presidential campaigns don’t seem to reply to bloggers, or at least to this blogger. I’m not naive enough to think that Obama is eager to jump into this issue. He probably thinks he has enough fires to put out without adding this one.
But I think telling George Bush that the U.S. could set an example in expediting an Israeli-Syrian peace process is the right thing to do. I don’t see how it could be very controversial among most Americans. Plus it would make Obama look presidential since he’d be taking a leadership role in staking out a principled position on a major foreign policy issue. But of course the Israel lobby has no interest in Israel making peace with Syria despite the fact that Ehud Olmert has just said Israel is prepared to return the Golan. This is a perfect example of a serious divergence between the Israel lobby and the Israeli government–which never happens if you read what some AIPAC apologists write.
For the Israel lobby, Syria is anathema; the idea of returning any territory to an Arab state is anathema; the prospect of an Israeli PM saying he’s prepared to do so has got to give them the willies. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But does that mean that Barack Obama can’t stake out ground on this issue? No. He did precisely that in Cleveland when he told Jewish leaders that being pro-Israel does not mean being pro-Likud. He should expand on that and say that being pro-Israel means being pro-peace; and returning the Golan will hasten peace. If Olmert can say it, why can’t Obama?