The Republican National Coalition has fired up both burners of their fax machine no doubt to inform the Jewish world of Barack Obama’s “perfidy” towards Israel and the Jewish people. His sin? He actually said BOTH SIDES were responsible for the impasse in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Imagine that? He didn’t say Israelis were saints and Palestinians demons as any right-thinking presidential candidate and AIPAC supplicant should do.
Here’s how Ben Smith reports it:
In Amman today, though, he suggested again that the fault in the region is not the Palestinians’ alone, something you’ll rarely hear from Republicans.
“It’s difficult for either side to make the bold move that would bring about peace,” he said, noting (generously) that the weak, scandal-tarred, deeply unpopular Israeli government is “unsettled,” while the Palestinians are “divided.”
“There’s a tendency for each side to focus on the faults of the other rather than look in the mirror,” he said.
Obama condemned today’s attack in Jerusalem, but he also cast it in tactical terms: “That’s why terrorism is so counterproductive as well as being immoral,” he said. Attacks make “the Israelis simply want to dig in and think about their security … the same would be true of any people when these kinds of things happened.”
And he stressed the role the desperate Palestinian economic situation plays in continuing the conflict.
“What I think can change is the ability of a United States government and a United States president to be actively engaged in the peace process,” part of which is to “recognize the legitimate difficulties that the Palestinian people are experiencing right now,” something he said would be “also in the interest of the Israeli people.”
These are differences of nuance, not dramatic ones…
Nonetheless, pro-Israel politics in this country is a game of inches and nuance. The fact that Obama has made such a careful and mutually sympathetic statement about the suffering of both sides speaks volumes about the kind of president he will be (and John McCain won’t be).
And thank God, Obama didn’t make the same mistake he did at the AIPAC conference when he used right-wing nationalist phraseology to characterize Israel’s eternal claim to Jerusalem:
A controversial statement last month from Mr. Obama that Jerusalem should remain Israeli and undivided was raised by Israeli reporters, but did not come up in public statements from officials. Mr. Obama said Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel, but added, “It is not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take.”
This is precisely what a president who is a real leader (as opposed to cheerleader) should say.
And when you hear the Republican war machine rev up the their anti-Obama engines with the “soft on Israel” claim just remember that not only do the majority of Americans want a foreign policy that is sympathetic, but balanced toward both parties; the majority of Jewish opinion wants that as well.
What concerns me is that with only 62% of the Jewish vote in the latest polls, AIPAC, ZOA, the RJC, and the Israel lobby may be able to plant enough doubt in peoples’ minds that they turn away from him in sufficient numbers to throw the election to McCain. In the last three elections won by Democrats, Clinton won by 78% and 80% and Carter won by 71%. 70% seems to be an important threshold and Obama isn’t there yet.
And if this chnyuk (roughly, “ignoramus”) who taunted Obama at the Kotel has anything to say about it, Obama won’t ever get there:
The moment unfolded as a lone man standing about 10 yards away yelled over and over, “Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale! Obama, Jerusalem is not for sale!”
So we have to ask the question: are we going to appeal to the better angels of our Jewish nature come November; or are we going to live by our fears and paranoia?
Excerpt: “I continued to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. And I have said that before and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don’t simply slice the city in half. But I’ve also said that that’s a final status issue.”
Here is the speech of Obama in Sderot, Israel on July 23rd, 2008:
The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s speech in Sderot, Israel, as provided by CQ Transcriptions, Inc. On Mideast Tour, Obama Meeting Olmert and Abbas (July 24, 2008)
OBAMA: … today, Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Fayad, when I was in Ramallah, earlier.
The threats to Israel security begin in Sderot, but they don’t end there. They include outrageous acts of terror like the attack we just saw yesterday in Jerusalem. Rearming Hezbollah in Lebanon and an Iranian regime that sponsors terrorism, pursues nuclear weapons and threatens Israel’s existence. A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Today I had a series of productive discussions with many of Israel’s key leaders about how to address the broad range of security threats that Israel faces and the broad threats that all of us face. I look forward to continuing these consultations with Prime Minister Olmert this evening, and I’m also looking forward to consulting closely with our European allies about Iran and other challenges in the days ahead.
Now let me just close by saying that I bring to Sderot, an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security. The state of Israel faces determined enemies who seek its destruction. But it also has a friend and ally in the United States that will always stand by the people of Israel. That’s why I’m proud to be here today and that’s why I will work from the moment that I return to America, to tell the story of Sderot and to make sure that the good people who live here are enjoying a future of peace and security and hope.
So with that, we’re going to take questions, but I might — before everybody starts raising hands, my understanding is this gentleman right here is going to actually call on people so that I don’t get in trouble with any of you. I want all of you to like me so I’m going to — he’s going to be the bad guy. He’s going to make the decision, we’ve got a limited amount of time.
Why don’t you go ahead.
QUESTION: Senator Obama, you said in OPEC convention that the (INAUDIBLE) Jerusalem could continue to be the capital city. Then you changed it and clarified later on in the — (INAUDIBLE) wonder.
How could you be sure if your other statesmen, that you are going to be committed to the security and safety of Israel and you’re not going to change it even when you’re the President of the United States?
OBAMA: First of all, I didn’t change my statement.
I continued to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel. And I have said that before and I will say it again. And I also have said that it is important that we don’t simply slice the city in half. But I’ve also said that that’s a final status issue. That’s an issue that has to be dealt with with the parties involved, the Palestinians and the Israelis. And it’s not the job of the United States to dictate the form in which that will take, but rather to support the efforts that are being made right now to resolve these very difficult issues that have a long history.
Now, in terms of knowing my commitments, you don’t have to just look at my words, you can look at my deeds. Just this past week, we passed out of the U.S. Senate Banking Committee, which is my committee, a bill to call for divestment from Iran, as a way of ratcheting up the pressure to ensure that they don’t obtain a nuclear weapon.
When Israel invaded Lebanon, in response to the kidnapping of Israel’s soldiers, I was one of the first people to state that Israel had an unequivocal right to defend itself and to rescue soldiers that had been captured. And that is what any country would do. On vote after vote I have demonstrated my support of the state of Israel.
So, the way you know where somebody’s going is where have they been. And I’ve been with Israel for many, many years now. What is also true is I believe it is strongly in the interests of Israel’s security to arrive at a lasting peace with the Palestinian people. I don’t think those positions are contradictory. I think they’re complementary. You know, it is going to be hard for Israel over the long term and this is something that I think the vast majority of Israelis understand. That it’s going to be hard to achieve true security if there’s still hostile neighbors only a few miles away.
full article at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/23/us/politics/23text-obama.html?ref=politics
Richard Silverstein says
Though you haven’t said so I’m guessing the “slice the city in half” portion is what’s bothering you. It doesn’t bother me. What he means (to me at least) is that he doesn’t want to see a divided city (hence “sliced in half”) as it was before 1967. I don’t think he means that he doesn’t foresee Palestinian sovereignty over the Palestinian portion of Jerusalem. That shouldn’t pose a problem as long as ea. side allows access to its portion of Jerusalem to the other side.
pardon for the off-topic, but check out this post on Jewlicious on I-97: http://www.jewlicious.com/?p=4791
James R. Becraft says
What’s the verification code? I wanted to e-mail an appreciation for your new format.
The thing that frightens most Arab residents of Eastern Jerusalem is that their neighborhoods will be transferred to Palestinian control. When that happens, no more Kupat Holim (Israeli national health insurance), no more garbage pickups.
Richard Silverstein says
@Mikhael: Of course, Mikhael hasn’t a clue what any Arab residents of E. Jerusalem fear since he hasn’t a clue what they believe. He doesn’t know any Arabs & would prob. run in fear fr. one if he ever had the opportunity to meet one. He’d much rather take potshots at them from a distance & claim he knows what they want & think.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Orgo: Thanks for the link to the Jewlicious post on I-97. Typical querulous stuff & about what I’d expect from a site like that.