The conclusion of the line in the song’s lyric is “What it is ain’t exactly clear.” That pretty much sizes up what Barack Obama has in mind for his first 100 days regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Something’s happening. We don’t know exactly what it is. But it’s big. The N.Y. Times reveals that his staff is searching for an Arab capital in which to make a major policy address in his first 100 days. If he does so, this will upset the conventional wisdom that he must pay sole and undivided attention to the economy before he engages the I-P conflict.
I’d be delighted if he upsets the conventional wisdom in this particular case. The only way he will end his second term with a peaceful Israel and Palestine is if he engaged this sucker right from the get go. The fact that he’s thinking outside the box on this is reassuring.
Of course, he won’t just address the I-P conflict in such an address. There are so many other Mideast issues he will want to cover including Iran and Iraq. But I think it can only be good to have the American president telling the Arab world–and the entire world–that bringing healing, peace and stability to this region is one of his top priorities.
This report from The Forward is also tantalizing though a tad on the vague side:
An Arab diplomat told the Forward that Arab leaders are now preparing a letter to Obama in which they will urge him to adopt the [Saudi peace] plan and move promptly toward a final status solution to the conflict. The diplomat did not rule out the possibility that Arab states will agree to move faster toward normalizing ties with Israel if they feel the new administration in Washington is taking serious steps to solve the Palestinian problem.
What this tells us is that Arab states are willing to show reciprocity and good will to Obama as long as they believe he will conclude a negotiation along the lines of the Saudi peace plan. Even Ehud Olmert has indicated he feels favorably disposed toward the same plan. Should Tzipi Livni become the next prime minister, she would likely feel the same way. So who knows, it’s possible Obama could pull a rabbit out of his hat. Of course, if Bibi wins all bets are off.
The Forward also brings news that Jimmy Carter has a new Israeli-Arab peace plan of his own coming out in book form on–you guess it–January 20th. That guy has impeccable sense of timing!
Nathan Guttman will have to forgive me but this passage doesn’t speak for me or many other American Jews regarding our attitude toward Carter’s peace efforts:
Carter’s previous book drew harsh criticism from the Jewish community and pro-Israel activists who argued it was tainted with anti-Israel bias and has singled out the Jewish state while ignoring the role of other Middle East players in the conflict. The book deepened the already existing rift between the Jewish community and the 39th president.
I would say that the book deepened a rift between SOME MEMBERS of the Jewish community and Carter. But to claim that the community monolithically endorsed this point of view is quite reductionist. In fact (and Carter has made this point himself), Jimmy Carter’s views are widely shared by many Israelis and can be read on the editorial pages of most of the daily newspapers there. The fact that Aipac and the Israel lobby has managed to make Carter’s views seem aberrant reflects their insularity, and not Carter’s extremism.
Carter will be visiting Lebanon and Syria this coming week. I wonder if he’s doing a little ‘advance work’ for Obama regarding the latter’s future Mideast peace efforts, though of course the latter was very careful to insulate himself from any direct contact with Carter during the campaign. That’s because the attitude of the Israel lobby groups toward Carter has been similar to that of King Henry II, who said of Thomas Becket: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” If only the right-wing pro-Israel leadership could somehow be rid of the meddlesome former president. Luckily they can’t.