I’ve never felt prouder of being a blogger than in writing this post. I’ve never felt prouder of being an American. In my entire life, this country has never had a president who made me entirely proud. Yes, I respected Carter and admired Clinton (politically that is). But I never felt they entirely represented me or my views. But Barack Obama has changed all that and I simply can’t adequately describe the feeling.
Maybe you’ll feel that way too after you read this. It is taken from a conversation Obama held with Jewish, Muslim and Christian students in Ankara just before he left to fly home:
I believe that peace in the Middle East is possible. I think it will be based on two states, side by side: a Palestinian state and a Jewish state. I think in order to achieve that, both sides are going to have to make compromises. I think we have a sense of what those compromises should be and will be. Now what we need is political will and courage on the part of leadership.
…I have to believe that the mothers of Palestinians and the mothers of Israelis hope the same thing for their children. They want them not to be vulnerable to violence. They don’t want, when their child gets on a bus, to worry that that bus might explode. They don’t want their child to have to suffer indignities because of who they are. And so sometimes I think that if you just put the mothers in charge for a while, that things would get resolved.
And it’s that spirit of thinking about the future and not the past that I just talked about earlier that I think could help advance the peace process, because if you look at the situation there, over time I don’t believe it’s sustainable.
It’s not sustainable for Israel’s security because as populations grow around them, if there is more and more antagonism towards Israel, over time that will make Israel less secure.
It’s not sustainable for the Palestinians because increasingly their economies are unable to produce the jobs and the goods and the income for people’s basic quality of life.
So we know that path is a dead end, and we’ve got to move in a new direction. But it’s going to be hard. A lot of mistrust has been built up, a lot of anger, a lot of hatred. And unwinding that hatred requires patience.
…But it will depend on young people like you being open to new ideas and new possibilities. And it will require young people like you never to stereotype or assume the worst about other people.In the Muslim world, this notion that somehow everything is the fault of the Israelis lacks balance — because there’s two sides to every question. That doesn’t mean that sometimes one side has done something wrong and should not be condemned. But it does mean there’s always two sides to an issue.
I say the same thing to my Jewish friends, which is you have to see the perspective of the Palestinians. Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen.
As bloggers, we expound on issues, we critique, we interpret. This is one of the first times as a blogger when I simply didn’t think I could add anything that wasn’t in the original. Read it and enjoy! For more coverage of this story and its background, read the Jerusalem Post.
On a related matter, the Obama administration has begun briefing Democratic congressmembers telling them to expect a confrontation with the new Netanyahu government over the direction of the peace process:
In an unprecedented move, the Obama administration is readying for a possible confrontation with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by briefing Democratic congressmen on the peace process and the positions of the new government in Israel regarding a two-state solution. The Obama administration is expecting a clash with Netanyahu over his refusal to support the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In recent weeks, American officials have…prepared the ground for the possibility of disagreements with Israel over the peace process, according to information recently received. The preemptive briefing is meant to foil the possibility that Netanyahu may try to bypass the administration by rallying support in Congress.
Once again, this is a development that is unheard of. Presidents simply don’t telegraph these sorts of things in advance to the Israelis and Aipac and their diehard supporters in Congress. Usually presidents prefer to pretend that all’s well and there can never be a divide between them and the Israelis.
The only comparable situation I can think of is George H.W. Bush and Jim Baker, who really put Yitzchak Shamir’s feet to the fire (and he didn’t like it one goddamn bit) leading up to the Madrid conference. That made for some very cool relations between the two nations for quite some time.
I think it’s imperative that Obama, in disagreeing with Netanyahu, needs to appeal over his head to the Israeli people (just as Netanyahu will attempt to do the reverse here) and American Jews. The president needs to act both here and in Israel as if he is the nation’s best friend and that it is Netanyahu who is the obdurate one. It is Bibi who endangers his own people with his policies. While Obama wants only what is best (and fair) for Israel.
For the first time in a generation, it is clear that the only way to bring peace is by exerting pressure on an Israeli government to compromise. The U.S. will need to get the EU on board as this needs to be a coordinated strategy. Netanyahu cannot be allowed to play various nations, blocs and constituencies off against each other. He must see that wherever he turns everyone wants him to make peace. No one must give him an “out.”
In another dramatic parting from the policies of the Bush administration, Obama has let it be known that the U.S. has no objection to a Hamas-Fatah unity government. Of course, this is mitigated by the fact that the U.S. is still insisting that Hamas recognize Israel before the former will accept Hamas within such a government. But progress happens in small increments. You’ll recall that the Bushites objected so strongly to the Hamas-led P.A. that it sent David Welch to foment an armed rebellion by Fatah against Hamas. This led to the latter’s Gaza counter-coup. Thank God, there will be no such shenanigans in the coming four years.
Apparently, another development we will not see is an Israeli attack on Iran, at least according to Joe Biden:
In the [CNN] interview, Biden was asked whether he was concerned that Netanyahu might strike Iranian nuclear facilities.
“I don’t believe Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that. I think he would be ill advised to do that,” Biden said. “And so my level of concern is no different than it was a year ago.”
My God, I feel we’ve hit a political trifecta: a president who “gets” the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is willing to pressure Israel (and the Palestinians) to get to peace, and who will not allow Israel to embroil itself in a military adventure against Iran. Pinch me–I must be dreaming!