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!
1. If anyone doesn’t see that Netanyahu will hold the peace process hostage to U.S. acquiescence to Israeli strikes on Iranian nuke facilities, then he is not looking at the situation.
2. You say you can’t improve on the president’s language, and then you go and prove it:
Why ought any American accede to this? If the Israeli prime minister wants to appeal to my country’s interests, that is fine with me, though I don’t know why it would be okay with the citizens of Israel. But I do not give my president leave to appeal in a foreign matter primarily to the interests of the citizens of that foreign country. The American president speaks in international discussion for the interests of the American people, and no other. Let the interests of Israel’s citizens be represented, well or poorly, by those whom they designate through their democratic process. I expect Barack Obama to be watching my back for the next four years at a minimum, not Israel’s. Sorry.
Richard Silverstein says
What utter confusion you’ve dragged yrself into. American presidents appeal to the citizens of foreign states all the time when it is in our national interest to do so. Unlike you apparently, Obama has determined that it IS in the U.S. interest for there to be Israeli Arab peace. And to get there he should do some of the things I suggest & which you find so unpalatable. Glad he’s the president & not you.
We’ll see if Obama ‘appeals over [Netanyahu’s] head to the Israeli people.’ He may, and should, assert that their interest lies in pursuing policy contrary to that of their current leadership. He should not appeal directly to foreign citizenries in pursuit of U.S. interests. Diplomacy is conducted among countries’ leaders, not from one leader to a foreign population at large. We could I suppose appeal to them to do what is in their interest (elect other leadership), but really they ought to be so disposed already. For now, though, Netahyahu can’t be wished away. He is the legitimate choice of the Israeli people, and the U.S. must deal with him. This notion that we should just ignore the unpleasant consequences of the recent Israeli elections — that there is some better, more real, unexpressed Israeli public nature that the U.S. should really be dealing with — is tiresome and fraudulent.
Megat S. Merican says
Is this notion that you are to respect and deal with a “legitimate” leader of a country to be applied across the board or only where Israel is concerned?
Across. Legitimacy is complicated. It does exist in Israel, however.
Richard Silverstein says
This is nonsense. Diplomacy is conducted by many means. Have you not heard of “public diplomacy?” It’s an entire & legitimate form of diplomacy that involves reaching out to pubic constituencies to get them to support U.S. interests. Besides, I didn’t realize you were such an expert on diplomacy. Perhaps you worked in the State Dept. or have an advanced degree on the subject?
You’ve just articulated yr own version of what I’ve said which has nothing to do w. what I actually wrote. There is an objective set of criteria & compromises Israel will have to accept in order to achieve peace. It is in our interests to get Israel & Israelis to accept those criteria as quickly as possible. Obama should do this any way he can. This effort is neither tiresome nor fraudulent.
Bibi did not “win” an election. His party gained only 27 out of 120 votes in the Knesset. Polls show over 50% of Israelis are now thoroughly dissatisfied with the actual government they’ve been given by Bibi. You’d do better to adopt a slightly more nuanced & less condescending approach toward Israeli politics, U.S. diplomacy & my views. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
If I have misunderstood what you are advocating, and it is something entirely routine, then that would raise a couple of obvious questions. What would be so remarkable about doing this that would lead you to make a special call for the president to do it, and why should we expect it to be especially effective? To help answer those questions and clarify what you are calling for, perhaps you could provide some examples (in extended excerpts) of the kinds of appeals that presidents make ‘all the time’ that you have in mind. Also, you could suggest some sample language that you would like to see the president use in his appeals to Israelis, so that we can compare what you envision to what you claim to be similar statements from past presidents. I of course reserve the right to maintain with respect to any particular example you provide that the mere fact of precedence does not imply that that president was acting rightly at that time.
As to whether I offered my own version of the words in your initial post that I thought quite clearly implied that Israelis are perhaps to be partially excused for their leadership selection process and outcomes, perhaps I did. Let me correct myself by merely pointing to your clarification of your views on that question as the attitude that I believe to be a greater impediment to real progress toward a just settlement of this matter than a constructive one:
Correct me if I am wrong (I’m sure you will, as I don’t have an advanced degree in this, though I do have a degree. Incidentally it is my similarly inexpert understanding that public diplomacy is typically an effort to explain and justify U.S. policy toward a country or region. Attempts to manipulate public opinion on domestic or regional matters may not be as proscribed as I am contending it ought to be, but I believe it clearly is apart from the practice of public diplomacy.), but you would be able to produce numbers much like this with regard to the explicit support for nearly any leader in a parliamentary system. Even if this is an exceptional situation of some sort, it wouldn’t mean that the current leadership is not the duly and constitutionally designated choice of the Israeli people, nor therefore are they anything less than fully responsible for their choice. I can’t see any reason for you to be citing these numbers other than to suggest something along those lines. You say “Bibi did not ‘win’ an election.” Surely you can’t expect us to take that at face value. So what is it you are driving at exactly, if not an attempt to absolve Israelis of their responsibility for their decisions? It is a level of forbearance Israel does not extend to its neighbors.
And as to condescension — that was the initial motivating perception that moved me to comment for the first time on your site. Perhaps you’ll think about what might have led me to perceive it in your writing. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
Here is the problem with dealing with the Israeli people. They love blasting arabs to bits. They love bulldozing their homes, debasing and embarrassing them and torturing them and spreading around the dung that Palestinians only moved in from Northern Africa in the late 1940’s.
The Israeli’s are as pig ignorant on the whole about Palestinians as the US and Canadian governments are, it seems that many more US and Canadian citizens are getting to the facts of the matter.
It is no use appealing to people who see the neighbours as interlopers when it is they who are the interlopers.
Avigdor baby only moved there in the 1970’s and yet he thinks the owners of the land should piss off to some other place and let him take over.
If the jews don’t get the fact after 61 years of brutal occupation that the Palestinians are not leaving then there is no hope for the Palestinians and I quite frankly don’t care too much anymore about the “security” of Israel while they continue to murder and torture and maim the Palestinians.
Did you see the Doctors for Human Rights report? Read it and weep.
The horror inflicted on the people of Gaza is shown in graphic detail that made this old girl almost lose her lunch.
There are 350,000 or so dual citizen American citizens in Palestine, they should just pack up and go home and let the Palestinians have their own damn land.
They were never in danger of nazi Germany, they do not need to be in Israel when the majority of jews live comfortably in the US with excellent communities and services, in fact the US could accept all the jews tomorrow and no-one would notice except the poor devils in Palestine who could have their own land back.
Do you know that Khalid Mishal and his family were driven from their home in the West Bank in 1967 and in 2007 their own house was still standing. It is in the area of East Jerusalem of Silwan that the jews want to bulldoze now and turn into a park.
What embarrasses and shames me most is Mark Regev, Martin Indyk, Guy Spigelman (head of the IAF), Benjamin Rutland, spokesperson throughout Cast Lead, are all loud mouth Australians who would be jailed for their behaviour in Australia but sit before the world and embarrass us with their hate and spite.
Their forefathers came here before the war, none of them were “survivors” of the holocaust as they were safe here, Spigleman bombed to bits 9 members of the family of his former neighbour in Sydney and a Canadian family and goes unpunished while Palestinian friends of mine in Australia would love to go home and are not allowed to.
Australia fought with and alongside the Palestinians in 2 world wars, we have war memorials for those who died in Palestine and the Palestinians have tended our war graves in Gaza since 1917 yet we shit on them everytime Israel decides to blow them to bits.
It’s shameful, embarrassing and disgraceful – my own grandfather was in Palestine for 3 years and loved the people enormously.
It is time the jews got into the 21st century and realised that zionism is racist, brutal, facist and just plain ugly and beneath the dignity of the gentle, human rights jews I know in Australia.
Richard Silverstein says
You have committed two grave offenses that violate my comment rules: first, the words “Jews” and “Palestinians” MUST be capitalized as that is the common & accepted usage. Second, you have deliberately confused Jews with Israelis. This is not acceptable. If you wish to continue posting here you will review the comment rules & adhere to them. Otherwise, you will no longer have such privileges.
You can be angry. You just can’t break the rules in doing so. Israel’s offenses don’t justify racism on yr part in describing them. Your next violation will result in further restrictions on your publishing privilege.
Obama is a politician and he will look out for the interests of our State. Perceived interests.
He will not act morally. Whatever sort of settlement is reached in the I-P conflict will not be just by any means. It will simply end the conflict (hopefully) and give both sides to grow up and apart.
The Israelis will continue feeling empowered by their dominance of ‘the other’ and the Americans will go on feeling self-righteous and narcissistic by their goodwill towards ‘the natives’.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
give = allow
Not directly related to Israel/Palestine, but since you asked for your parade to be rained on, for me the one major black spot remains Obama’s stance in the illegal surveillance affair and his abuse of the state secrets privilege, relating to the Bush administration’s misconduct. To forget the past, look to the future in this context, is asking for more of the same.
But I agree that his foreign policy performance so far is encouraging.
The big difference between this regime and the previous Bush and Clinton presidential disasters is an executive team that’s pursuing US interests exclusively. Previous cabals & interests, foreign or domestic either recognize this fact or ignore it at their peril. This is a president who exhibits no fear of corporate America or special interests.
US national security, strategic and economic interests are deeply and irrevocably entwined in the affairs of the Middle East at the precise moment the battle order to invade was uttered on 19 March 2003. Loved or hated, wanted or opposed, an Israeli/Palestinian solution is critical to the US. To be achieved it must retrain retain sufficient sovereignty to be legitimate and viable for Palestinians to accept. Those who cringe at such an outcome should have opposed the US invasion to the death instead of supporting it.
A multi-regional global order as opposed to the previous, defunct unipolar world requires different perspectives, policies and international relationships. Survival and the needs of retrenchment are forcing the US to adjust its policies and if necessary, its allies.
Richard Witty says
Obama team readying for confrontation with Netanyahu
By Aluf Benn
Tags: Palestinian, netanyahu, obama
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.
I see some ugly flies in this ointment we call “peace”. For one, it’s nice and well for Obama to attempt to appeal to the israeli people over netanyahu’s head. Problem is – netanyahu represents a substantial segment of these people. Yes, he only garnered 27 mk’s but to these we muct add the 15 of israel beiteinu and the 4 from the national union and jewish home parties for a total of 46 who can be solidly considered in the “rejectionist” camp (rejecting “2-state solution”). Doesn’t seem like a lot until we do the math for the ones we can equally solidly put in the “pro-2-state” camp. Those would be labor, meretz, hadash and the arab parties – a grand total of 28 or so (give or take a couple either way).
In terms of percentages, these add up to the following: Right wing total 40% vs left/pro-peace total of 22%.
Something is missing you say? yes, kadima with its 22.5% of the vote and 28 mk’s. And the religious parties with their 13-15% (depending who’s included) and 15+ mk’s. But kadima voters are far from unified in their views – neither olmert nor livni acted as anything other than belligerent – despite soothing words, probably accurately reflecting the confused state of their voters. So, to be fair, I’d split the voters of kadima evenly between the two camps – because that’s THE REALITY of the voter base.
So, without the religious parties I see a 50-30% split AGAINST a two-state “solution”. The caveat being that different people can mean totally different things when they say “two-state”. And my break-up is – unfortunately – a more fair representation of where the Israeli citizenry is, at least in terms of willingness to compromise ENOUGH to make peace possible. BTW, I’ll note that even including the Arab vote in the “pro-peace” category is a stretch, since they are hardly in a position to decide anything, and the “Jewish’ part of Israel could care less what the Arabs think (“Jewish” in quotes since I don’t consider most israelis to be particularly Jewish on any level that counts).
What I’m saying is that one cannot totally believe polls which say that there is a “mandate” for a two-state solution in Israel. At the very least, this mandate is rather weak, with barely a majority under the most generous scenarios (to them, not to the Palestinians). At worst, the population really did swing to the right, as I suspect is true, and as the recent elections indicated.
That being said, I also don’t think there’s a mandate AGAINST “two states’ especially because the religious vote really is a swing vote. They’ll go with whoever gives them the “goodies” they want (which is another problem altogether).
Personally I believe the israeli population as PEOPLE are in trouble – on a psychological level. The populous’ state-of-mind is simply not healthy – as the recent gaza behavior and its aftermath indicated all too well. Which is tragic – for them and for the world. nebulous promises of “peace’ will not be sufficient to alleviate their symptoms, much less cure the condition that afflicts them so. And that’s the sad truth that many of Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish friends don’t want to confront. And this may well be the category Obama is in, at least for the moment.
I do not suggest giving in to despair, of course. merely that we should temper all hope with heavy doses of reality-based outlook.
emman chehade randazzo says
Thank you Marilyn for your comments, I thought they were relevant, accurate, and honest. I didn’t see any racism in your words just the plain facts.
Richard Silverstein says
I’d venture to say that if you were Jewish or Israeli you’d have a diff. perspective. And the pt. of this blog is to make a least a minimal effort to see things, as Obama said in yesterday’s Ankara speech, from the perspective of the other. Marilyn not only doesn’t do this, she despises Israel, Israelis & apparently Jews. That is what I strenuously object to. When the “other side” does this denying the existence or rights of the Palestinians or calling them foul names, I do precisely the same thing.
While Marilyn’s not capitalizing “Jews” is poor, her comment “the dignity of the gentle, human rights jews I know in Australia” rather contradicts your charge of racism. Also, asking her to say “Israelis” rather than “Jews” in the context of her comments seems odd, as those comments don’t rightly apply to any Arab citizens of Israel, just a notable majority of Jewish ones.
By the way, I recently saw an article that I hope you might read in regard to your previous claim of racism towards a poster on your forum:
Richard Silverstein says
I have absolutely no problem with saying “Israeli Jews.” But to confuse Israeli (Jews) with Jews and say the latter when you mean the former is reprehensible.
“Jews” are not maintaining the Occupation or oppressing Palestinians. Israelis are. I am a Jew, but I am not Israeli. I don’t want to be equated with Israelis since I am not one (though clearly I identify in some ways with Israel and feel strongly about it).
I understand your personal connection to the subject, but again I contest that her comments taken in context were obviously in regard to Jews in Israel, and while overgeneralizing, not rightly racist.
Richard Silverstein says
That is simply not so. When you use the term “jew” in place of “Israeli” there is never a way in which to determine proper context. Israelis are members of a nation. “Jews” are members of a religion. If you say “jew” when you mean “Israeli” you are conflating two disparate entities & leaving yrself open to charges of anti-Semitism. And telling me you have many Jewish friends & Jews you admire doesn’t excuse or justify the original usage.
I’m sorry, but I’ve been writing this blog long enough & read enough comments which have deliberately conflated the 2 to see this any other way.
Actually Israeli Jews are oppressing Palestinians both in Israel and Palestine Richard so what is your real problem?
You are conflating the religion of Jews with the nationality of Palestinians. “Jews” live in 100 nations, Palestinians are muslims who live in 100 nation but I don’t use capitals on the word muslim as it does not define the nationality, only the brand of imaginary friend.
It is not racist on any level. I am not racist on any level and never have been and I object to that just because I didn’t use a capital letter for Jews.
Who says the people who follow that religion have to have a capital letter anyway? I don’t do it for any religion.
Your semantics are tying you up Richard. Israeli Jews are persecuting Palestinians, diaspora Jews are paying for the illegal settlements.
See, it ain’t the Palestinians persecuting and killing themselves.
Richard Silverstein says
There is a reason why there are normative linguistic rules involving such things as capitalizing religions, etc. If you ignore the rules you leave yrself open for misinterpretation, which is what happened in my case. Many people refuse to capitalize “Jew” or “Israel” or “Palestinian” or “Muslim” out of disrespect for those specific religions or nations. That is what I assumed was yr intent.
And I repeat & will never concede to anyone that using the term “jew” when describing actions of Israelis is ever acceptable & certainly not here.