Guest post by Lurker:
My good friend JoeSettler has taken Democratic US Presidential candidate Barack Obama to task for his blatantly one-sided positions on the Arab-Israeli conflict. And he is quite correct in pointing out that Obama is "bad for the Jews". There's no question about it, and I certainly don't plan on voting for him. So I'm not here to defend Obama. But I do want to dispel the naïve notion that he's any different from the alternative.
Too much attention has been focused of late on Obama's expected policies toward Israel, without giving commensurate attention to the expected policies of his Republican opponent, John McCain -- or the current policies of George W. Bush. To many people are laboring under the entirely mistaken impression that the Republicans are looking out for Israel's interests, and will continue to do so in a McCain Administration; whereas an Obama Administration, by contrast, would be an unmitigated disaster for Israel. As JoeSettler put it, "God forbid this man becomes President".
With all due respect, this is overly melodramatic and quite misleading. It implies that Obama is substantively different from McCain or Bush regarding Israel -- and that's just plain wrong.
Is Obama "bad for the Jews"? Yes. Does he plan to pressure Israel into dismantling settlements and returning to the '67 borders? Yes. Does he promote the creation of a new terror state in Yesha? Yes.
But all of these things are equally true of the Bush Administration! For all the nonsensical rhetoric coming from some GOP Jews about Bush being good for Israel, this is complete and utter nonsense, borne of hopeless cognitive dissonance. Have we forgotten Annapolis? Bush and Condi have been castigating Israel even for daring to build inside of Jerusalem -- something no previous administration has ever done. There is no substantive difference between Bush's existing mideast policy, and the policy that Obama is talking about. The only reason people pretend that any difference exists is election politics, coupled with partisan political blindness. See Caroline Glick's excellent column on this point, appropriately titled "The Obama-Bush presidency".
And for those who are unfamiliar with John McCain's positions on the mideast: His policies would be exactly the same as well. Anyone who thinks otherwise has either not been paying attention to the statements McCain has made over the past few years, or has simply chosen to pretend that McCain didn't make them. Note also that McCain has named the infamous James "F**k the Jews" Baker as his top candidate to spearhead his mideast policy. Does anyone really imagine that this could be good for Israel?!
More importantly, people need to understand this: US pressure on Israel is very highly overrated. No Israeli government ever made a territorial concession because they were "forced to" by the United States. And in the past generation, this has become even more true: The Oslo Accords were the brainchild of Shimon Peres and Yossi Beilin. When they were holding (illegal) negotiotions with the PLO in Norway for 11 months, the Clinton Administration didn't even know about it: In the summer of 1993, Oslo I was sprung on Clinton and Albright as a done deal. Likewise, when Sharon hatched his unilateral "Disengagement" Plan in 2004, the Bush Administration was actually opposed to it. Only after Sharon dispatched his personal advisor, Dov Weisglas, to Washington over a dozen times, did Bush, Powell, and Condi finally come to accept it -- and even then, they steadfastly refused Sharon's requests to subsidize the Disengagement in any way.
Has there been US pressure? Yes, in some cases. Carter pressured Begin at Camp David, and Begin gave in (partially). Clinton pressured Bibi at Wye, and Bibi capitulated. But understanding this psychological pressure as though it were a gun held to the PM's head is foolish and wrong. A strong-willed, principled leader can stand up to such pressure. And our biggest problem has nothing to do with outside pressure anyway: Most of our leaders are already frothing at the mouth to give Yesha away, of their own free will! So who cares whether the US President is also in favor or not?
The responsibility for protecting Israel's interests lies with Israel, and nobody else. That's a basic truth that Israelis -- of all political stripes -- need to internalize.
That said, it's worth noting that historically, when an ally of the US stakes out certain red lines in their foreign policy, and holds firm to them steadfastly, then the US tends to respect that position. A good example of this is Turkey, which has consistently opposed the creation of a Kurdish state, even outside of its own borders. It is widely expected that an independent Kurdistan would be a loyal US ally, and therefore a valuable asset in the mideast. In spite of this, the Bush Administration passed up the opportunity to allow the formation of such a state in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion, in deference to the demands of the Turks. If Israel had the fortitude and self-respect to stand firm on its own red lines the way Turkey does, instead of capitulating under pressure (or even without pressure), she would likely find the US far more inclined to respect those lines -- regardless of who is in the White House.
Let's stop worrying so much about Obama, and focus instead on cleaning up our own house.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד