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
Did you just call me naive?!
And you got a free flight to the NBN International Jewish Bloggers Convention!
The balance of the universe is very unsettled at the moment.
JS: And you got a free flight to the NBN International Jewish Bloggers Convention!
Cool! So how long is the flight from my neighborhood to the NBN building?
Will the helicopter be taking off from the rocket launching pad?
JS: The balance of the universe is very unsettled at the moment.
Did I say you were "melodramatic"? That might be an understatement...
Oh, I thought Jameel wrote the post when I responded.
Anyway, the difference is in the type of pressure that will be places on us.
Except for Moshe Feiglin, no PM will stand up against US pressure. But at least McCain acknowledges our basic right to security and accepts as a basic fact that Palestinian terrorism is wrong.
Obama's statements are clear that he understands and can justify Arab terror and ignore Israel's security needs (he will be the first President to do so openly as policy), and that will be the pervasive overwhelming atmosphere of his tenure.
JoeSettler: But at least McCain acknowledges our basic right to security and accepts as a basic fact that Palestinian terrorism is wrong.
(a) Obama makes statements saying the very same things. (b) Both McCain's and Obama's statements on Israel's right to secure borders, yada yada, are just rhetoric, and worth squat. In the past three years, McCain has called for the evacuation of Jewish settlements, the creation of a Palestinian state, and even for negotiations with Hamas -- something that even Obama has consistently opposed:
"They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice... but it's a new reality in the Middle East."
(Watch it here.)
JoeSettler: Obama's statements are clear that he understands and can justify Arab terror and ignore Israel's security needs (he will be the first President to do so openly as policy)...
Your distinction between McCain and Obama is completely baseless. Contrary to your assertions, Obama utters the very same pre-packaged condemnations of Palestinian terror attacks, and gives the exact same sort of lip-service regarding Israel's right to self-defense, as we get from Bush and McCain. Here's a good example:
Chicago, IL | March 06, 2008 - U.S. Senator Barack Obama released the following statement on the Jerusalem seminary attack:
"I strongly condemn this cowardly and outrageous attack. The United States must strongly support Israel's right and capability to defend itself. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families, and with the Israeli people who defeat these terrorists every single day that they go about their daily lives."
Not that this means very much, of course: It means no more and no less than it does when McCain says the exact same thing.
Your suggestion that Obama will be the first President to openly adopt a policy of ignoring Israel's security needs is, quite frankly, ridiculous. Every time George Bush or Condaleeza Rice come to Israel, they demand that Israel remove more security roadblocks, thus enabling more terrorists to travel into Israeli polulation centers unimpeded. If this is not "ignoring Israel's security needs", then I don't know what is.
Furthermore, Rice has repeatedly identified the "struggle" of the Palestinians with that of American blacks for civil rights, and has compared PLO terror kingpin Abu Mazen with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. These statements constitute an implicit defense and justification of Palestinian terror. If Obama were to say the exact same things (and to his credit, he hasn't), you would (quite rightly) accuse him of supporting terror. So why do Bush and Condi get a free pass?
I think people tend to forget the negative aspects of the Bush administration's policy towards Israel because despite all the talk they don't seem to be leading anywhere.
Whoever becomes president of the United States the fate of Israel is ultimately in the hands of the Israelis. And if they keep voting for people like Olmert thier (our) future is bleak.
ashoichet: Whoever becomes president of the United States the fate of Israel is ultimately in the hands of the Israelis. And if they keep voting for people like Olmert thier (our) future is bleak.
It's totally wrong to judge an American candidate by the effect on Israel. American presidents are for the USA, and Israel must grow out of its diapers, be self-suffiecent and take its own matters in its own hands.
(Of course, a nation founded on the unsolvable paradox that it must have it's own country because it is fundamentally different from all nations and has to have independence, yet its admitted goal is to be "am kechol haamim" - replete with porno magazines in hebrew and murder or religious people because they're religious is kinda perplexing - but that ain't our subject right now.)
But Juan Cain scares the blink out of me - an old idiot who will pander to any gangster who'd sell him his vote.
And Hussein O'bama scares me even more.
Ladies and gentlmen, either way, we're lost! Convert to Islam or commit sucide, cos it ain't gonna be funny.
As an activist for both Feiglin and (bli kesher!) Republicans Abroad Israel (and plenty other stuff; I wear a lot of hats), I agree with he last line of this post, but disagree with its implicit message, "don't bother voting in the US elections".
My argument is: Your personal vote counts for very little, but together with others', it is noticed. If 50,000 of the 250,000 expat Americans in Israel register to vote, then we are a noticeable minority, like the Jews in the US and others. Except that we Israeli Americans are much more likely to be pro-Israel, so candidates and officeholders will more likely take our opinions into consideration.
You may say this is a long shot, but it is a minuscule investment.
Like joining the Likud...
An old saying bears repeating here: "Nations don't have friends--nations have interests."
The US was not 'friendly' until Israel showed it could beat the pants off the Soviet-sponsored Syrian and Egyptian militaries -- THEN we were valued as a Cold War ally.
If, at some future date, US interests (usually defined by the State Department's resident 'who-needs-the-Jews' Arabists)dictate a cozier relationship with the Iranians, or the Saudis or Egyptians or Pakistanis, and the price of that relationship is jettisoning Israel, we'll be on our own regardless of what is being said now.
HolyCityPrayer: I agree with he last line of this post, but disagree with its implicit message, "don't bother voting in the US elections"...
I have no idea know how you managed to read such a message into my post, but I assure you that this most certainly was not my intent at all. I myself am an American, and I vote in US elections. Furthermore, I think every American ought to exercise his/her right, privilege, and obligation as an American by voting in US elections.
What I am saying in the post is that when trying to solve Israel's problems, our focus should be on choosing the right leaders here in Israel; rather than obsessing on who the US President is going to be, and how he's going to "help" or "hurt" us. If Israel has strong, resolute leaders who act in Israel's interests, then the American factor in the equation is minimal. And as long as we have terrible leaders like Olmert, Barak, and Livni, then it matters little who's sitting in the White House, anyway.
Btw, I'm a Likud member and Feiglin supporter too.
Hey Lurker, sorry for misreading and especially misrepresenting you.
Contact me offlist so we can discuss Likud stuff
gidon @ sbiisrael . com
Good post. Obama, McCain, Bush, tush--oops! It really doesn't matter, since they're all the same.
Thanks, Batya. I just now read your lyrics with the real music playing in the background, and I quite enjoyed it.
You should make a video version of it, using clips from the candidates...
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