Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Is Obama True Friend of Israel?
President-elect Barack H. Obama has finally broken his silence by expressing his "deep concern" about mounting civilian casualties as the carnage in Gaza has continued into the second week. He added he would have plenty more to say after he takes office on January 20, 2009.
Is Obama a true friend and a genuine ally of the state of Israel? This question was asked repeatedly during the presidential election campaign of 2008. As expected, each presidential candidate vied with the rest of the field to prove their credentials to AIPAC (American Israeli Public Affairs Committee aka the all powerful Israel lobby) by offering total and unconditional support to Israel. In fact, Obama went beyond all other candidates in this competition by declaring at an AIPAC conference, where all of the presidential hopefuls lined up to kowtow to the Israel lobby, that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided". "Let me be clear," he said, "Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive and that allows them to prosper. But any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," he added, in efforts to secure the Jewish vote. Later, Obama backtracked from his controversial statement about Jerusalem.
Let's examine seriously what it means to be a friend of Israel in practical terms. Does it mean slavishly echoing the positions of Israeli government and AIPAC without much thought? Or does it require the US to behave like a friend who tells Israel the truth, no matter how unpleasant, to help make life better for both Israel and the US in an increasingly enraged world?
Looking at the long, checkered history of America's involvement as Mid East peace broker, there have only been two American presidents who can claim any measure of tangible success: President Jimmy Carter and President George H.W. Bush, the father of the outgoing president George W. Bush. President Carter is credited with the Camp David Accord that resulted in peace between Israel and Egypt in 1970s, while President Bush Sr. initiated the Madrid Mideast Peace Conference in 1991 that led to Oslo accord in 1993. Since the mid-1990s, there has been no progress toward resolving any outstanding issues between Israelis and Palestinians. Neither Clinton nor Bush showed the kind of courage required to tell the Jewish state what they must do to reach a viable peace accord that allows both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace side by side. Their rhetoric never really matched their actions. According to reliable sources, each proposal by Clinton and Bush Jr. was first shared with Israel, and only after its modifications and approval by Israel was it presented to the Palestinians. In every major or minor dispute, the US openly and vocally sided with Israel. Both Clinton and Bush took the easy way out by heaping scorn and criticism on the Palestinians and by failing to press the Israelis to make any substantial concessions, while Israel continued to build and grow settlements on Palestinian lands as facts-on-the-ground. In fact, it would be accurate to say that things have never been as bad as they are today. The worsening Mideast situation has been a boon for Al Qaeda and Taliban recruiting and it has fueled anti-American sentiments throughout the world, particularly the Muslim world.
What is it that former presidents Carter and Bush Sr. did that has been missing lately? In the words of former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami who said in 2006 that Carter and Bush succeeded because they were "ready to confront Israel head-on and overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America." If Barack H. Obama is a true friend of Israel, he should be warning Israel about the danger of becoming an apartheid state, just as Carter has.
I suspect Obama will try and test how far he can push the Israelis to make concessions that are in their own best interest to reach durable peace in the Middle East. But he will have to deal with AIPAC, the extremely short-sighted and power-drunk Israeli lobby in America that has been the main obstacle to any real and meaningful progress toward peace in the Middle East. Ultimately, Obama will have to decide if he is willing to take the risk of becoming another one-term president, like Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush before him.
Here is a video clip of Obama addressing AIPAC, the powerful Israel lobby in US:
Here's another videoclip about Israeli bombing of American Navy Ship USS Liberty in 1967. It has been described as "cold-blooded" murder of American sailors by a paranoid Israeli military that assumed USS Liberty was spying on Israel:
The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy
USS Liberty Coverup
The Rise of Jewish Power-Nothing Short of Astounding
Jewish Tribal review
Obama's Conservative Mideast Pick
Middle East Conflict
Dennis Ross is Not the Change We Seek
Echoes of Lebanon in Gaza
Neighborhood Bully Strikes Again