I have been reading a flood of blogs, op-eds, articles, and comments from so-called experts that the President should not visit Israel or the Middle East, and furthermore should not even attempt to seek peace in the region. One article indicated that he was rightly distrusted in Israel and he could only do harm to Israel’s interests. It did not mention in any way the billions of dollars that America supplies Israel, and its critical cooperation on defense and intelligence matters that Obama has initiated.
The other opposition has come from the American right wing neo-cons, who got us into the needless and tragic Iraq war, and now have decided that war with Iran is somehow desirable and even seek, in some cases an American pre-emptive strike.
Most recently, the Israeli election, which cut some support for Netanyahu, nevertheless just returned a shaky coalition “right-center,” but really is still antagonistic towards any accommodating effort to make the peace negotiations active and productive. The new government is still in the hands of the far right and includes belligerent and hostile forces towards a peace treaty and the two-state solution. Even worse, with Netanyahu in the lead, Israel is spreading illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and even more disastrously in the Arab East Jerusalem area, which is an attempt to brutally remove the Arab population from their homes and to make a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both states near impossible.
This policy is a unilateral declaration of a never-ending and on going war by Israel. It means long-term suppression of the Arab population. The bitterness and hate that this self-defeating policy will wrought can only heighten hate and conflict with Israel, that will likely end Israel as a democratic, secure, and respected nation.
It is also clear that the Palestinians need to get their own act together and seek ways, with Obama and Secretary Kerry, to make the agreed “road map” with their own necessary compromises that ensure a balanced and mutually secure outcome. But, America needs to be a true trusted interlocutor between the two parties and neither “hands off,” nor advocate for either side alone, but for a durable peace.
This perspective is reflected by a long line of Shin Bet (Israeli security service) heads in the recent Israeli documentary film “Gatekeepers,” which I saw this weekend. This film should be seen by every American and every Israeli, as it is clear that these men who devoted their lives to Israel’s security, believe that the very soul of Israel is threatened, as is their security by the existing extreme politics of brutality that Israel now exercises against the Palestinian population.
Why one can ask, since a peace treaty along the lines has long been understood to be fair, would provide security and prosperity for all sides in a region that has and will become more and more dangerous to the security of Israel. It is madness that only is equal to the madness of the American Republican right wing that also seems to think war is the desired rather than the worst possible option.
Obama’s visit may at least continue a dialogue not only with the Israeli leadership, but may also help to reach out directly to Israeli citizens who now wrongly hold negative feelings towards Obama, falsely ginned up by Netanyahu and his far right collaborators. America under Obama is not an “enemy,” and indeed America often still is the only nation that has defended Israel, even when it should not be defended for some of its policies. The time has come to have a frank talk about peace in the Middle East. We need to discuss the implications for that relationship should Israel continue a set of policies that hurt Israel itself and are antithetical to finding a fair peace and to American values and goals. Obama’s real job is to make this case to the Israeli people.
We will be reviewing in this blog the outcome of Obama’s visit to the Middle East and we’ll look at what next steps might be possible.
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