Obama at AIPAC: Words, Just Words

by Heather Robinson

Barack Obama just delivered his requisite pro-Israel speech to delegates of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the annual policy conference, an important moment on the cusp of his ascension as the Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

Senator Obama certainly cleaned up his act since last year, when he displayed extreme insensitivity to the horrors of terrorism faced by generations of Israelis, comparing the dangers of terrorism to the dangers of “cynicism.”

Today he made a series of statements to the effect that Israel’s security is “sacrosanct.” He also made the surprising statement (coming from him) that “Jerusalem should be the undivided capital” of Israel.

But his argument that Israel is less safe than it was seven years ago is problematic, to say the least. The simple fact is, far fewer Israelis are dying in the past several years than were dying in the midst, and in the wake, of Bill Clinton’s efforts at “peacemaking.”

Credit should go to Ariel Sharon and to some extent, George Bush, who had the wisdom to cease pressuring Israel to endlessly concede in the face of terror and rather, supported Israel’s right to deal with its own enemies in its own way.

What concerns me in the prospect of an Obama presidency is the likelihood of more of this doubletalk: the idea that it is “pro-Israel” to pressure Israel to make concessions to unreasonable, brutal enemies. That Mr. Obama would be likely to do so strikes me as a strong possibility, especially given his comments about cynicism/terrorism. He just doesn’t seem to grasp the extent of the evil here.

Realists know that extremists on the Arab side–terrorists and the states that support them–are the principal obstacle to peace in the middle east (that is not to say all Palestinians and Arabs are the problem). I am convinced that any leader who fails to recognize the basic reality, however, cannot achieve even a temporary peace.

It is one thing to support Israel in negotiating when Israeli leaders initiate such efforts because they believe them to hold promise. It is quite another to pressure and attempt to superimpose a “peace” agreement when Israel has no reasonable partner. We saw the fruit of that type of “pro-Israel” posture with Oslo and the bloodbath that accompanied it.

But Obama’s point that Israel is less safe now from Iran than it was seven years ago is true, unfortunately. It’s just hard to believe that a man whose middle east policy advisor blames “New York” and “Miami” for the problems in the middle east is the one who can defeat this cancer.

This entry was written by and posted on June 4, 2008 at 12:40 pm and filed under Blog. permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Keywords: , . Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL. */?>