Daily Alert

16 May 2008

Two Campaigns, Two Candidates, One Israel

Israelinsider.com reviews a quote from Jeffrey Goldberg's interview with Barry H. Obama. This interview was spun earlier in the week as an example of how Obama is really a good friend of Israel and in this way is no different than his competitors for the Presidency. Taken out of context, some of the quotes aren't bad. Taken in context, that is, with respect to Obama's associations, one can begin to see a picture of someone not fully prepared to be Commander in Chief. Sure, most of the words are pleasing, albeit reflective of leftist and conventional wisdom dogma, but is it possible that Obama went off script when it comes to the reference from Israelinsider.com, or is this part a reflection of his advisor's points of view? I contend, that it is impossible for both versions of the Obama POV below to co-exist, at least in a thoughtful, educated person. One cannot on one hand say

"The point is, if you look at my writings and my history, my commitment to Israel and the Jewish people is more than skin-deep and it’s more than political expediency."
and then say
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?

BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

On one hand Obama wants the reader to hear how his commitment to Israel is "more than political expediency" and on the other he believes that it is Israel's fault for the "inexcusable actions" faced by America in the Middle East. This is a truth test. Those who actually understand the Middle East to the extent possible that is, realize that Israel is merely a convenient target for arabians and fascist Islam.

The premise of the Obama thought process is that Israel is the reason for regional strife. It is a funny thing to say with approximately 150,000 US combat forces in Iraq today. It is funny to say when Ahmadinejad's drive to achieve nuclear weapons threatens American power in the region. It is a funny thing to say when much cold war thought was given to how to prevent a Soviet southern strategy to achieve a warm water port through Iran. It is a funny thing to say when oil supplies through a dangerously unstable Middle East can make the difference between healthy economic growth and worldwide depression (nevermind Islamic imperialism). All of these, of course hinge on Israel. To believe that Israel is what shakes up the region and is the cause of what makes or breaks these dynamics is warped thinking and an indication of what sort of non-sense Obama is being fed by his advisors.

What was missing from the Obama interview is what we heard from President Bush this week during his tour of Israel.
Speaking of the "promise of God" for a "homeland for the chosen people" in Israel, Bush told the Israeli parliament after a visit to the Roman-era Jewish fortress at Masada: "Masada shall never fall again, and America will always stand with you."

He predicted the defeat of Islamist enemies Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda in a "battle of good and evil".

Letting Iran have nuclear weapons would be an "unforgivable betrayal of future generations", he said. By comparing talking with such foes to appeasement of Hitler, he sparked a debate at home among those campaigning to succeed him as president.

Bush described the "bonds of the Book" -- faith in the Bible shared by Christians like himself and Jews -- as bolstering an "unbreakable" alliance between Israel and the United States. Al Reuters coverage

It is such talk which is why I can say that while President Bush has made historic jumps in prose talking about a Pali state and such, meanwhile nothing has really happened to advance that "goal". President Bush believes that the Jews and Israel are part of a Biblical covenant. It is this such commitment that permits me to believe Bush and not believe Obama. BO had every chance in the Goldberg interview to demonstrate that Israel is different. Obama's comments focus mostly upon Holocaust imagery, sympathy, yearning to go home, history uprooted, carving out democracy, re-birth, etc. Nowhere does he point out that he believes that Israel and the Jewish people have a Divine covenantal relationship with the land. Maybe, unlike Obama's stipulation in the interview that the Jewish community "suspicions" about him have to do with the endorsement he received from Hamas leadership, rather the "suspicions" have to do with a presidential candidate who thinks that Israel is just another political issue, one for which, expert advisors will tell him what to think and say.

Meanwhile, leftie James Rubin in the Washington Post recalls that John McCain told him in an interview in 2005 that Hamas, now the ruling party in Hamastan formally known as the PA, must be dealt with:
I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "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, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."


I don't know what got into McCain when he said this in 2005. While only McCain can define "dealt with", I am taken aback by this comment. It isn't consistent with McCain's history with Israel which to the best of my recollection is pretty good. At the very least, the comments do not include the talking points tossed around by others such as Hillary and Obama that Hamas must fundamentally change its beliefs in order to be a partner. That’s right; Hamas must stop being Hamas but in name only to be a partner. Such liberal malarkey is characteristic of people for whom a belief is subject to the direction of the wind.



Obama: Israel is a "constant sore" that "infects all of our foreign policy"

By Israel Insider staff May 14, 2008

Barack Obama, interviewed in The Atlantic (complete interview) describes Israel as a "constant wound... a constant sore..." that serves to "infect all of our foreign policy." Jeffrey Goldberg asked him: "Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?" His answer:

"No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically."

Obama partisans claim that the Democratic frontrunner was referring to the Middle East conflict. But the antecedent to "this constant wound, that this constant sore" in the question is "Israel."

Rep. John Boehner, House Republican leader, suggested that the statement belies Obama's claims of friendship for Israel. "These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel," Boehner said in a statement.

But other Republicans criticized Boehner: U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, called Boehner's assertion "dishonest" and "desperate" in his own statement: "This absurd parsing would be laughable if it wasn't so sad to see the U.S.-Israel relationship used as a political wedge instead of a cause to unite all Americans around a common purpose," Wexler said.

In his interview Obama continues, harping on his opposition to Israel "settlement" policies, and saying that true friends of Israel should be critical of its policies: "I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on the peace process, then we're going to be stuck in the same status quo that we've been stuck in for decades now, and that won't lift that existential dread that David Grossman described in your article."

"The notion that a vibrant, successful society with incredible economic growth and incredible cultural vitality is still plagued by this notion that this could all end at any moment -- you know, I don't know what that feels like, but I can use my imagination to understand it. I would not want to raise my children in those circumstances. I want to make sure that the people of Israel, when they kiss their kids and put them on that bus, feel at least no more existential dread than any parent does whenever their kids leave their sight. So that then becomes the question: is settlement policy conducive to relieving that over the long term, or is it just making the situation worse? That's the question that has to be asked."


Hypocrisy on Hamas
McCain Was for Talking Before He Was Against It


By James P. Rubin
Friday, May 16, 2008; A19

If the recent exchanges between President Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain on Hamas and terrorism are a preview of the general election, we are in for an ugly six months. Despite his reputation in the media as a charming maverick, McCain has shown that he is also happy to use Nixon-style dirty campaign tactics. By charging recently that Hamas is rooting for an Obama victory, McCain tried to use guilt by association to suggest that Obama is weak on national security and won't stand up to terrorist organizations, or that, as Richard Nixon might have put it, Obama is soft on Israel.

President Bush picked up this theme yesterday. Without naming Obama during his speech last night to Israel's Knesset, Bush suggested that Democrats want to "negotiate with terrorists" while Republicans want to fight terrorists.

The Obama campaign was right to criticize the president for his remarks and for engaging in partisan politics while overseas. Many presidents have said things abroad that could be construed as violating this unwritten rule of American politics. But it is hard to remember any president abusing the prestige of his office in as crude a way as Bush did yesterday. Charging your opponents with appeasement and likening them to Neville Chamberlain in the Knesset is a brutal blow. It is bad enough that Republicans use the politics of personal destruction here at home, but to deploy that kind of political weapon at an occasion as solemn as an American president addressing the parliament of a friendly government marks a new low.

McCain, meanwhile, is guilty of hypocrisy. I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and believe that she was right to say, about McCain's statement on Hamas, "I don't think that anybody should take that seriously." Unfortunately, the Republicans know that some people will. That's why they say such things.

But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:

I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "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, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that's a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today.

Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.

The writer, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, was an assistant secretary of state and the State Department's chief spokesman during the Clinton administration.


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