26 February 2008

26 February 2007 - Obama gives the game away

It's been a while since I posted--I've been in South Africa, where wireless Internet access is somewhat scarce. The trip was quite fascinating, and perhaps deserves a post all its own.

Returning to the U.S. presidential election, Ha'aretz has been following up questions about Barack Obama's stance on Israel. Shmuel Rosner tracked down Harvard's Samantha Power (no mean feat), who advises Obama on foreign policy issues. Power seemed to back away from remarks unearthed by Noah Pollak (no relation) suggesting that the U.S. invade Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Obama, however, in a recent remark about Israeli politics: "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel."

Rosner notes the implication here: that Obama's support for Israel is conditional. He is perhaps too polite to observe that Obama is also buying into the Walt-Mearsheimer image of the "Israel lobby." I know some right-wing, pro-Likud Americans who would describe a pro-Labor or pro-Kadima presidential candidate as "bad for Israel," but I know of none that would dismiss such a candidate out of hand as "anti-Israel."

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Obama keeps having to explain his position on Israel to the Jewish community. He recently backed away from his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the anti-Israel, pro-Farrakhan views of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, whom he said "is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with."

However, he refuses to break his ties with Wright. That, more than any smear campaign doing the rounds, is why people continue to worry about Obama's stance.

The only defense Obama has available to him is that Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race, partly because the rest of the candidates, in his view, are too pro-Israel, including Obama: "He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois... Now he's supporting (right-wing Israeli policies that thwart progress toward peace in the Middle East)," Nader says.

Anxiety over Obama's support for Israel is one of the reasons that Jewish expatriates who vote Democratic support Clinton over Obama, bucking the general trend. McCain would be a clearer and better choice, but it may be that few Jewish voters are yet willing to break the psychological barrier that prevents the community from adopting a truly independent and potent political posture.


At 8:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is no mere psychological barrier that prevents the American Jewish community from being a potent political force but a century of political habit which finds the community fundamentally divided along American political party lines with the latter far more weightier for American Jewish political behavior than developing a conscientious united stance for communal and global Jewish self interest..and this even after the Holocaust. South African Jewry was uniquely "tribal" in its identity both with reference to its largely common origin and its enviornment; American Jewry promulgates "pluralism" and the sanctity of individual choice above all, especially in the ballot box, which only just arrived in Azania. Florida congressman Robert Wexler recently offered a vigorous defense of Obama in the J.Post. To the charge of not being willing to divorce his pastor, the rhetort was that Pastor Wright was cleared of antisemitism by the ADL; It is denied that Brezinski is an Obama adviser. Just because all these Harvard academics support Obama does not mean that their views are Obama's and are going to be the basis of his policy. The point of Rosner's piece was that Power who is Obama's main advisor is saying that the Palestinians and Israelis should basically be left to work things out between themselves. The only reason Israel can be pressured from the outside is that certain dovish Israelis themselves promote this idea of pressure knowing they cannot get their ideas to prevail in the Israeli political arena on their merits. In point of fact, if an Israeli government today said no thank you to an American reassessment or a pressure move as was used against Shamir in the early 90's, both France and Russia would step right in to upgrade their relatations with the Jewish state. The main thing to remember is that as long as clear cut answers to questions concerning Israel's survival in the face of threatened annhilation are not forthcoming from certain political candidates and large swathes of the American body politic, Israel has to be ready to act on its own interest. Ariel Sharon, who did an about face on the Settlement Project knew it would be better to take on the Iranian/Shiite threat with the Western alliance which is why he did his about face. But it is not at all certain how well all the allies will deliver. McCain right now has a slight lead in the polls over Obama, but one can readily envision a scenario where clever Iranian mullahs mislead an idealistic President Obama even as they put the finishing touches on a nuclear bomb to destroy Israel. For this reason alone McCain will get more Jewish votes than most Republican presidential candidates.

At 11:51 AM, Blogger conefor4200 said...

McCain must restore the honor to the American leadership.

Israel must be proud of the American connection, but also humble to deserve it.

No more attraction to medieval Judaism. Develop the modern Zionism of Herzl, Ahad Haam...

No more Netanyahus.

Israel and USA must be united.

The Palestinians must cut the ties to Iran, and build a civil society to be a partner to peace.

Obama must hide from shame to be the most idiotic candidate in the history of America.


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