Opinion

The Great Debate

Obama, J Street, and Middle East peace

By Bernd Debusmann
October 30, 2009

Bernd Debusmann– Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own –

Message to Israelis disgruntled with President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies: you’ve got used to U.S. presidents pouring affection on you. Forget that. Obama is not “a lovey-dovey kind of guy”.

That assessment came from an old Middle East hand, former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, in an exchange in the closing minutes of the inaugural national conference of J Street, a new pro-Israel lobby for the liberal majority of American Jews (78 percent voted for Obama) who do not feel represented by traditional pro-Israel advocacy groups, chief of them the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The conference, in the words of J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami, marked “the birth of a movement, a coming-out party for those who want to widen the tent and are not stuck in the mindset that because we are pro-Israel, we must be anti- somebody else”.

Now director of the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, Indyk was on a panel entitled “Why Two States? Why Now?” He responded to a question from the audience on the advisability of American presidents getting personally involved in Middle East peace-making. They shouldn’t get involved in procedural detail, he said, but for Obama it would be “really important” to go to Israel. Why?

His approval rating, according to Israeli polls, hovers around five percent, a sharp contrast to the 88 percent drawn by George W. Bush, a man thoroughly disliked almost everywhere else. The majority of Israelis think Obama is pro-Palestinian and see his visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as evidence that he wants to distance himself from Israel and curry favour with the Arabs. Unless he can dispel that public perception, the Israeli government is unlikely to make concessions.

Without major concessions, both from the Israelis and the Palestinians, there is no chance that Obama will succeed where other American presidents have failed. As far as concessions from Israel are concerned, J Street expects to help the Obama administration convince Congress that questioning Israeli policies is not tantamount to being anti-Israel.

Thanks largely to the enormous influence of AIPAC, which calls itself “America’s pro-Israel lobby,” criticism of Israel has been rare in Congress; debate of U.S. policies towards the largest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid even rarer. In a controversial 2006 essay, two prominent political scientists, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, concluded that AIPAC had a “stranglehold” on Congress.

It’s too early to tell whether this will change, now that there is another lobby that calls itself pro-Israel but does not shy away from questioning Israeli policies. J Street reacted to last December’s Israeli attack on Gaza by criticising Hamas for raining rockets on Israeli civilians and Israel for punishing 1.5 million Gazans for the actions of extremists.

OUT OF TOUCH?
That stand drew furious responses both from the political right and the center. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the president of the Union of Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish religious organisation in America, called J Street’s position “morally deficient” and “profoundly out of touch with Jewish sentiment”.

On the right, the Gaza statement transformed J Street into an anti-Israeli, pro-Hamas organisation. One right-wing blogger called the group’s conference, in the last week of October, an “anti-Israel hate fest”.

(J Street, by the way, takes its name from a gap in the Washington street grid. There’s an I Street and a K Street, home to most lobby firms in the capital, but no J Street. Missing street, missing voice).

Despite his disagreement with J Street over Gaza, Yoffie attended the conference and took part in a debate over what it means to be pro-Israel. There was agreement on a theme that ran through much of the meeting –  Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank make it impossible to establish a Palestinian state. Time is running out for a two-state solution. The alternative is worse.

That would be living together in one country in which Jews would be outnumbered (Palestinian birth rates are higher) and faced with the choice of abandoning democracy by exerting apartheid-style minority rule or giving up the idea of Israel as a homeland for all Jews.

The establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, a cornerstone of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, has been reluctantly embraced by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but prospects look very bleak for soon resuming the peace talks that stalled last December.

Still, the mood at J Street was upbeat. One of the reasons: an attendance that convincingly ended arguments whether there was an appetite for a left-wing organisation that shuns the reflexive Israel-right-or-wrong attitude of the established lobbies.

“We planned for 1,000 delegates and when I first mentioned this figure, my staff thought I needed psychiatric treatment,” Ben-Ami said. “We got 1,500.” The under-estimate made for conference rooms so tightly packed that many delegates had to sit on floors and debates were frequently simulcast to spillover rooms.

A second reason for high spirits: Obama’s decision to send his National Security Advisor, James Jones, to make the keynote speech. It broke no new ground but ended with a promise that the Obama administration would be represented at all future J Street conferences.

What better sign that the neophyte group has arrived as a serious participant in the foreign policy debate?

(You can contact the author at Debusmann@reuters.com)

Comments
86 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

The Palestinians have already conceded enough, Mr. Debusmann. They have been forced to relinquish their rights to land, water, housing, airspace, freedom of movement, dignity and just about everything else you can think of. What more can they possibly concede to the occupier?

The problem with Martin Indyk and AIPAC is that they’re still determined to maintain this stranglehold by portraying both sides as equal in terms of strength. Anyone with a scant understanding of this conflict will see there’s a gross imbalance of power that exists between Israelis and Palestinians.

If the refusniks are able to see, then what exactly is preventing pro-Israeli groups in the US from doing so as well? Besides, Israel’s abysmal treatment of the Palestinians over the last 61 years has led even the most ardent Zionists to question whether the Jewish State has lost its moral compass.

Posted by Nu'man El-Bakri | Report as abusive
 

I have always heard that the reason the District of Columbia city planners designated no J St was because that was the company commanded by Benedict Arnold

How appropriate !!

Posted by Elliott Dickler | Report as abusive
 

On the other side Israelis not willing to compromise now should meditate about the fact that for each new president it is politically increasingly difficult to be sympathetic to Israel, and increasingly easy to be sympathetic to palestinians.

Posted by Albert | Report as abusive
 

Ben-Ami has been passing out propaganda statements that are more disingenuous than true.This is a group formed with Soros money to undermine the existence of Israel,
imperiling the Jewish People.It is to usurp AIPAC, however, its goals are far different.AIPAC does not formulate a policy and try to impose it unto the Administration and Congress. That is the intent of J Street.No less than 17 speakers canceled once they discovered the true anti-Israel agenda. Martin Indyk is simply trying to keep some kind of position to be a player.
James Jones is known to be highly anti-Israel.So, the fact, that he would attend a Soros supported event is not a surprise.
It is no longer in doubt that Obama’s administration is the most anti-Semitic, anti-Israel administration in American History. J Street has been discredited throughout the U.S. Jewish Community just as Obama has lost a huge amount of the original 78% of the Jewish Community that voted for him.Many view the Emanuel brothers as subversive to the US and the Jews.Have no doubt but that they are an embarrassment.

Posted by Carol | Report as abusive
 

The naming loss of J Street was actually featured in an episode of NCIS. The symbol for I and J in Old English was so similar people kept getting lost on the streets, so the city planners just did away with the J. A marvelously practical solution for D.C. Amazing, yes?

=+Bob D.

Posted by Bob D | Report as abusive
 

What a great organization, J-Street.

So we have an anti-Israeli gov’t group here in the US, where do I find an anti-US gov’t group here in the US?

Problem with AIPAC is now there campaign contributions are so small compared to Banks/Oil companies that they have lost their voice and their ability to buy off politicians on either side of the aisle.

You want to get this gov’t to do something for you? Be ready to spend, that’s how you get the TARP’s and stimulus funds going in your favor.

Posted by Michael Ham | Report as abusive
 

The Israelis have already conceded enough, Mr. Debusmann. They have been forced to relinquish their rights to land, water, housing, airspace, freedom of movement, dignity and just about everything else you can think of in Gaza. What more can they possibly concede to the war-monger?

The Palestinians abysmal treatment of the Israelis over the last 61 years has led even the most ardent Hamas to question whether the Arab confederacy has ever possessed a moral compass.

Posted by Dave | Report as abusive
 

President Obama is attempting to bring balance to our relations in the Middle East and the Israeli public apparently are rejecting our support. Israel apparently believes that because they hate Palestinians, that the US is obligated to hate Palestinians also. But it just isn’t so for the majority of Americans. President Obama and the American majority want to see peaceful cooperation with all members of the International Community. Why should Israel get the most aid and support from the USA? Of course the Middle East hates us…look at the incredibly lopsided support the USA has been giving Israel all these years. Naturally, deep resentment has built up with the Palestinians and other Middle Eastern peoples. Israel is armed with American weapons…and of course fear and mistrust have been building for years. The problems in the Middle East will never be solved until the World community sees the situation for what it is in fact and breaks through its denial.

Posted by John Doe | Report as abusive
 

How ironic: Obama is waging wars against two Muslim countries, killing many Muslims daily, twisting Iran’s arm to give up its rights to nuclear power, and making no serious demands on Israel to end the illegal and immoral occupation or the barbaric siege of Gaza. Yet, that is just not enough for Israelis. That pariah nation would do itself and the world a favor if it replaced its 20th century paranoid worldview with a 21st century one and recognize that it–and its nuclear arsenal–is the greatest threat to peace in the world today. The US would not have invaded Iraq were it not for Israel, and now Israel is pushing for another bloody war with Iran. Meanwhile, it blockades Gaza and prevents 1.5 million Palestinians from receiving food, water, and medicine. This is a modern-day holocaust, and Israel is a nation run by war criminals.

Posted by Donna | Report as abusive
 

While some Israeli actions have served US interests, the balance sheet is clear: Israel’s use of American aid consistently damages the United States, harms our economy, and endangers Americans.

In fact, this extremely negative outcome was so predictable that even before Israel’s creation virtually all State Department and Pentagon experts advocated forcefully against supporting the creation of a Zionist state in the Middle East. President Harry Truman’s reply: “I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

Through the years, our aid to Israel has not resulted in a reliable ally.

In 1954 Israel tried to bomb US government offices in Egypt, intending to pin this on Muslims.

In 1963 Senator William Fulbright discovered that Israel was using a series of covert operations to funnel our money to pro-Israel groups in the US, which then used these funds in media campaigns and lobbying to procure even more money from American taxpayers.

In 1967 Israeli forces unleashed a two-hour air and sea attack against the USS Liberty, causing 200 casualties. While Israel partisans claim that this was done in error, this claim is belied by extensive eyewitness evidence and by an independent commission reporting on Capitol Hill in 2003 chaired by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Thomas Moorer.

In 1973 Israel used the largest airlift of US materiel in history to defeat Arab forces attempting to regain their own land, triggering the Arab oil embargo that sent the US into a recession that cost thousands of Americans their jobs.

During its 1980s Lebanon invasion, Israeli troops engaged in a systematic pattern of harassment of US forces brought in as peacekeepers that created, according to Commandant of Marines Gen. R. H Barrow, “life-threatening situations, replete with verbal degradation of the officers, their uniform and country.”

Through the years, Israel has regularly spied on the US. According to the Government Accounting Office, Israel “conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the United States of any ally.” Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard: “It is difficult for me to conceive of greater harm done to national security,” And the Pollard case was just the tip of a very large iceberg; the most recent operation coming to light involves two senior officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel’s powerful American lobbying organization.

Bad as the above may appear, it pales next to the indirect damage to Americans caused by our aid to Israel. American funding of Israel’s egregious violations of Palestinian human rights is consistently listed as the number one cause of hostility to Americans.

While American media regularly cover up Israeli actions, those of us who have visited the region first-hand witness a level of US-funded Israeli cruelty that makes us weep for our victims and fear for our country. While most Americans are uninformed on how Israel uses our money, people throughout the world are deeply aware that it is Americans who are funding Israeli crimes.

The 9/11 Commission notes that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s “animus towards the United States stemmed from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel.” The Economist reports that ” the notion of payback for injustices suffered by the Palestinians is perhaps the most powerfully recurrent theme in bin Laden’s speeches.”

US aid to Israel has destabilized the Middle East; propped up a national system based on ethnic and religious discrimination; enabled unchecked aggression that has, on occasion, been turned against Americans themselves; funded arms industries that compete with American companies; supported a pattern of brutal dispossession that has created hatred of the US; and resulted in continuing conflict that in the past seven and a half years has cost the lives of more than 2000 Palestinian children and 119 Israeli children.

By providing massive funding to Israel, no matter what it does, American aid is empowering Israeli supremacists who believe in a never-ending campaign of ethnic cleansing; while disempowering Israelis who recognize that policies of morality, justice, and rationality are the only road to peace.

Posted by Alison Weir | Report as abusive
 

Israel and AIPAC is the stranglehold on American foreign relations. It takes money, military aide, directs foreign policy and the word is getting to the population around the control they have over media presentations. Bob Simon’s video on 60 minutes and Jon Stewart’s interview this week with Anna Baltzer show that there is a moral fiber in the Jewish people that transcends the immoral oppression of the Palestinians.
Obama doesn’t want peace. That was politician talk. His first decision was to pick Rahm Emmanuel who served the Israeli military – not the US. Obama already declared Jeruselum the capital of Israel as the goal before the knesset. Stop money and military aide to Israel now! It’s destroying the US. Schumer, Lieberman, Biden and the rest don’t see the forest through the trees. The

Posted by Johnny B | Report as abusive
 

President Obama is attempting to bring balance to our relations in the Middle East and the Israeli public apparently are rejecting our support. Israel apparently believes that because they hate Palestinians, that the US is obligated to hate Palestinians also. But it just isn\’t so for the majority of Americans. President Obama and the American majority want to see peaceful cooperation with all members of the International Community. Why should Israel get the most aid and support from the USA? Of course the Middle East hates us…look at the incredibly lopsided support the USA has been giving Israel all these years. Naturally, deep resentment has built up with the Palestinians and other Middle Eastern peoples. Israel is armed with American weapons…and of course fear and mistrust have been building for years. The problems in the Middle East will never be solved until the World community sees the situation for what it is in fact and breaks through its denial.

Posted by John Doe | Report as abusive
 

Please give me a BREAK! The Israeli government has no intention of dealing honestly with the Palestinians. Israel will never deal with the Palestinians until the USA no longer needs Middle East oil. Once that happens, Israel will be left to sink or swim on its own. That gives the state of Israel about 25 years, more or less before it must come to grips with the way it has treated the Palestinians since 1948. My guess is the Arab world will have little incentive to practice diplomacy with the Israelis from that point on. Were the Israelis to remove their current practices and deal with the rising population of Palestinians in a more egalitarian manor, possibly in 15 years or so, there MIGHT be enough good will available to Israel, that the Jews wouldn’t be pushed into the sea. I doubt that there is yet the incentive for such actions. It’s a shame that the Israelis have used the enmity and violence perpetrated against them to do the same, if not worse, to the Palestinians.
Oh, those desert religions and the “tangled web they weave as first they practice to decieve”.

Posted by Dirk | Report as abusive
 

Obama won’t be the first President that was unable to get Israelis and Palestinians to kiss and make up.

Maybe we’ll see some new ideas out of J Street but the whole world has strained over this problem for 40 years. One would think the begining would be a 20 year cease fire, let everyone age and cool off. Remove old barriers in 4 year increments if the cease fire sticks.

Both sides resort too quickly to violence.

So Good Luck J Street, glad its not my job.

 

The amazing thing is the huge percentages of Jews and Catholics who voted for this anti-family, leftist, radical pro-abortion indecisive moron. This is the guy who is so indecisive, that 60% of his time in the senate, he voted “present”. Anyone who was not too lazy to check his voting record knew he would be bad for the economy and future of America. Now the Jews can see he isn’t the messiah. lol. Maybe its not too late, since most of the people who wanted to make history will not come out to vote in the upcoming senate and governor’s races.

Posted by Loredozane | Report as abusive
 

I don’t understand why there are so may LEFT WING Jews. Reportedly 88% voted for Hope & Change, I wonder how that working out for them.

Posted by lel2007 | Report as abusive
 

Where’s the compromise point between total destruction of the Jewish state and a Palestinian state? Do we suppose America will defend Taiwan from communist Chine? Gird your loin Israel, don’t look to obama, you stand alone, very alone.

Posted by lel2007 | Report as abusive
 

This is a question for American taxpayers: Do you think it’s a good thing that your government has been spending around $350,000 every single hour on aid to Israel since 1985? This is a number extrapolated from a figure given by the Congressional Research Service: about $3 billion a year. In which way have you, the American taxpayer, benefited from this spending? Why is Israel, which has fewer people that New York City, the biggest recipient of U.S. economic and military aid?

Posted by Arshad | Report as abusive
 

Israelis and American Jews need to get a clue. Historically, anyone in the US who so much as questions Israeli actions in the mid-east is immediately branded an anti-semite. The Jews and their stranglehold on the US Congress are doing nothing to promote peace. Any US President or member of congress who does not cow-tow to the Israeli agenda is also blacklisted.
As China, Russia, India and Brazil continue to increase economically and in importance in the world, the Israelis and American Jews need to realize that their days of unconditional protection from the USA are waning. I doubt any of those countries, nor the rest of the world will be so sympathetic to the Israeli point of view. There is nobody in the world, other than the extreme right wing in the US, who buys into the “Israel is the victim” thinking. Israel needs to strike while the iron is hot and make peace with the Palestinians. The window of opportunity is closing, the US will not be able to protect Israel forever.

 

“Historically, anyone in the US who so much as questions Israeli actions in the mid-east is immediately branded an anti-semite.”

A fair point. But then you go and say:

“The Jews and their stranglehold on the US Congress are doing nothing to promote peace. Any US President or member of congress who does not cow-tow to the Israeli agenda is also blacklisted.”

So what you are essentially saying is that you believe the Jews control congress, and the presidential elections of America.

How isn’t that anti-semitic?

Posted by Haha | Report as abusive
 

The peace process in the middle east is simply based on practicality.

For over fifty years, the Arab nations have refused to accept Israel’s right to exist. And multiple times, they have attempted to defeat Israel by force of arms. Each time, Israel has gained territory. And each time the Arab nations attempted to reverse this by force, they lost even more land the next time round.

Now what they experience is gambler’s remorse. The Palestinians have almost nothing, and vainly want to turn back the clock before they gambled it away.

Egypt saw the light decades ago. They exchanged peace for land, leading to diplomatic relations with the West that have lasted.

The other Arab nations, however, have simply seen concessions as an indicator that violence works. And have ruined the process. The release of East Lebenon immediately led to the establishment of Hezbollah. The release of Gaza led to the establishment of Hamas.

Israel has learnt the hard way that making land concessions no longer works. Because it assumes the other side is operating on good faith. And they don’t.

Now Israel has learnt that peace is something it will need to create unilaterally. It will draw it’s own borders, control it’s own borders. And will respond to attempts to provoke it.

The Lebenon and Gaza wars are perfect examples. Through overwhelming defensive operations, Israel has succeeded in stopping rockets where diplomacy and concessions failed.

During Cast Lead, where was Hezbolla? Considering the ‘divine victory’ they had against Israel in Lebenon, you would have thought they would help their fellow terrorists in Gaza. No such luck.

It is becoming obvious how the peace process will soon end. Israel will simply give an ultimatum.

“Accept the settlements and current borders. Be happy with what is left. Otherwise Israel will simply keep the status quo, which suits it fine, and will respond to any military provocation by terror groups.”

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Let’s see if I get have this right. Sixty years ago the Zionists took over Palestinian homelands and renamed them Israel. Then for the next sixty years, the United States supplies the new Israel with money, the very latest in arms, training and support so that the Zionists could/can maintain exclusive control and rights to the confiscated country…now enforced by one of the most lethal fighting forces in the world.
Meanwhile, while all this is going on, the evil Palestinians feebly fight back to reclaim their commandeered homeland with children fighting back with any rocks they can find from their destroyed towns and with a few homemade small rockets, I shall call junkets, they manage to cobble together. The rocks and junkets albeit are to no avail and totally ineffective.
The Zionists, meanwhile being experts at banking, trade, war and propaganda convence the world that they have been ruthlessly and constantly attacked by the treacherous Arabs to the east and therefore there will be no peace in their country until all Palestinians are out of Israel home lands.
I wonder, am I the only one that sees the in-equality in this picture? Do the Zionists expect the Palestinians to just lay down and accept the raw deal handed them by Israel and America? I think not.
Maybe, just maybe, President Barack Obama sees the in-equality in all this as well.

Posted by Jack Haesly | Report as abusive
 

It is great to see J Street, this article, these comments and this debate. The Non-Jew has not yet spoken in a significant way. He has been dormant and passive up to now, however he is involved in two wars and an unprecedented national debt due to the mismanagement of Middle East Policy.
How do you create a popular movement to redefine Middle East policy without waking the anti-Semitic monster? Here is where J Street can help – by becoming proactive from within the Jewish community to revise policy from pro-Zionist to a pro-balanced policy. By taking the initiative the Jews could both solve the problem and control the transition so that the transition occurs in a benign way.

Posted by blmarquis | Report as abusive
 

It is not just an Obama policy the two state solution and a finalization of talks in a status agreement has been the policy of the last two US Administration. Obama is just follow on the process. People should not forget that it was President Bush who refused to allow a strike on Tehran and did not provide a veto only abstained at the UNSC over OP Cast Lead even though the US supported the operation and the overall strategy. The Palestinians have had support from the US and are friends of the US and the Israeli are friends of the US and have support. The US is pro-neither the US is pro-peace via a two state solution. Israel try to paint Obama as anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian as a smear campaign so they can stall the peace process. Israel will force the US into a position in which they will have to action to get talks started, the settlements to stop and a final status agreement on the 67 borders. Those action would have been the same things President Bush would have employed to forces an agreement if he was Commander in Chief in 2009.

Posted by TCMSOLS | Report as abusive
 

it is very sad to see that one is oppressed by other in their own homeland. America is oppressing force by supplying arms to israel to kill innocent child of Palestine. I cannot imagine oppressed in my own cuntry.

Posted by bradley | Report as abusive
 

Israel has a right to exist like any other nation. And among its world enemies who does this tiny Jewish nation have for support besides America. The Arab states around it want to eat it alive. Europe is quite useless and the UN is a joke. So let Israel do what it has to do to survive just like the others who do whatever they want to – to destroy it. Maybe the Jewish support will realize their mistake and correct it in the next elections.

Posted by joyce | Report as abusive
 

Israel’s days are numbered. It will not be long before the Arab population over takes the Jewish population. At that point nobody will be able to deny the apartheid already in existence and Israel will be dissolved by those that brought it into existence. Israel’s only hope for continued existence was dashed long ago.

Posted by wes | Report as abusive
 

Joyce says:

“Israel has a right to exist like any other nation.”

which is saying next to nothing since no state has the right to exist.

Posted by wes | Report as abusive
 

Israel wants the whole world to agree 100% with its policies, and accept 100% of its actions. It does not accept other points of view and will smear any politician who dares to criticize it, with charges of Anti-Semitism. Israel simply does not want to resolve the Palestinian problem. It does that because the Western and especially the US support for its crimes is unlimited; making the Jewish state immune from international law.

Posted by Michael Antoun | Report as abusive
 

“The majority of Israelis think Obama is pro-Palestinian and see his visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as evidence that he wants to distance himself from Israel and curry favour with the Arabs. Unless he can dispel that public perception, the Israeli government is unlikely to make concessions.”

Who do they think they are really? Won’t make concessions to America? Why do we continue to support this nation economically and military if it refuses to make concessions for peace when we ask it to?

Posted by Belial | Report as abusive
 

Why is America so beholden to Israel? Your Congress and Senate may bicker about welfare and health spendings on Americans, but they are always unanimous on giving thousands of dollars to each Israeli each year with no obligation attached. In addition, America supplies all the weapons and airplanes, free, to a nation that did not send even one soldier to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq. Without the protection of America, Israel would have agreed to a two-state solution, long long time ago.

Posted by Stephen Wong | Report as abusive
 

Historically the Jews and Muslims are brothers. Both are sons of Abraham. This conflict is at least 2 millenniums long and has nothing to do with what we’ve been trying to “fix”.

They need to reconcile the family struggle before anything else can be corrected.

 

Israel spends $13,300,000,000 a year on military weaponry. Of that, American non-gratis funding accounts for around 30% at most.

Most of Israel’s military weapons come from America courtesy of Israeli shekels, not American dollars.

Yes, Israel gets American military support. But its existence is not ‘beholden’ to American funding. Nor does its military only exist due to American sufferance.

Those who think that all Israel’s weapons and vehicles are free American gifts, are fooling themselves.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive
 

Read “A Choice of Enemies” by Lawrence Freedman, a very high level history since Carter. Every president in recent history going back to Nixon had a negative view of Israel. That does not translate into negative policy, and the reasons for that are certainly not limited to the “lobby”. It’s a very complex international legitimacy structure, and no president can control it (or, as it appears from history, can even shift it) toward their own foreign policy goals. I am personally convinced that nothing will change in the Middle East until the main actors there decide to change it, and I don’t believe pressure from the US will help. Perhaps the US should focus more on being a good role model instead….?

Posted by Robert J Muller | Report as abusive
 

It is not only Egypt that has normal relations with Israel, but Jordan, whose leadership is very close to Israeli intelligence. But as King Abdullah has warned, unless Israel makes some concessions to the Palestinians and allows the creation of a Palestinian state, the governments in Egypt and Jordan will be threatened by the extremists who really want to destroy Israel and will be given the means to do it by Iran. This could mean a nuclear war in the Middle East. No one believes revolutions will happen until after they have happened and Egypt and Jordan are no exceptions. Israel is blind to this distinct possibility and cannot see that Obama is trying to save Israel from itself. That the Israelis loved George W. Bush shows just how out of touch they are with reality.

Posted by Richard Cummings | Report as abusive
 

Three comments:

1.”Israel has a right to exist” can someone enlighten me by telling me where that “right” comes from?

2. “His approval rating, according to Israeli polls, hovers around five percent, a sharp contrast to the 88 percent drawn by George W. Bush, a man thoroughly disliked almost everywhere else. The majority of Israelis think Obama is pro-Palestinian and see his visits to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as evidence that he wants to distance himself from Israel and curry favour with the Arabs. Unless he can dispel that public perception, the Israeli government is unlikely to make concessions.”

Why Obama needs to improve his ratings in Israel to be able to achieve anything while Bush with 88% approval in Israel failed to do anything?

3. Gaza settlements were illegal and were dismantled. The West Bank settlements are as illegal and has to be dismantled. The creation of Israel 60 years ago was illegal and had to be dismantled. The only solution to avoid all theses “dismantlements” is a one state that gives equal rights to all who live there now.

 

Sir:

Investigate: follow the money. Where do these pro- and anti- groups get funding? Have they vested interests in promoting political positions related to U.S. foreign policy? That is, do they exist for any rational purpose other than self-perpetuation?

Posted by Jon G. | Report as abusive
 

“‘Israel has a right to exist’ can someone enlighten me by telling me where that ‘right’ comes from?”

The right comes from the following sources.

1. Partition
The British Mandate of Palestine was split into two regions, one for each dominant racial group, when the British surrendered its control of the region.

2. Fiat
When the Arabs rejected the UN plan and invaded Israel, Israel succeeded in beating the Arab nations. Israel took secure control of its borders, and declared it’s sovereignty by right of military control.

3. International recognition
The sovereignty of Israel and its borders have been recognised and accepted by the international community. Something which has yet to happen to Palestine.

4. Military laws
During a later war, Israel took control of the West Bank (which had been annexed by Jordan) and Gaza (which was held by Egypt).

Under the rights of military conflict, a nation is not allowed to unilaterally annex land seized through war. But a nation can occupy land due to war, the status of that occupied land usually settled by peace terms.

The issue here is who has Israel occupied the land from? Egypt and Jordan have relinquished their claims, and the nation of Palestine doesn’t formally exist according to the UN.

Hence Israel occupied these areas not just through strength, but by sheer fact of being the only legitimate successor government in those regions.

5. Settlements
Of course, this has changed now with the creation of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Now these regions have governments, who can negotiate with the occupiers.

While Israel’s settlements are (arguably) illegal, the true legality of those settlements can only be settled by peace terms.

As Israel is arguing from a position of strength, it can simply say ‘accept and safeguard the settlements, or there is no peace’.

Posted by Johnisgood | Report as abusive
 

J Street is a reaction to the excesses of AIPAC. AIPAC has been out of control and needs to be restrained. J Street is an attempt by the Jewish community to correct the excesses of AIPAC, but it is not enough. AIPAC should be investigated by the United States for its loyalty to another country. If AIPAC is found to be disloyal to the United States it should be banned.
Justification for an investigation by the United States into the affairs of AIPAC would be the entanglement in the Iraq war due to AIPAC influence and the military aid granted to Israel used to illegally occupy Palestine, whereby this aid is granted largely through the influence of AIPAC.
An investigation now would be in the interests of the United States because it has severe budget constraints and it must reposition itself diplomatically with the emerging countries of the world. Supporting Israel now is largely throwing money it doesn’t have at a colonialist country, whereas the emerging countries of the world frown on colonialism.

Posted by blmarquis | Report as abusive
 

It is written in many places that people grow tired of hearing a person say ‘woe is me’.

Israel is addicted to being a ‘victim’. It, however, would loose that U.S. sympathy, it feels, if ever it lost that ‘victim’ status. In accordance, Israel will never accede to ending this conflict that it says is one-sided.

The U. S. will remain a codependent.

Posted by Bernie | Report as abusive
 

American presidents may privately lean one direction or another on Israel, but their main desire is simply to find a solution–any solution– that both sides will grudgingly accept. My own view is that no solution exists, can be created, or ever will exist. Driving factors include rising population density, rigidity, and growing water shortages. These do not lend themselves to political solutions.

Posted by Marvin McConoughey | Report as abusive
 

To Johnisgood: Are you serious? Do you really believe the nonsense you wrote. I really think you need to educate yourself with the real history of the creation of Israel and the magnitude of the humane disaster it created.

Israel was created on a false and illegal premise, anything that followed is as illegal.

 

A cheap way for Obama to get Israelis affection
Release Jonathan Polard. It will not make any real different except for Polard and a lot of Israelis. After so many years in jail nobody will think that give info to Israel is OK and the Palestinians will lose nothing.

 

I think the American public is craving a fresh approach in US relations with Israel. For years, Israeli officials have relied heavily on groups like AIPAC and Christian Zionist organizations to depict the Palestinians as inferior, defeated and unworthy of independence. Also, scholars like Daniel Pipes and others who seem to possess an obsessive hatred of Palestinians are more than willing to further disseminate these xenophobic views, and help blacklist any academic critical of Israel.

Meanwhile, you have Israel’s current Vice Prime Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, working tirelessly to apply ‘chemotherapy’ to the ‘cancerous’ Palestinians. These and other dehumanizing statements have been a hallmark of Israeli politics, and encourage the IDF and the settlers to act accordingly.

For the peace process to finally bear fruit, J Street and the Obama administration will need to remind Israel of the fact that there is no such thing as an ‘enlightened occupation’. Moreover, its reliance on America’s unquestioned support has come at a moral cost. They have their work cut out for them.

Posted by Nu'man El-Bakri | Report as abusive
 

Christian patience wearing thin. Israeli-Palestinian relationship is a problem we cannot tolerate any longer. Trouble-making situation for the world. Send in the UN to take control and patrol both 24/7, keep them from fighting, setup republic governments. Stay and occupy through 5 generations and see if they can become “civilized.” NO israeli or palestinian blood allowed in those UN forces.

Posted by Just Facts | Report as abusive
 

While Israel’s settlements are (arguably) illegal,…..

They are illegal, not arguably illegal.

They are as illegal as the Nazi’s taking possession of Jewish homes in Warsaw and giving them to Polish Christians. Why do you think it’s illegal for an occupying army to settle their people in the occupied country?

Posted by Julie | Report as abusive
 

“Why do you think it’s illegal for an occupying army to settle their people in the occupied country?”

But occupied from who?

Egypt held the Gaza territory from 1948 to 1967. And now doesn’t want anything to do with it.

Jorden annexed the West Bank in 1950. And lost that territory in 1975. And likewise wants nothing to do with it now.

Palestine as a nation is not recognised by the United Nations as a sovereign nation. So Israel can’t have occupied land from ‘Palestine’, because the nation doesn’t even formally exist.

The PLO didn’t achieve legitmacy as a governing authority until the Oslo Accords in 1993. And has yet to be recognised as government of any sovereign nation.

So what political entity has Israel occupied the land from? Until recently, it has been in de facto control simply by being the only legitimate government in the region.

Certainly different from the traditional concepts of occupied land, which are supposed to be owned by another existing sovereign power. Which for the last fifty years has not been the case.

Hence, the settlements are not nearly as cut and dry as people like to think.

Posted by JohnisGood | Report as abusive
 

“To Johnisgood: Are you serious? Do you really believe the nonsense you wrote. I really think you need to educate yourself with the real history of the creation of Israel and the magnitude of the humane disaster it created.”

The real history of the creation of Israel:

1. British split British Mandate into two regions.
2. Partition plan confirmed and validated by the UN.
3. Israel declares independence and sovereignty.
4. Israel sovereignty confirmed by the UN.
5. Arab states reject UN ruling and invade Israel.
6. Israel upholds sovereignty by military force.
7. Ceasefire with Israel confirmed by UN.
8. Israel accepted by UN as a sovereign member of the UN.

That is the history of the creation of Israel. It is a sovereign nation, legally created by itself and recognised as legitimate by the UN.

If you deny Israel is an independent and sovereign nation, or believe it’s creation was illegal, you are denying both history and reality.

Meaning your words are the only nonsense here.

Posted by JohnisGood | Report as abusive
 

“Jewish settlements in the heart of the West Bank make it impossible to establish a Palestinian state. Time is running out for a two-state solution. The alternative is worse.”

“That would be living together in one country in which Jews would be outnumbered (Palestinian birth rates are higher) and faced with the choice of abandoning democracy by exerting apartheid-style minority rule or giving up the idea of Israel as a homeland for all Jews.”

A false dilemma. Israel has made it clear that the only alternative is a two-state solution, or simply continuing the status quo. At no point has Israel ever considered a single state solution viable, nor can it be considered the “de facto” result of a failure to reach a peace accord.

After all, Israel has occupied those regions for over twenty years without those regions being considered part of Israel. And Israel itself has existed for over fifty. It can certainly keep the status quo if needed. And considering the results of “land for peace” such as Gaza and Lebanon, who could blame them if they do?

Both Gaza and West Bank are independently ruled, even if they consider themselves occupied. They don’t consider themselves part of Israel. And Israel doesn’t consider them part of Israel, nor does it want them as part of Israel.

The single state solution is simply a pipe dream. It is only supported by those who want Israel to cease to exist. Those who support the single state solution know this very well.

Posted by Joeyjoe | Report as abusive
 

Israelis can say whatever they want about the US President….

When they get serious about seeking a fair and just settlement, instead of stalling and stalling… then the world can get on to important things..

There are some small children doing without as a result of Israel being awkward.. its time the Israelis showed some decency and allowed water and sewer utilities to be constructed….

There is no right and there is no wrong in that conflict, it is time for Israel to show some leadership and get the conflict resolved.

Posted by daveM | Report as abusive
 

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