POLITICAL observations & opinions

* Israel – an opportunity for an Obama and Clinton “new beginning”

Posted by Lew Weinstein on January 8, 2009

Nicholas Kristof writes in the NYT …

  • What we’re seeing in the Middle East is the Boomerang Syndrome.
  • When Hamas was founded in 1987, Israel was mostly concerned with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement and figured that a religious Palestinian organization would help undermine Fatah.
  • Arab terrorism built support for right-wing Israeli politicians, who took harsh actions against Palestinians, who responded with more terrorism, and so on.
  • Extremists on each side sustain the other, and the excessive Israeli ground assault in Gaza is likely to create more terrorists in the long run.
  • Granted, Israel was profoundly provoked in this case. When it is shelled by its neighbor, Israel has to do something.
  • But Israel’s right to do something doesn’t mean it has the right to do anything.
  • So what could Israel have reasonably done?
  • Bombing the tunnels through which Gazans smuggle weapons would have been a proportionate response, if Israel had stopped there, and the same is true of airstrikes on certain Hamas targets.
  • An even better approach would have been to ease the siege in Gaza, perhaps creating an environment in which Hamas would have extended the cease-fire.
  • Barack Obama has said relatively little about Gaza … after he assumes the presidency, he must provide real leadership that the world craves.
  • Aaron David Miller, a longtime Middle East peace negotiator for the United States, suggests in his excellent new book, “The Much Too Promised Land,” that presidents should offer Israel “love, but tough love.”
  • So, Mr. Obama, find your voice. Fall in tough love with Israel.


It should be obvious that Israel and the Palestinians, left to their own devices, can never bring peace to the region; the hotheads on both sides will always undermine the moderates. Bill Clinton came close to brokering an agreement but ran out of time; George Bush ignored the problem as he ignored so many others.

Now, we are faced with a true and critical test of whether Barack Obama (with his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) can succeed where others have not. The first indication will be if he is able to bring Egypt, the Saudis, Syria, and other Arab states into a meaningful coalition to join the Israelis and Palestinians in addressing the complex issues of refugees, territory, violence, Jerusalem, and more.

Undiluted support of everything Israel does is not the path to peace. The clear evidence is that the Israeli approach, however provoked by Hamas and however necessary to provide short-term security for Israelis, has not (and will not) achieve its objectives.

For Israel to reach its most important goal – the survival and peaceful prosperity of a Jewish state, new directions are needed. Those of us who support Israel must be willing to consider alternative solutions. And of course, the imminent election of hard-liner Benjamin Netanyahu does not bode well for reasoned analysis based on facts.

If you were President Obama or Secretary Clinton, how would you begin? Whatever they choose to do will also give us an immediate read on how they work together. Who would have thought, a year ago, before Iowa, that these two primary opponents would be where they are today. I, for one, am optimistic that these new American forces will produce better results.

Read the entire article at … http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/08/opinion/08kristof.html?ref=opinion



One Response to “* Israel – an opportunity for an Obama and Clinton “new beginning””

  1. Linda Bernstein said

    Lew –
    I really appreciated Nicolas Kristof’s op-ed today and am pleased to see you picked up on it. I’ve been so appaulled by the terrible, terrible bombings in Gaza and believe there must be another way to solve this problem. While I am not smart enough to have suggestions I know Obama and Clinton are and will come up with a way to move beyond this endless boomerang existance.

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