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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obama vs. Likud

Barack Obama raised up a little dust in a speech to American leaders in Cleveland on Sunday night with this statement:
This is where I get to be honest and I hope I’m not out of school here. 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. If we cannot have a honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress. And frankly some of the commentary that I’ve seen which suggests guilt by association or the notion that unless we are never ever going to ask any difficult questions about how we move peace forward or secure Israel that is non military or non belligerent or doesn’t talk about just crushing the opposition that that somehow is being soft or anti-Israel, I think we’re going to have problems moving forward.
The bolded statement is interesting on a number of levels.

It is curious that Obama is adopting an apparently anti-Likud stance. Likud, after all, was responsible for Camp David and the surrender of the Sinai to Egypt; and Likud was in power when Gaza was abandoned.

Obama's statement seems even more naive when the latest polls in Israel show Likud handily beating Kadima and Labor. As Shmuel Rosner asks, does this mean that a President Obama would not support a Likud prime minister?

Also, as The American Thinker observes, the word "Likud" has turned into a generalized anti-Israel term by the far left, pretty much their equivalent to "Taliban." It is hard to read Obama's comment as anything but influenced by the strong anti-Likud stance of people who clearly are anti-Israel.

But even assuming that all he meant was that the Likud-like positions of the ZOA and other Zionist organizations have taken over the pro-Israel stance in America - not an unreasonable observation - Obama still needs to go a bit beyond this rhetoric and let us know what his specific ideas are about how a final peace agreement between Israel and the Arab world would look.

Americans, by and large, have the erroneous idea that most Israelis want to see essentially all settlements dismantled. However, both Bill Clinton and George Bush at one point realized that there is no realistic way for Israel to give up the major settlement blocs, and acted accordingly. Even the most dovish Israelis cannot countenance the Jerusalem Jewish suburbs and the large blocs being abandoned, but the US has lately been treating them the same as the most isolated settlements. Where does Obama stand?

Does Obama want to see Jerusalem divided again?

How does he expect Israel to deal with missiles shot towards all major Israeli population centers that would result if Israel withdrew from the entire West Bank?

Does he consider the possibility that Hamas could take over the West Bank, either politically or militarily? How should the US react to a democratically-elected Hamas PA government?

Does he consider Gaza as the PA's responsibility, or is it a separate political entity now that would not be included in any peace agreement?

Would further Israeli withdrawals help the "moderates" on the PalArab side - or the extremists?

These are the real questions that Obama - or any candidate - should answer. The answers would reveal whether they have actually thought through on the issues or are just hazily repeating the "land for peace" mantra that is too often used as a substitute for real thought.

Obama's flippant use of Likud as a rhetorical bogeyman indicates that he has not yet reached that stage.