03 June 2009

Keep On Telling the Truth

Thomas Friedman's brief interview with President Obama is the subject of his column today in the Times and it is worth a look. The President says something to Friedman that is one of the best indicators of the quality of his leadership and is an open look into how he intends to try and forge a Middle Eastern peace.

By the way, for another interesting take, see Aaron Miller's op-ed at CNN, where Miller argues Obama may be trying to take down Netanyahu's government by drawing clear lines on settlements.

Friedman on Obama: "It was clear from the 20-minute conversation that the president has no illusions that one speech will make lambs lie down with lions. Rather, he sees it as part of his broader diplomatic approach that says: If you go right into peoples’ living rooms, don’t be afraid to hold up a mirror to everything they are doing, but also engage them in a way that says ‘I know and respect who you are.’ You end up — if nothing else — creating a little more space for U.S. diplomacy. And you never know when that can help."

There is no small amount of hope that the President's approach--determined and respectful public honesty--will be a new way of going after an old problem that may provide some light in a dark world of hatred and fear.

As the President heads to Cairo to deliver his talk to the Arab world, we should pray for his success.

4 comments:

David S said...

Interesting that people of the left are championing Obama's methods, here.

The criticism of Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza is that it was an act of unilateralism. Yet, here we have an administration insisting on Israeli unilateralism, by focusing on settlements preliminary to any negotiations.

In the meantime, the Palestinians' refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or renounce the right of return - both convictions recently voiced publicly by Mazen - is put off for final status.

Truth needs to be applied to both sides to have substance. Otherwise, it's just political fiction.

I'm also troubled by Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia, which is partially about bringing down oil prices. This will slow our weaning off of foreign oil, which Obama emphasized during his campaign.

When Bush was in office, liberals were understandably uncomfortable about his cozy relationship with the kingdom, saying, "It's all about oil," a sentiment often voiced by the author of this blog.

This aphorism obviously doesn't apply to liberal presidents, whose primary focus seems to be "tough love" on Israel and Netanyahu

Andy Bachman said...

David

Thanks for writing.

I don't agree about your left-right matrix here. If you go back and read Obama's statements to Tom Friedman, there is more even-handedness than you are giving the President credit for.

Insistence on recognition and eliminating the Right of Return have proven to be veils for the Israelis to continue to expand on and build new settlements for more than 40 years. One could argue that the Israelis would not pull out of the West Bank and Gaza until they achieved those diplomatic goals--but the whole sale acquisition of property is another matter, no?

I am not clear where I make the claim "it's all about oil" except for a couple of asides here and there. With regard to Iraq, I do believe that's true. And obviously with Saudi Arabia, though it's tricky there because the Kingdom is an important diplomatic linchpin.

Andy

David S said...

Andy:


"Insistence on recognition and eliminating the Right of Return have proven to be veils for the Israelis to continue to expand on and build new settlements for more than 40 years."


That's not the full picture. The reality is that wholesale rejection of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state and an insistence on the Right of Return have been the language of Palestinian rejectionism since partition was declared by the UN, before a single west bank settlement existed. Acceptance of Israel as an independent, Jewish state is fundamental to a two state solution.


"One could argue that the Israelis would not pull out of the West Bank and Gaza until they achieved those diplomatic goals--but the whole sale acquisition of property is another matter, no?"

Yes, and I don't condone most of the settlements. But rejectionsm has led to bloody violence that is likely to continue. Acquisition of property can be corrected - murder cannot.

As far as a left-wing matrix, the idea that Israel should withdraw to pre-67 borders without real pressure on the Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state is obiviously a one more common in liberal/left circles.

And my "about oil" statement: liberals went nuts when Bush was photographed holding Abdullah's hand, and wrote plenty of criticisms about that administration's coziness with Saudis. Now, as per your conversation, it's being argued that this is realpolitic and somewhat necessary for Obama,even though this is a president who made independence from foreign oil a big issue during his campaign.

I think that if a Republican were in office now, you'd be much more critical.

But criticism of the democratic party or Obama almost never comes on this blog. And that's fine. It's your opinion. We just see things differently.

Anonymous said...

You know, Andy, I thought about our exchange here, and I think you're right. This isn't about politics. It's about trying to make peace.

All I can say, is that I truly hope Obama is able to make some inroads and offer a better future.