22 March 2010
No Fear in the Risk of Telling the Truth
Similar to the health care debate, I think that the pressure the President is exerting toward Israel right now will be understood to be correct. Obama's speech to the House Democrats, which Paul Krugman among others pointed out to be enormously moving ( a drash on Abraham Lincoln--“Every once in a while a moment comes where you have a chance to vindicate all those best hopes that you had about yourself, about this country, where you have a chance to make good on those promises that you made ... And this is the time to make true on that promise. We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine”) was the appropriate seizing of a moral high ground that needs to be seized upon no matter what.
And the combination of the nuns and Catholic hospitals going along as well as the hideous acts of hate like spitting on US Representatives and hurling racist and homophobic invective, only prove to "neutral" types that appealing to our better instincts is often the better way to go in life.
With regard to the continuing public debate between the Obama Administration and the Netanyahu Government (which Palestinian leaders must be thoroughly enjoying from the sidelines) I come down on the side that strongly favors the approach that President Obama is taking. I think his administration's orchestrated comments are more honest, fair and true; while it seems to me that Netanyahu has chosen, still more often than not, to defend the ability to hold his government together rather than risk the leadership necessary for there to be real, substantive movement on peace.
Secretary of State Clinton's remarks today at the AIPAC conference, "Our credibility in this process depends in part on our willingness to praise both sides when they are courageous, and when we don’t agree, to say so, and say so unequivocally,” were remarkably honest and strong. Their straightforwardness can, with time, really help.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, on the other hand, is going for the rhetorical zinger--arguing at AIPAC after Mrs. Clinton spoke, using the line, "Jerusalem is not a settlement," when in fact the Obama Administration is not saying that it is. The red meat lines don't help, except to heighten the tension, rally the troops, and, arguably, prevent real progress being made.
The complexity of Jerusalem is exactly the point and in this regard, Obama's position has been more fair. Though that certainly is not a popular view--I mean, look at what Alan Dershowitz is now saying, for goodness sakes!
Iran remains the most grave threat; all the more reason to move with expediency toward a two-state solution that takes each sides' claims and concerns into account. On this score, I maintain, despite the emotional appeals being made, as depicted, for instance in Gili Yaari's photo in today's Times, that the President is on the right track. (The poster warns, 'Be Careful! There's a PLO Agent in the White House!") Yesterday in DC on the Capitol Mall I ran into a LaRouche weirdo who was hawking a poster of Obama in a Hitler mustache. It's the same irrational and stupid nonsense.
Open, honest criticism, rational civil debate, must be had in this country and in Israel. And with regard to both, it can be had while reasonable people disagree on policy while also asserting basic truths. There is no fear in the risk of telling the truth; it's a possible way out of a problem that has taken us more than 60 years to solve--from health care to those who need it and to two states for two people. On each of these, I'm with Obama.