A major ongoing tragedy of American political culture is fear of the political consequences of even appearing to give equal weight to both Israeli and Palestinian concerns. Such fear always trumps advocacy of what is needed from both sides to create a lasting peace.
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, describing the recent meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, provides a good example. With a tinge of ironic humor, Milbank writes that
A blue-and-white Israeli flag hung from Blair House. Across Pennsylvania Avenue, the Stars and Stripes was in its usual place atop the White House. But to capture the real significance of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit with President Obama, White House officials might have instead flown the white flag of surrender.
Milbank was referring to the Obama administration’s decision four months ago to condemn Israel over a new settlement.
The Israel lobby reared up, Netanyahu denounced the administration’s actions, Republican leaders sided with Netanyahu, and Democrats ran for cover. So on Tuesday, Obama, routed and humiliated by his Israeli counterpart, invited Netanyahu back to the White House for what might be called the Oil of Olay Summit: It was all about saving face.
The president, beaming in the Oval Office with a dour Netanyahu at his side, gushed about the “extraordinary friendship between our two countries.” He performed the Full Monty of pro-Israel pandering: “The bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable” . . . “I commended Prime Minister Netanyahu” . . . “Our two countries are working cooperatively” . . . “unwavering in our commitment” . . . “our relationship has broadened” . . . “continuing to improve” . . . “We are committed to that special bond, and we are going to do what’s required to back that up.”
Milbank then targets the core problem, writing that
Obama came to office with an admirable hope of reviving Middle East peace efforts by appealing to the Arab world and positioning himself as more of an honest broker. But he has now learned the painful lesson that domestic politics won’t allow such a stand.
And that feeds the continuing tragedy – for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for all of us. Our political leadership engages in one-sided political pandering, based largely on shoring up political support. In so doing, it fails to promote peace and reconciliation, which should be the aim. But doing the latter requires acknowledging that BOTH sides have engaged in destructive actions and atrocities, and that BOTH sides have legitimate, valid interests.
When one attempts to do so, however, one risks Continue reading