Obama and 1967: A Sympathetic Response (Part II)

My major point is this:  Israeli negotiators have said exactly the same thing as Obama has–in fact, the Israelis went a lot further. Instead of criticizing Obama, those who attack Obama should argue with the Israelis themselves. Obama is just saying out loud what these Israelis have privately said for years. Those who criticize Obama are in fact criticizing certain Israelis. It just looks like a criticism of Obama, because Netanyahu and his allies are using Obama as a lightning rod to deflect attention off their own negotiators and diplomats and themselves.

But the problem is that Americans don’t have to live in Israel.  A lot of Jews in this country are ready to criticize Israel either for being too bellicose or for agreeing to too much compromise. Many liberal American Jews criticized Israel when it invaded Gaza, but they didn’t have to live in towns receiving daily rocket fire from Gaza. On the other hand, many conservative American Jews ripped Ari Sharon when he abandoned the Gaza Jewish settlements, but they weren’t the ones sending children to Gaza to protect those settlements (which, by the way, had many American Jews in them).

So we should be careful about criticizing Israel when it defends itself and when it seeks peace. Criticizing Obama on 1967 is no different from criticizing those Israeli governments that have effectively said the very same thing. In fact, Netanyahu has spoken similarly– listen to what he says, not to how he says it.  It’s just easier to rip Obama than it is to rip Israelis.

Even on Jerusalem, Netanyahu speaks carefully. In his speech to the US Congress, he never said that East Jerusalem would not be the capital of a Palestinian state. He only says that Jerusalem will not be divided. What “not divided” means, is open to numerous interpretations, as any reader of rabbinic texts should know well.

In many ways, I believe that the venom in the U.S. against Obama on this reflects the frustration of many American Jews and Christians (particularly those who have institutional interests in maintaining the status quo) against Israeli politicians and groups with whom they disagree.  They would rather have Israel dependent on them (a U.S. subsidiary or a victim that relies on the philanthropy of others) than functioning as an independent country that operates on its own terms and in its own indigenous interests as a Jewish country with its own Jewish values.

No doubt, many Israelis are also criticizing Obama, but it’s for the very same reason. He’s a lot more convenient target than their own leaders.

Perhaps Obama’s strategy is to use himself as a lightning rod to draw attention from others so that they can make peace. I doubt that this will work because of the virulent antisemitism of Hamas, the unwillingness of Palestinians to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and the instability of Palestinian governance. But you never know what might happen without trying. It’s worth a try. Peace always is.

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For Part I, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/23/obama-and-1967/

For Part III, go to http://mysticscholar.org/2011/05/26/getting-to-yes-negotiating-101-with-netanyahu-and-obama/

See also the article by Rabbi H.D. Uriel Smith: http://mysticscholar.org/2011/06/06/critique-of-obama-and-1967/

 

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