Friday, April 11, 2008

Hurrah for Jimmy Carter (Again)!

Jimmy Carter has demonstrated, yet again, that, where Israel is concerned, a Democrat who would dare state the obvious or take obviously worthwhile initiatives must be at least a septuagenarian and harbor no political ambitions. This was the case when he pointed out that Israel has imposed an Apartheid system on occupied Palestine, a point many Israelis would concede. And it is the case again with his announcement that he will meet next week in Syria with Khaled Meshal, the leader of Hamas. According to a March poll published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, 64% of Israelis favor direct talks with Hamas. Why not? The siege of Gaza is not only politically and morally wrong (after all, Hamas won an indisputably free and fair election); it’s also a transparently failed policy – as European Union leaders and even top retired Israeli and American government officials concede. The Israeli blockade has created a severe humanitarian crisis, turning Gaza into an open air prison. One would think that the horror – directly affecting over a million and a half people -- would sway even the rankest of opportunists. But Democrats are worse than that. The Israel lobby will not countenance talks with Hamas until it recognizes Israel’s “right to exist,” not just in practice (as it already has) but in servile words (similar to those that the United States and Israel finally wrung out of the Palestinian Authority). As the lobby goes, so go Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Once again, the POP, the Party of Pusillanimity, shows its colors.

As befits the lesser evil party, Clinton’s and Obama’s statements on the Carter initiative have so far been less loathsome than John McCain’s. They’ve only said they “disagree” with Carter, not that they actively oppose what he’s trying to do. Needless to say, both Clinton and Obama know better. You don’t get as far as they’ve gotten by being stupid; only Republicans can do that. But, as Abba Eban might have said, the Clintons “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” to do the right thing, so long as the constituencies they pander to or the moneyed interests that support them object. That Hillary would distance herself, again, from Carter is therefore not surprising. Obama’s case is more complicated. Before he embarked upon a national political career, his position on Israel/Palestine seems to have been borderline reasonable. I’m not aware of any outright condemnation of the clear illegality of the Israeli occupation or of Israel’s failure to live up to the obligations of occupying powers under international law. But there is evidence that Obama expressed sympathy for Palestinian suffering. Watch for the Clintons and then the Republicans to use that bit of his past against him, and watch him then list even more egregiously towards the Morally Abominable Zone the Clintons inhabit.

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