The Blog

Obama Talks Israel

1:54 PM, May 12, 2008 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Jeffrey Goldberg scores an interview with Obama on Israel. A few comments jump out, starting with this one:

One of the things that is frustrating about the recent conversations on Israel is the loss of what I think is the natural affinity between the African-American community and the Jewish community, one that was deeply understood by Jewish and black leaders in the early civil-rights movement but has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and I don't need to elaborate.

I thought we were supposed to be having this great, national conversation on race, and yet when push comes to shove, Obama would rather not "elaborate" on the ugly estrangement between Jews and blacks, and this despite the fact that 20 years at Trinity United offers him such unique insight into the problem.

Later in the interview:

JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?

BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.

Now, presumably "this constant sore" Obama is referring to is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not Israel per se. But does he really believe that it "infects all of our foreign policy"? Really? All of it?

Call me naïve, but while solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unquestionably an admirable and important goal, I'm not sure it "infects" all, or even most, of the challenges we face in the world. The Burmese junta isn't repressing its people because of Israel. The Sudanese government isn't massacring the poor inhabitants of Darfur because of Israel. Iran isn't murdering American troops in Iraq because of Israel. The Russians aren't saber rattling in Georgia because of Israel. And the Chinese aren't threatening Taiwan because of Israel.

No, Senator Obama is not a closet anti-Semite. Yes, he genuinely considers himself to be a friend of Israel. But he suffers from the left-wing misconception--heard on university campuses and European foreign ministries--of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the Holy Grail of international relations.

This misconception naturally follows from his claim that "the lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions." But didn't al Qaeda attack us because we had troops on Saudi soil and had imposed sanctions on Iraq, or is it now our occupation of Afghanistan (aka the Good War) and the detention of terrorists at Gitmo? Anti-American militant jihadists will always find an excuse to engage in inexcusable actions, and to blame the problem on the failure of the peace process shows no great nuance in Obama's approach to foreign policy.