Either/Or

December 29, 2008 at 6:45 pm | Posted in International, Media | Leave a comment

I know I’m still meant to be doing the ‘festive cheer’ thing, but reporting like this never fails to annoy:

Obama has given no hint so far on his policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though he has said finding a peace plan will be an early priority of his administration.

Before running for president, he aired opinions in his home town, Chicago, strongly sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, incurring suspicion among Israelis and some US Jewish groups.

But after winning the Democratic nomination earlier this year he veered in the other direction, voicing strong support for Israel in a speech in Washington to the Israeli lobby group AIPAC.

Look, I’ll accept that there are many ‘known unknowns’ over how an Obama administration will react to the conflict – that’s one of the unfortunate consequences of not being President yet. However, voicing sympathy for the plight of Palestinians and also claiming to be a strong supporter of Israel is not in any way contradictory, as this piece implies. You could, in fact, argue that Israel’s ‘strongest’ supporters are those who realise that these military actions might be effective in achieving some short-term security objectives, but contribute nothing towards its long-term peace and stability.

Having some measure of empathy for an impoverished and desperate Palestinian people does not mean fawning over Hamas, nor does it signal a belief that Israel should start coddling those who want only to kill. Equally, believing Israel has a right to exist and to defend itself against external threats does not mean endorsing or acquiescing to its self-destructive, militaristic excesses.

What that part of the world needs more than anything is someone capable of viewing foreign policy challenges with a little more nuance than simply reducing everything into a pair of binary oppositions. I think all sides had better hope that an Obama administration has that ability.

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