Unless another poster picks up the slack this week, this will be our last posting until after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. What follows are two expressions from our pro-Israel peace camp detailing a way out of the mounting dilemmas. The first is from Meretz USA board member, Arthur Obermayer, an original founder. The second, which Arthur refers to, is by Daniel Levy, a primary drafter of the Geneva Initiative, who is on leave from Israel this year in Washington, DC.
I. From Arthur Obermayer:
Although there have been many reasons during the past few months to be pessimistic about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I feel that there is a lot going on right now which may provide major opportunities for progress:
- Israelis seem to be realizing that unilateral withdrawals do not work; negotiated agreements are necessary.
- A new Palestinian government, whose prime minister is not part of Hamas, will provide new opportunities for negotiation. You may be aware that the designated prime minister, Mohammed Shabir, has a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of West Virginia and was president of the Islamic University of Gaza and speaks English.
- Both the Palestinian and Israeli governments are weak [virtually paralyzed — Ed.] and a reasonable negotiated agreement would strengthen their internal positions.
- It is clear that both Democratic leaders and the Baker/Hamilton Commission will strongly favor negotiations and diplomacy over confrontation. Daniel Levy’s proposal to extend the Baker/Hamilton Commission to include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is very constructive and should be supported.
- The imposition of preconditions to negotiations are a stumbling block. Preconditions are imposed either because your negotiators are weak and will give in too easily, or because you are only willing to “negotiate” if you have won your key issues before you start.
There have been too many times before when the stars have seemed to be aligned just right, but maybe this time?
II. This part of Daniel Levy’s article in Washington Monthly , sagely and subtly addressing the anti-Israel fervor raised by the likes of Mearsheimer and Walt, especially resonates for me:
Recently, there has been a tendency to conflate the neoconservative agenda with the Israeli interest. This is both wrong-headed and disastrous for Israel’s predicament. There is a narrative that links America and Israel’s common interests that is not of neoconservative design. The Democratic Congress needs to discover that narrative.
During the election campaign, some Democrats with Jewish constituencies did make the connection by noting that the Iraq war strengthens jihadists and emboldens Iran. Now, there’s a second sentence that needs to be articulated: American disengagement from the peace process and from its active mediating role has also been bad for Israel.
To guarantee its future as a secure Jewish and democratic state, Israel needs agreed and recognized borders. The vast majority of Israelis understand this, and the precedent was set in evacuating Gaza. Israel is now groping for a formula to part ways with the West Bank (minus the agreed mutual modifications to 1967 line), and Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem. But rather than help smooth this difficult transition, the United States merely appears uninterested.
For Democratic legislators to make this argument and to encourage a policy rethink via a Baker-Hamilton study group, the politics will also have to add up. That calculation isn’t so simple. In recent years, the GOP has made a bold play to peel off Jewish supporters and donors by citing President Bush’s strong support for Israel. Democrats may worry that establishing a commission to assess those policies might advance this GOP effort.
No doubt it will on the margins. But anecdotal and polling evidence suggest that the silent majority of the Jewish community is hungry for a progressive move to renew peace efforts and hope: Democrats would likely be surprised at just how favorably much of their Jewish base would respond to a new direction. This path also offers the chance to prevent a looming rift between the Democratic Jewish base and the progressive foreign policy community. A pro-peace process Democratic voice that is at the same time firmly pro-Israel (remember President Clinton?) could help prevent a schism between these two key constituencies. So far, however, Democrats have allowed Republicans to “out-pro-Israel” them, by failing to challenge a neocon orthodoxy that ultimately damages Israel and the United States. A large part of the pro-Israel community appears ready for this message….