Recent events make it clear that a Barack Obama presidency is not a long shot. It is a real possibility. A combination of Republican weakness, Obama’s personal attractiveness, and the fact that many Americans see him as the candidate of change — and nobody doubts that we need that — puts him in a very strong position today.
So it’s very important for those of us who are concerned about US policy in the Mideast, particularly toward Israel and the Palestinians, to understand where he is coming from on this issue, and perhaps to educate him about the history and current facts about it — because he may be the “decider” next year.
Like any good politician, he hasn’t said too much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, except that he favors a two-state solution. He did make a slightly more specific comment which I discussed last week, in which he seems to hold a position much like the Ayalon-Nusseibeh plan: there will be a division ‘based on’ the 1967 borders with land swaps to allow Israel to keep highly populated settlement areas and the Palestinians to get Arab areas within the Green Line in return, and the right of return for Arab refugees will be limited to the Palestinian state.
We can quibble about the details of such an agreement, but the overriding problem today is that a) there isn’t a unitary Palestinian entity that can negotiate such a settlement for all Palestinians, and b) no imaginable Palestinian leadership would (or could) accept it. A solution that is — given the players — unobtainable is not a solution.
So while this might be imaginable as an acceptable outcome (I will not get into that now), simply presenting it as a policy is absurd unless a way of achieving it is specified. Saying “we’ll negotiate with everybody” is a cop-out and possibly dangerous.
And then there’s the Zbig problem.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security advisor to Jimmy Carter, was chosen by Obama as a top advisor on foreign policy. I am not going to try to guess what is in Brzezinski’s head or Obama’s, but here are some of Brzezinski’s public statements:
Given that the Middle East is currently the central challenge facing America, Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have rendered a public service by initiating a much needed public debate on the role of the “Israel lobby” in the shaping of U.S. foreign policy. — Zbigniew Brzezinski, A Dangerous Exemption
I hate to say this but I will say it. I think what the Israelis are doing today for example in Lebanon is in effect, in effect–maybe not in intent–the killing of hostages. The killing of hostages. Because when you kill 300 people, 400 people, who have nothing to do with the provocations Hezbollah staged, but you do it in effect deliberately by being indifferent to the scale of collateral damage, you’re killing hostages in the hope of intimidating those that you want to intimidate. — Speech, July 20, 2006
Israel desired or favored the destruction of Iraq by the United States. Now it doesn’t hide its preference for the United States doing something to Iran, even though Israel itself has a powerful nuclear retaliatory capability. — Speech, June 12, 2007
We pressed the Palestinians to have elections in which the Hamas would participate. Hamas did win those elections. We were the ones who made that possible. So I think at some point we have to be prepared to conduct some sort of a dialogue with Hamas, perhaps informal, then increasingly formal.
Prime Minister Begin, whom I knew well, he told me personally that he didn’t think there was such a thing as a Palestinian, that there was no Palestinian nation, and that he was adamantly against two states coexisting in the space of the former mandate of Palestine, namely Israel and Palestine.
Yet we continued dealing with that government. We negotiated with it. We gave it a lot of economic assistance. And in the course of years, the Likud government itself came to accept the idea of two states within the territory of the former mandate of Palestine, coexisting with each other. — Interview, Online Newshour, July 18, 2006
The current crisis poses a grave threat to United States interests. One can argue forever as to whether Yasir Arafat or Ariel Sharon is more responsible for its eruption. — NY Times Op-ed, April 7, 2002
There’s a great deal of similar material available. Brzezinski supports the pernicious, even anti-Semitic Mearsheimer and Walt, he accuses Israel of ignoring collateral damage and in effect committing war crimes in Lebanon, he perpetuates the false and dangerous accusation that Israel is in some sense responsible for the US being in Iraq, and — time and again — he declares a moral equivalence between Israel and her terrorist opponents — Hamas and Arafat.
Brzezinski is very smart, and usually includes statements that suggest an understanding of Israel’s need for security. However, there’s no question that the policies that he will advocate will be to Israel’s severe disadvantage.
We don’t need another James A. Baker in a critical position in a future Obama administration. Obama has received criticism from pro-Israel voices like Alan Dershowitz about Brzezinski. The Obama campaign has responded that the criticism is politically motivated and coming from supporters of Hillary Clinton.
Regardless, Brzezinski’s slant is clear from his own words.