Replies: 3 Comments
BS"D Thanks Ami. Good summary. I think Obama's association with Trinity is completely misunderstood by the Jewish community. I am a baal teshuvah from Chicago and the daughter of a Chicago Sun-Times reporter. I was old enough to understand the whole debate on the development of the housing projects on the Southwest side of Chicago. Leave aside that long story - history has shown it was a bad idea and created a living hell for many poor black people. My father - who was very familiar with the politicians involved - often said the correct thing was rent subsidies to allow people to live throughout the city so they would have more options for employment and so on. The liberal politicians did not fight for this - several told my father off the record that they could not deliver this against pressure to keep blacks out of many neighborhoods. The projects went ahead.
Barack Obama deserves great admiration for going and working in those neighborhoods. While he was working with the churches doing organizing he naturally was encouraged by the clergy to attend church (l'havdil just like any Chabad Rabbi would do). He was inspired by Jeremiah Wright who was working to give people in those neighborhoods hope, support, services, access to education, health care - you name it. The word "black" in the mandate of the Trinity church - black education, black leadership and so on is appropriate in the context that Wright has described it - building a sense of community identity/pride/ownership and so on. If you watch video of Wright operating in his church on YouTube with an open mind you can see why Obama enjoyed being there and was uplifted by the experience.
Regarding Farrakhan - he is obviously an odious character - I have seen him in person and his staff on video. Obama has distanced himself from Farrakhan. However, the fact that he was given an award by Wright - or that they traveled together - is not a problem. Farrakhan and the NOI have provided security in many inner city neighborhoods (as you may know). The NOI is not a perfect organization and has a leader that is offensive to Jews but that does not undermine their real and valuable contribution to blacks in the prisons and the inner cities. Wright has a good reason to have a relationship with him and it will not have any effect on Obama as President. Why would it? Are they going to whisper in his ear - "Those Jews are rotten you know". Frankly, this is a non-issue.
Second point - I think Obama is best for Israel from a tactical viewpoint. He has the least incentive to get involved. As Peretz reminds us, the Clinton camp has shown that they believe it is OK to force an agreement in which Israel gives everything and the Palestinians give and do nothing. H. Clinton has exactly the same advisors Bill had and she has Bill. We can assume that he will take an active role in the Middle East for two reasons: 1. She and he claim that she took an active role in policy discussions when Bill was President (this is part of her job experience) so we can assume he will do the same in her administration; 2. She has said she will send him abroad as a "goodwill ambassador". Bill’s ego will drive him to force Israel into a deal even at their peril.
McCain, on the other hand, has clearly stated that he is going to take Jim Baker and Brent Scowcroft out of the mothballs and send these guys (the smartest men he knows) to fix the Middle East (e.g., force the '67 borders). Please see Scowcroft’s 1/4/2007 NYT article “Getting the Middle East Back on Our Side". In short he argues that if the US withdraws from Iraq, Iran will be happy and expand its influence and serious problems will occur and to avoid these problems Israel must be forced into a final deal with the Arabs living in Judea and Samaria. His view boils down to "Sell out Israel to get the world to see we were right to invade Iraq after all".
In his words, "To avoid these dire consequences, we need to secure the support of the countries of the region themselves. It is greatly in their self-interest to give that support, just as they did in the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict. Unfortunately, in recent years they have come to see it as dangerous to identify with the United States, and so they have largely stood on the sidelines. A vigorously renewed effort to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict could fundamentally change both the dynamics in the region and the strategic calculus of key leaders. Real progress would push Iran into a more defensive posture. Hezbollah and Hamas would lose their rallying principle. American allies like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the gulf states would be liberated to assist in stabilizing Iraq. And Iraq would finally be seen by all as a key country that had to be set right in the pursuit of regional security. Arab leaders are now keen to resolve the 50-year-old dispute. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel may be as well. His nation’s long-term security can only be assured by resolving this issue once and for all. However, only the American president can bring them to the same table. Resuming the Arab-Israeli peace process is not a matter of forcing concessions from Israel or dragooning the Palestinians into surrender. Most of the elements of a settlement are already agreed as a result of the negotiations of 2000 and the “road map” of 2002. What is required is to summon the will of Arab and Israeli leaders, led by a determined American president, to forge the various elements into a conclusion that all parties have already publicly accepted in principle." (Scowcroft article)
I expect that McCain will try to shy away from this now to get Jewish votes but that is what he will really do. These fellows - McCain. Baker, and Scowcroft are focused on making their mark on history at their age and it seems unlikely that they would listen to any alternative views.
Obama has nothing to gain and everything to lose getting involved with Israel. Annapolis gives him an out – they tried that and it did not work and we will get back to it “soon”. He will focus on domestic issues and Iraq. Even if Malley is advising him I do not think that would be a bad thing. Malley is focused on the need to get the two pieces of the P’s back together – he is an Arafat man who is angry with Abbas. He recently wrote an article in the Washington Post ("Middle East Triangle" -- http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/01/16/AR2008011603442.html) explaining how difficult it will be to get the 3 parties to come to an agreement. I think he will emphasize that nothing can be done until that split is resolved and that will take time – possibly an infinite amount. We (Israel and the Jewish people abroad) are best off in a mode of stalling, in my humble opinion, to give us time to put real Jewish leadership in place in Israel – and work to replace the widespread acceptance of the “2-State Solution” with an alternative solution that does not expel Jews from Judea and Samaria. If Israel will tell the world with conviction that it will not expel Jews from Judea and Samaria after the bad failure of the Gaza experiment – I believe an Obama administration is the best bet to support them in that. The onus is on Israel to take the initiative to stop the reckless and morally bankrupt “West Bank” expulsion proposal – not the Americans.
Finally, on Iran...There is no question in my mind that Barack Obama is just as smart as Ahmedinajad. The scenario you describe paints a picture of Obama akin to a high school student at a debate with a vastly greater opponent. That is simply a cartoon and not a real discussion of what might happen. As you know, Ahmedinajad is in trouble with his base – poor Iranians – for not delivering on bread and butter issues for them. He just had one of his policies – on gas delivery to the countryside – contradicted by the Supreme Ruler fellow and it was supposedly embarrassing for him. He is being criticized for spending too much time on saber rattling and not enough on the economy. Now is the time to engage with Iran from a stance of no compromise on Israel’s security, insistence on more transparency in the Iranian nuclear program, and some carrots. Reagan dealt with the Russians and it was the right thing to do. That is the model Obama has referenced and based on the votes in Red States it seems many Independents and Republicans agree with him.
Yocheved, Thursday, February 7th
First one means "is it fitting that he should rule? Second is harder - Something about "he said to elect consuls out of the plebs" but I am guessing a bit - Where are they from? (and what does #2 mean?).
Most appropriate for elections is usually what Tacitus wrote of Galba: "Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset." (Everyone would have agreed he was capable of ruling, had he not ruled) - Could be true of any of those candidates.
care ut vales.
Ami Isseroff, Thursday, February 7th
Bravo Ami, a good synopsis erudite and to the point. I always remind people the sage words of General Charles DeGaulle (may he forever stay in the hole they deposited him in) "citizens have friends, nations don't have friends, they have interests". The real question for Americans is "Est, Dignus est quī imperet?" And that I'm afraid can only be answered with hindsight. All we can really say to those affable rebels is "Īte, inquit creāte cōnsulēs ex plēbe" and pray providence is kind to them.
Larry Riteman, Thursday, February 7th
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