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Debbie Menon

OBAMA AT AIIPAC CONFERENCE


THIS is a ‘Show and Tell’ event that is staged by AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) every presidential election year in the United States. It has been a tradition, a requirement, and a responsibility of every presidential candidate to pay homage to Israel, and to pledge allegiance to the Hebrew state that has claimed insecurity for decades.

This is such a standard procedure in election years that one might think; no one should pay much attention to this chagrin. But, Edward Peck, a former ambassador who was chief of mission in Iraq and Mauritania, also served as deputy director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan administration cautions: “There is nothing inherently wrong with lobbies; they are an essential element in our democratic system. Serious problems can arise, however, when a lobby becomes so powerful that it can exercise control over important aspects of the nation’s foreign policy while at the same time silencing those who do not share the same objectives. This is precisely the case with this pro-Israel lobby.”

This year Obama wowed the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference audience. All three contenders for the top job were joined in this spectacle, on the platform by Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Condoleezza Rice and numerous other Congress people. Such display of subservience should have convinced every believer and non-believer around the world, that this small but wealthy and well-connected interest group representing Israel in Washington DC has an enormously outsized and outrageously immense impact on the US foreign policy; making it obligatory for every presidential candidate and politician worth his salt, to report for duty and recite scripted speeches the substance of which could have easily been drafted in Israel.

Ken Goldstein, a professor of political science and Judaic studies at the University of Wisconsin once said: “Grassroots are important but grass tops are important, and these are grass tops.”

So for all you doubters, sit back, watch Obama at work, and have some faith he knows what is right and knows how to succeed. The Arabs particularly, who continually underestimate Obama, fail to look at the big picture and understand that he knows what he is doing. And he is phenomenal at getting things done. I don’t think the Arabs are giving him the rope he needs to run with. They take him too literally, and fail to realise that such subservience is unfortunately part of their system and is essential to even being in the race, and if not done delicately, he will not win the White House. The roof will fall in somewhere along the way to the polls, but long before the election!

He did not design the system, and, if he wants to play the game, he has to play by the rules; at least until he gets in the driver’s seat and can drive according to his own rules. Let us see what he does after he is elected, not what he says before the elections. Campaign talk has always been just that…campaign talk. Perhaps AIPAC is about to learn that!

Measure the man by what he does, not by what he says. Use the same yardstick on John McCain and see how good he looks when you stand him up next to Obama! The knees of all of his trousers have holes in them from decades of genuflection and crawling to get where he is today. This is the “experience” he (and Hillary) brags about and Obama does not. That is the problem.  So he has to work that much harder to prove that he can be trusted.

Those whining about him selling out or pandering or whatever, I think they miss the point of how smart and how skilled at politics and bridging divides Obama really is. He needs to establish himself as someone trusted by both sides before he can get things done, and until he did this, he was going to be doubted by those who believe McCain and smear emails over reality, as he hinted at the beginning of his speech. He won’t be able to effect any change, if he is viewed as an enemy going into it, and he is smart enough to not run into the AIPAC policy conference chanting “FREE PALESTINE.”   That isn’t effective, it isn’t smart, and it isn’t going to solve anything. Obama apparently shocked the Arabs by his statement at this influential annual policy conference when he said: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

This comment understandably appalled Palestinians who see Jerusalem, especially East Jerusalem as part of a future Palestinian state. Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 war and annexed it, in a move condemned by the United Nations as illegal. Jerusalem’s status as part of Israel is not recognized by anyone except Israel and has remained a central issue in peace negotiations.

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, told Al Jazeera on Thursday: “I say to Obama … please stop being more Israeli than the Israelis themselves,” and I absolutely agree. Should the US cede Palestinian East Jerusalem to Israel? No, it’s certainly not up to the US to do that. The sooner the Obama campaign offers clarification and puts this issue to rest, as they have been doing on most controversial issues the better.

Presidential campaigns have destroyed many bright and capable politicians. But there’s ample evidence that Obama is something special, a man who makes difficult tasks look easy, who seems to touch millions of diverse people with a message of hope. He did what he had to do to set the groundwork of trust with Israel and American Jews. He obviously was only giving one side of his policy, the side that the organisation cares about. His actual policy will undoubtedly be a lot more balanced than what it sounds like in front of AIPAC. Obama has realised the flaws in the system and understands both sides need to give and take for a solution to come about.

Perhaps President Obama, unlike the past presidents will quit underestimating the intelligence of an average Palestinian in general and support a US foreign policy that might help bring peace to the Middle East and if the Israeli government would cease the attempt to control and acquire more territory from the Palestinians, then there might actually be a potential for peace.

It’s obvious to any observer Israel commands too much power and influence over the US foreign policy. There needs to be fairness and equality in dealing with the Palestinian people. Israel will not get East Jerusalem, that is for sure, despite the continual building of settlements and stealing of Arab land. Arrogance, like blind ambition, knows no limits! And in the end, the first house to burn is its own house.







Debbie Menon: She is a freelance writer based in Dubai. Her articles have been featured in several print and online publications. She can be reached at: debbiemenon@gmail.com

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