19
May
09

why obama may stand up to israel

despite ample evidence he’s not quite the crusader many thought he would be:

Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis has always been the key to America’s strategic interests in the Middle East and the broader Muslim world. Unlike Bush, Obama clearly gets that. In fact, the most significant thing he said in his post-meeting press conference came in response to a questioner who noted that Netanyahu has repeatedly said there could be no movement on the Palestinian issue until the Iranian issue was addressed. Obama responded, “If there is a linkage between Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, I personally believe it actually runs the other way. To the extent that we can make peace with the Palestinians — between the Palestinians and the Israelis, then I actually think it strengthens our hand in the international community in dealing with a potential Iranian threat.”

Moreover, Obama realizes that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian crisis would have positive consequences that go far beyond Iran. The entire region is a dangerous mess, a powder keg ready to explode. He needs to get U.S. troops safely out of Iraq, try to stabilize Afghanistan enough to begin thinking about drawing troops down there, and undermine the Taliban and other radical Islamist groups by winning hearts and minds in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Arab-Muslim world. None of these goals are easy to achieve, but all of them will be facilitated by brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Confronted with an array of unpleasant problems, leaders usually tackle the one they have the greatest chance of solving. One of the unintended consequences of Bush’s misguided “war on terror” may have been to make the legendarily intractable Israeli-Palestinian crisis look comparatively solvable. How ironic it would be if a crusade in large part dreamed up by Likudnik ideologues resulted in the final defeat of the Likud and everything it stands for.

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