Today President Obama made good on his campaign promise to address the Arab/Muslim world in an effort to change our relationship with them and more importantly to advance the cause of peace. He spoke Cairo University in Egypt - the so called heart of the Arab world.
His goal was a noble one. He believes – naively in my view - that a change of attitude from one of perceived enmity to one of warm acceptance of Muslims might actually impact our world for the better. In the short term I think he may have succeeded in that by presenting a more favorable image of the US to them. He was interrupted by applause several times and given a standing ovation when he concluded.
He apparently hit all the right notes. Although some on the political right would disagree and call that speech overly apologetic - I did not see it that way. It was more of an act of humility admitting that even we can make mistakes. This should not be looked at as an apology for invading Iraq. (Although it can be looked at that way and the Arabs may take it that way we should see it for what it was - a general admission that the US - or any nation - is not infallible in their decision making process.)
The President also made reference to the Israeli Palestinian issue. He was very clear about America’s support for the Jewish State calling it unbreakable. At the same time he criticized any and all settlement activity in Israel as counter-productive and wrong.
Good and fair minded people can honestly agree or disagree with that. But this is not a position that is really any different from that of previous administrations. Emphasis on that when speaking to Arabs in an Arab country should not be a surprise.
I think the one fact that all parties can agree upon - if they are honest - is that the State of Israel is the key issue from which all else flows. Yes - there are many other issues that can be seen as sustaining reasons for many of the problems, whether they be Islamic fundamentalists’ hatred of Western culture or the extreme poverty of much of Middle Eastern Arabs (with the exception of the oil rich sheikdoms).
These issues, though very real are not at the core. I truly believe that a Jewish State in the middle of a virtually all Muslim populace in that part of the world is what makes them so mad. That has been the case for over a century - going back to the earliest of Zionist pioneers. The more successful those pioneers became - the greater the resentment.
Nothing would make them happier than if all Jews would just go away – back to 'where they came from'. Their objection to our presence there is both theological and cultural. Israel they say - is really Palestine. They believe it is a Muslim country where Mohamed ascended to heaven.
They view Zionists (and by association all Jews) as colonialists. And they have seen a decades long occupation that has caused them untold grief and humiliation. The fact that their leadership is mostly responsible for that is entirely ignored. It doesn't occur to them. They look at ‘facts on the ground’ and see a powerful army brutally enforcing an unjust occupation. They do not see the necessity of Israeli tactics as a means to its survival. It won’t occur to them since their basic belief is that Jews don’t belong in Palestine in the first place!
So if the core of the problem is Israel’s very existence what hope is there for a true peace settlement? No God fearing Muslim could ever accept that theologically.
The answer to that is that theology cannot be used as a basis for peace. One must take into account that two opposing theologies - each believing in their right to the land - will never come to terms with anything less than what their religion demands.
The answer must be compromise. Both sides must learn how to live with the each other. Theologies need not change. We can and will continue to believe that the land belongs to us. They can and will believe that the land belongs to them.
Reality dictates this course of action. Short of an all out religious war to rid Eretz Yisroel, of all Palestinians - they are there to stay. And they will continue to grow. We must make peace with them if there is any hope for a bright and terror free future. There is no religious Jew in the world that doesn’t know to whom the land of Israel was given to by God. But full possession of it will have to wait until messianic times. Palestinians are not leaving. Let us face it. Israel is not in any position to change that fact.
But as I have said many times about many issues – the devil is in the details. (Thank you Ross Perot!)
What President Obama does not seem to understand is that it is Islamic Fundamentalists who call the shots now. They are the strongest and most determined of all Muslims to achieve their goals of a ‘Juden-Frei’ Palestine. There is nothing secret about their intentions. They would sabotage any effort at compromise including any attempt at a two state solution. That most Palestinians would agree to such a solution (even though they hate us) doesn’t concern them. They are all about what God wants. Not what the Arab man in the street wants.
Most Arabs are just plain tired of the whole thing. Palestinians are tired of living the way they do and would more than settle for a two state solution. But Iran and their surrogates like Hamas and Hezbollah won’t let it happen. They will continue to exploit Arab hatred of Jews – mostly by forcing Israel to defend itself in ways that are oppressive and even deadly (e.g. Hamas using their own women and children as human shields during military actions).
So we have this conundrum. Everyone knows what needs to be done and everyone knows that it is impossible to do it. Israel correctly perceives that any deal with Palestinians now would seriously endanger the lives of its citizens. They cannot now have two states as long as Iran and its theological surrogates in and around Israel and its environs exist. What happened in Gaza can easily happen in the West Bank. A peace deal of any kind would be suicidal on Israel’s part.
President Obama should not be optimistic about any kind of peace deal in the near term. My hope is that there is no undue pressure by his administration to make one. As long as Israel’s security can not be assured - and as long as there is a hostile Iran with theological and military surrogates like Hamas - there is no way to do that.
If I were to give the President any advice on how to proceed from here it would be to force a change in the dynamic of hatred of the Jewish people by the Arab populace. That will not happen over night but it is nonetheless a necessary component of any peace deal.
The one thing that Arabs continue to do – and have done for many decades is infuse hatred of Jews into the masses from the earliest of ages. It is taught in the schools; It’s in their textbooks; It’s preached in their Mosques; and it pervades their media. It is an integral part of their culture. The hatred is so strong and so perverse that the average Arab in the street believes in the old canard of Jews plotting world domination, or that Israel’s Mossad was responsible for 911 as a covert action (designed to blame the Arabs) and even that Jews use Christian (or Muslim) blood for Passover Matzah!
If the President would have thrown down the gauntlet with that challenge today, and made them realize that peace with irrational hatred is impossible – that would have meant something. To the best of my knowledge he didn’t do that.
So with all the all expectations the Presidents’s speech had in the world I don’t think he made the slightest dent in the way things are in the Middle East. I just hope he realizes it soon and doesn't mistake applause for progress.