Friday, May 20, 2011


My Twitter feed exploded – EXPLODED – yesterday afternoon. You would have thought there had been a terrorist attack, or perhaps Donald Trump had reentered the presidential race. What made my Twitter feed explode was something I had to read twice: President Obama had called on the Israelis to acknowledge the ’67 borders as the basis for a negotiated peace agreement with the Palestinians (UN Resolution 242, for the uninitiated).

Really? THIS is what made my friends and acquaintances go crazy? And it wasn’t just my Jewish friends – oh no – going apoplectic. My Christian, Israel-loving friends had gone even MORE mad. “Time to pray” some said. Well, they are certainly right about that.

What is an Israel-loving American Jew – who happens to be a Democrat – to do about the current state of affairs? I look left and right and see pundit after pundit declare it’s time for a major paradigm shift; American Jews may now withhold support for Obama in 2012…which Republican candidate will step up and “out-Israel” the field for the love and affection (and money) of American Jews…and what about me? Should I disavow my political leanings and pledge support to the next Republican candidate for President who can offer me the most sincere, God-inspired pledge of fealty to Israel and the Jewish people? Are you meshuganah??

Let’s first lay out a few simple, elucidating facts.

1) UN Resolution 242 called for Israel to withdraw from territory gained in the 1967 war. 242 has been the basis – some would say obstacle – for every major Israel-Palestinian peace dialogue for the last 25 years. The Oslo Accords of 1993 – you’ll remember the poignant handshake between Yitzhak Rabin and Yassir Arafat – essentially codified an agreement based on the ’67 borders as a starting point. The borders of 1967 have ALWAYS been the center of fulcrum, so to speak, as a basis of negotiations.

2) President Obama said nothing new or controversial. He didn’t demand that Israel withdraw from land taken in the ’67 war. “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.” Maybe I’m missing something, but MY read is that he’s calling for the borders as the basis for negotiations – not the end of them.

3) Americans love Israel, and want two states. Public polling couldn’t be more clear on this. In a poll conducted last year by The Israel Project, a majority of Americans agreed with the sentiment that “Even with all the problems that America faces at home now, we must still work hard to create a two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Unless someone has the land deed to Madagascar, it’s pretty clear where that second state is going to go.

4) Most importantly, ISRAELIS believe this is the right thing to do. More than 3 in 5 Israelis support the two state solution. And more than 3 in 5 accept the 1967 lines as a starting point for negotiations. If the ISRAELIS want it – for crying out loud – why should WE have such a problem with it?? (of course, the answer is we don’t; just a handful of screeching politicians make it seem that way).

So as we enter the silly season of Presidential politics, I think it would serve everyone to step back from the ledge – or away from their Twitter or Facebook page – and consider this: the Peace Process has failed. Year after year, decade after decade, leader after leader, the same language and promises and stalemates repeat themselves time and again. To allege that Barack Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus” is a gross misrepresentation of his intention – not to mention completely wrong, given that American Presidents have said and done far worse with no such outcomes (remember George HW Bush cutting off loan guarantees for West Bank settlements?).

To simply give in to the political posturing robs us of yet another opportunity to have a real, measurable impact on what has long been an aching sore in the backside of American foreign policy – nay, this is bigger than American foreign policy. Two peoples – cousins – have been at war for the better part of 65 years, and I, for one, welcome the effort by President Obama, even as I remain skeptical. Because the sad truth is, if history is a lesson, to be optimistic is a little crazy – call it my Meshuganah Conundrum. I want to believe – truly – that there can be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, with two states, recognized by the other. Even if it does sound a little crazy.