Friday, June 05, 2009

President Barack Obama Went to Cairo & Walked the Extra Mile.

No 44 has gone further than any other President in his attempt to untie the historical knot in the Middle East.

Of course, he did not go far enough. The task of reversing historical trends in this area of the world would overwhelm even the best political leadership America can find.

Yesterday the world heard from the mouth of our new President that America wants to take a new path. But, as Mr. Obama himself noted, a speech does not - itself - make history.
I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.
It was a noble and eloquent effort that fell short. Still, I give Barry an A- in this attempt:
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

. . . . the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. . . . Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. . . . .

. . . . . Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued existing Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop be vacated.

. . . . . America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. . . . privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true. Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed.
So, our gifted President deserves very high marks. But even he falls short of honors.

The existing Israeli settlements in the West Bank prevent the establishment of a self-sustaining Palestinian state. The status quo will not hold. The effects of the eight-year Busheney era of procrastination, prevarication and provocation have left us with what sailors call a hatchet bowline. That's a knot that can only be loosened with a hatchet.

The saddest two words in the English language are "too late".