Wanted: Peace in our time

'Let Me Get This Straight' by Barry Knister

President Obama’s outline of a peace plan for the Middle East, and the recent visit to the U.S. by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu generated many letters to the Daily News. The issue is very important, and today’s column is devoted it.

“No apology necessary”
Rejecting another writer’s contention that President Obama has “Muslim leanings,” the writer of this letter insists “President Barack Obama is a Christian and has made his distaste for extremist Islam and for shariah law abundantly clear on numerous occasions.”

The writer adds that it makes no sense to criticize Obama for his suggested starting points for peace discussions, because “the same ingredients for peace between Israelis and Palestinians have been endorsed by all U.S. presidents and our European allies ….” He concludes that these terms must be agreed on if Israel is to avoid having to control an “Israel/West Bank where Jews will be outnumbered.”

The writer of “Closing argument” doesn’t think so. Using the president’s middle name “Hussein,” he tells us that “Given the choice of an option that helps Israel or one that helps the Arab Muslims, who do you actually think Obama will lean toward? It’s like asking red-haired, blue-eyed Kathleen Kelly if she supports the Irish.”

Apparently, we are to assume that Obama’s middle name, along with his Kenyan background are proof of an anti-Israel, pro-Arab bias. The writer then offers the following: “Our president’s name is not exactly Jewish. It baffles me that such a disproportionate number of Jews support this administration, both with their votes and contributions….”

By now, the reader is baffled as well. If Obama is anything like what the writer suggests he is, how is it possible that “such a disproportionate number” of Jewish Americans stand behind him?

It doesn’t matter to the writer of “No deal.”
"American’s (sic) have to wonder what our president is thinking,” he says. “Our one and only staunch ally in the Middle East is asked to return to the murderous borders of 1967, borders that place their enemies within eight miles of downtown Tel Aviv. These enemies rain bombs daily on innocent civilians in an effort to drive them from their homeland.”

The writer of “Old plan revisited” rejects this position with sarcasm: “Please note he (Obama) said that would be a starting point. How dare he suggest something the World Court, international law and the United Nations have been suggesting for 44 years.”

More sarcasm figures in “Security of Israel”:
“It’s stunning to watch the hysterical reaction of the right wing to President Barack Obama’s mention of the pre-1967 borders as part of a possible peace plan in the Middle East. The scholarly Michele Bachmann sniped that Obama ‘betrayed’ Israel, and Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential mannequin, said Obama was 'throwing Israel under the bus.'”

Sarcasm is a legitimate tool in the writer’s kit, but it falls flat when accompanied by the following: “The anti-Obama reflex of conservatives showed their historical Alzheimer’s, and their attacks of ‘threatening the security of Israel’ denuded blatant hypocrisy.” How do threats denude or strip hypocrisy, blatant or otherwise? Did the writer mean the attacks “denoted” or revealed hypocrisy? What we see is what we get.

With or without misspellings, verifiable evidence doesn’t get in the way of “I’m with them.”
Here’s the whole letter: “Any Jew who votes for President Barack Obama, given his view of Israel vis a vis the Palestinians, should go to Jim Jones’ house and drink the Kool-Aid. Jews in 2008 voted 78 percent for Obama. What lunacy. I’m Catholic, but I’m a Jew at heart. I stand with you. If I were a young man I’d go to Israel and join the army.”

Where does this leave us? 78 percent of American Jews voted for Obama and should commit suicide for having been so lunatic. Even so, the writer, a Catholic, is a Jew at heart—presumably the American kind--and wishes he could go to Israel to join the army.

After trying to digest all this, what comes to the reader—neither Jewish nor Catholic—is a public-service commercial. It shows an egg being fried as the voiceover says, “This is your brain on drugs.” In effect, my reading on this subject convinces me that some matters are too complex to be managed in 250 words or less.

My conclusion is supported by “Middle East peace: American Jews should support Obama.” Published on June 6 and written by a professor of international relations at Michigan State University, this guest commentary offers a thoughtful and detailed analysis that refutes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s position, and endorses the Obama approach.

The writer contends the Prime Minister knows that the preconditions he insists on before negotiations can begin “are totally unacceptable to the Palestinians.” As a consequence, they serve no useful purpose. The writer also repeats what others have said, that Obama has “reiterated exactly what Israeli Labor Party Prime Minister Ehud Barak had offered” in 2000, and that another Israeli leader offered again in 2008.

The point is not the guest commentator’s opinion, but the seriousness with which he has treated the subject. It is evident in the quality of his writing, and in the way he orders verifiable information to support his argument.

But even such a clear and thoughtful discussion leaves the reader with many questions. What for instance can explain Netanyahu’s unyielding position? The Prime Minister is highly intelligent, and fully mindful of the stakes involved. It must be that his hard-line stance has to do not only with the long history of bad blood between Israelis and Palestinians, but with what elected officials everywhere must face: the unique demands of politics in their own country.

Perhaps future writers will shed light on how the game is played in Israel.

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