JEWISH WORLD / Obama must help Israel break its territorial addiction
For all its fear-mongering, let's hope the Republicans were right about Obama's new approach to Mideast peace.
The Republican Party pulled every trick in the book to scare the American public against voting for Barack Obama. He will raise taxes for the middle class, they warned, he's a socialist, he's a Muslim, he'll turn social security into a welfare system?
We can be thankful that most Americans did not pay much attention to this fear-mongering. Most of this negative campaigning was incorrect or thoroughly misleading. But there was one issue over which the Republicans attacked Obama that we must hope they were right about: his plan for a more even-handed U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
For the past eight years, we have had an American president who was Israel's "greatest friend" - a friend who stood by grinning feebly while we sank deeper and deeper into a mess.
Israel is like an alcoholic, except we are addicted to territories, not to tequila.
Just as an alcoholic denies that he has an addiction, we too deny ours by talking about "painful compromises" without making any, or by waiting until we have already resigned from politics before daring to tell truth, or by moaning about religious extremists while voting for factions which in turn give these fundamentalists our money.
Meanwhile, our supposed best friend has stood by, watching us, supporting us, even taking care of us, sometimes gently saying: "You know, you really shouldn't be drinking that," while never actually plucking up the courage - the friendship - to put a hand on our shoulder and say: "You need to stop."
Israel does not need a friend like that right now. We need a new type of friend - a true friend, one that will lead an intervention for us.
According to Wikipedia, "plans for a direct intervention are typically made by a concerned group of family, friends, and counselor(s), rather than by the addict. Often the addict will not agree that he (or she) needs the type of help that is proposed during the intervention, usually thought by those performing the intervention to be a result of denial."
In an intervention, the addict's family and friends read out lists of the addict's activities and behaviors that have hurt them, hurt others, and hurt the addict himself.
The family and friends tell the addict that they love him and care for him - and that is precisely why they are intervening.
They read the addict the list of harmful activities he has performed that they will no longer tolerate and they make it clear that if these activities continue, they will withdraw their various forms of support, whether emotional or financial.
That is what we need President Obama to do for us. We are so addicted to the territories that we will never leave them of our own accord. Our political system can't create the will for us to do that, and centrist Israelis' fear of tearing the social fabric of the country prevents us from forcing the religious right to do what we all know they need to do.
We still have romantic images of the settler as Zionist pioneer and a suppressed jealousy of the strong intra-communal bonds of settler communities.
The territories still make us feel good the night of and terrible the morning after. We are addicted to the territories. We can't put down the bottle.
Our friend ? President Obama ? needs to make the intervention for us, with the support by our family, the American Jewish community.
If Obama wants to be a true friend, he must put his hand on our shoulder and tell us to stop. He must take the bottle out of our hand. He must re-assure us that he loves us and cares for us, that he will continue to support us, but that he wants us to come out of this funk and live up to our potential.
Obama must tell us in clear terms how harmful our activities and behavior are to ourselves, to our friends, and to those around us. He must tell us what we need to do and what will no longer be tolerated. And he must help us carry out that program.
Like all alcoholics, it will not be easy to stop. We will have withdrawal symptoms. We will shake, we will convulse, we will vomit. We will blame others. We will shout and scream. We will try, through any means, to find a way to get to that hidden bottle of alcohol or to stop it being taken away from us. But our friend, Obama, must not waver. He must know that the intervention is not just good for us - it is the only way to save us. Because like every alcoholic, we are increasingly faced with a choice: Escape the addiction or let the addiction kill us.
Dr. Alex Sinclair is a lecturer in Jewish education at the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and an adjunct assistant professor of Jewish education at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.