"Letter on the way, start worrying." This saying came to mind in the wake of the discussion between U.S. President Barack Obama and a group of Jewish leaders last week, with its implied warning that Israel is liable to lose its special status in America. The truth is that our discourse with Obama is not as intimate as our discourse was with former president George W. Bush. Obama aspires to accelerate the peace process and is behaving as though everything starts and ends with the question of whether Israel will or will not freeze construction in the settlements.
Sixteen years have passed since the Oslo Accords, and we have gotten nowhere, except for the fact that the Palestinians turned us into moving targets during the intifadas and suicide attacks. Without any connection to the accords, former prime minister Ariel Sharon evacuated 21 settlements, 17 of them in Gush Katif, and the Palestinians, instead of turning the area that was evacuated into a tourist mecca, as the Egyptians did in Sinai, turned it into a base for launching Qassam rockets. And since there is still no serious partner on the Palestinian side, it is hard to get excited by the optimism of Obama, who expects a quick peace treaty not only with the Palestinians but with Syria as well. Optimism reminiscent of the cartoon character Speedy Gonzales.
The year 2010 is in the offing. That is the year in which the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one third of the Senate will be going to elections. About 20 percent of the Democratic members of Congress are Jewish, and the Republicans, who lost their majority in both houses, are looking for a way to restore it. The subject of peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not affect the half-term elections. The president who invented the slogan "Yes We Can" will be judged on internal problems: the economy, the unemployment situation, the collapsing auto industry, the thousands of university graduates who cannot find work, the situation of mortgages, the banks and social security. In short, things that are not solved by rhetoric.
Among those affected are quite a number of Jews, and as American citizens they will judge Obama first and foremost by his success, or his lack of success, in extricating America from the economic and financial crisis. That is more complicated than killing a fly on a live television broadcast.
Dizzied by his historic victory as the first African-American to achieve the presidency, Obama believes in his ability to change the world. A man with all-embracing good intentions: He is committed to leaving Iraq within two years and it is important to him to strengthen the Sunnis in the Islamic world to prevent the Shi'ites from taking it over. He is aiming at some kind of regional conference that photographs well, with himself in the center as orator.
With all of Obama's goodwill and all-embracing ambition, there is something naive, not to say infuriating, about his policy of rapprochement and about the whistle stops he has chosen on his travels dealing with our issue. He spoke in Turkey, he spoke in Egypt, he appeared before students in Saudi Arabia, in Paris, in England, in Ghana and in Australia. Even there the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was mentioned. His plan to begin rapprochement with Iran, which openly threatens to destroy Israel, and to reassure its fanatic leadership, which cruelly suppresses any attempt by the younger generation to get rid of the regime of the ayatollahs, is delusional.
The only place where he hasn't been is as president Israel. He has spoken about us, but not to us. That was precisely what the Jewish leaders complained about in their discussion with him last week. Obama assumed he did a great thing when he spoke in Cairo about the suffering of the Jewish people in the Holocaust. What is infuriating about these appearances is the implied distortion: that we deserve a state because of the Holocaust. Although, as a believing Christian, Obama is familiar with the Bible, his disregard of our historical connection to the Land of Israel, and obscuring the fact that the Palestinians are unable to overcome their passions and to be worthy partners to a peace agreement, is extremely annoying.
The Holocaust took place 65 years ago. The foundation for a Jewish state, on which the United Nations General Assembly decided in 1947, was the historical connection of the Jews to this part of the world. As David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, said to the Peel Commission in 1937: "The Bible is our mandate." We deserve to have a sovereign Jewish state with secure borders, without their threatening to flood it with Palestinian refugees with the excuse of the right of return, but with the clear objective of destroying it from within.
Just as the election of Obama brought historical justice to his people, who were exploited as slaves in America for hundreds of years, we expect that, as a leader who aspires to solve the problems of the world through rapprochement, he will come to Israel and declare here courageously, before the entire world, that our connection to this land began long before the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Holocaust; and that 4,000 years ago Jews already stood on the ground where he is standing.
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