Monday, June 9, 2008

Strange Goings-On at the Spine

I think I'm a relatively intelligent person, but I find it difficult to understand exactly what Marty Peretz is trying to say in this particular blog post. First he says
Barack Obama's position on the future of Jerusalem is crystal clear.
On Wednesday, Obama told the AIPAC conference in Washington that "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided."
Then, in the next sentence, he says
On Thursday, he told CNN that, of course, Jerusalem will be part of whatever negotiations take place in the context of a peace effort.
Finally asking
Does the second statement contradict the other, as Obama's critics have mobilized themselves into charging?
Well, yes. If Jerusalem is up for negotiation, that means its division is up for negotiation, as the Palestinians have wanted for decades. So, this isn't really that complicated.

Except it is, apparently.
So let's examine what Obama believes. One that Jerusalem is and will continue to be the capital of the Jewish state. There are no ifs or buts about that...

Obama also asserted that the city will remain undivided. This is his guarantee of American backing for a city map that will not cut off the Mount of Olives from the rest of Jerusalem and that Pisgat Ze'ev and Neve Ya'akov which, east of Arab neighborhoods, were added and annexed to Jerusalem after 1967 and will remain in Jerusalem.

But keep in mind that these intricate matters must be hashed out and ratified at the negotiating table.
My personal opinion is that if something is not up for negotiation, then you don't negotiate it. That is, if Obama believes what Peretz says he believes, then Jerusalem should not be an issue for future negotiations. The problem is that Jerusalem will be an issue for future negotiation, everybody knows it, and the presidential candidates are--yes--pandering to the Jewish vote when they say otherwise.

The fact that Obama is not alone in lying his head off when it comes to Jerusalem shouldn't come as any surprise to people who follow Jewish or Israeli politics. Every year the presidential candidates make this or that pledge regarding Jerusalem and never follow through on them. Its become one of those bizarre rituals of American identity politics in which everyone knows they're lying or being lied to and no one particularly cares, because what is important is not the actual policy in question but the due deference being paid to the concerns of the particular group involved.

Peretz's strange take on Obama's blatantly--but not surprisingly--contradictory statements on Jerusalem really says more about Obama and his supporters than it does about American policy toward Jerusalem or Israel in general. For whatever reason, those who have bought into the Obama phenomenon simply cannot seem to wrap their heads around the fact that he is, in fact, a politician, and is perfectly willing to say things he doesn't mean or believe in order to drum up more votes. Especially, its worth noting, among a community of voters who regard him with a fair degree of skepticism. There is nothing overly unusual about this, but Peretz's rather muddled attempt to pretend it isn't happening is a bit disappointing. If there is one thing above all which the Jewish people should have learned from our history, it is that, pace Orwell, messiahs, political or otherwise, should always be judged guilty until proved innocent.