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What I Learned on Obama's Rabbi Call

Dr. Richard L. Rubenstein

I listened to President  Obama’s rabbi call yesterday. The whole operation was managed by the Reform movement with leftist Rabbi David Saperstein acting as chairperson and droolingly thanking the President for all he had done. Rabbi David Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, formerly Senior Vice President for News of National Public Radio who was forced to resign after she summarily fired former NPR columnist Juan Williams for having said on the Bill O’Reilly show that he worried when he gets on an airplane and sees “people dressed in garb that identifies them first and foremost as Muslims.” (“Juan Williams: I Was Fired for Telling the Truth” ).  Agudat Israel, the Orthodox rabbinic group, was included but they were at the bottom of the list so that none of their rabbis had a chance to ask a question. This is hardly a surprise since Orthodox rabbis are least likely to be in Obama’s corner. Two questions were selected, one on the economy and the other on the Middle East. There were no surprises. It was an electioneering effort by the President which was warmly received by the rabbinic left. I noticed one thing that seemed to reflect the President’s mind set: He twice emphasized that the road to peace in the Middle East, especially between Israel and Egypt and Turkey, was through successful peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which, as we know, is nonsense. The Palestinians won’t make a genuine peace and the Israelis would be insane to give away an inch of territory after what they should have learned in Gaza, South Lebanon, and the Sinai. Moreover, Obama’s remarks seem to indicate that he believes the conflict is territorial rather than religious. A territorial conflict can be resolved through compromise and diplomacy, but not a genuine religious conflict. At least, Hamas speaks the truth on that issue.

Further straws in the wind: Today’s NYT editorial on the Middle East (“The Palestinians’ Bid”) asserts that Obama is doing the right thing in vetoing the Palestinian UN bid for statehood and asserts that peace is only possible between the interested parties. It then goes on characyeristically to blame Netanyahu for failure to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and urges Obama and/or the Quartet to formulate a plan and present it to Netanyahu, presumably with implicit “persuaders” attached. I would guess that Obama’s next move, perhaps through Hilary, will be to tell the Israelis, “Look what we’ve done for you. We can’t go on helping you forever so you had better come up with a plan that Abbas can accept. This may have to wait until term 2, if he has one, and he will then say that the US has done all it can but the Israeli “hard right” has not cooperated. Therefore, we have no choice but to support Palestinian statehood, putting all the blame on Netanyahu, with the Jewish left serving as the amen corner.

 


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