Presidential Questions on Peace Process

Israel's Ready for Compromise But Palestinians May Not Be

4 Questions: What would President Obama or Mitt Romney do to move the Middle East peace process forward?
getty images
4 Questions: What would President Obama or Mitt Romney do to move the Middle East peace process forward?

By Noam Neusner

Published May 15, 2012, issue of May 18, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The battle for the philo-Israel vote is taking familiar shape as both major candidates and major parties do their best to pledge fealty to Israel at this hour of maximum peril.

President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney are outdoing each other when it comes to their rhetoric. Obama says he’s got Israel’s back. Romney says that a White House led by him would not have “one inch of difference” with Jerusalem.

Cynics may think — and in fact, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said as much on a recent trip to Tunisia — that whatever pro-Israel rhetoric is uttered in an election season is mere political puffery. Once the hard work of governing begins, reality will set in, and America will return to its role as an even-handed peacemaker in the region.

If so, let’s take that possibility seriously and ask the candidates whether in addition to having Israel’s back in case of war, they have a plan to deliver peace to the Jewish state. I think the resulting conversation would be revealing.

I would welcome the candidates to answer four basic questions: What are the benefits of peace? How will America pursue it differently than it has in the past? What would we expect Israel to give up for peace? And what would peace demand of the Palestinians?

As it turns out, four years ago, then-Senator Obama spoke quite openly at the Policy Conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee about his commitment to a new way of forging peace: “I won’t wait until the waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role, and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration.”

That dig on the “waning days” was aimed at the two preceding presidents, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, whose peace efforts accelerated significantly in their final years of office. So, not only did he promise to advance the cause of peace, but he also promised to do it from day one and not wait.

Obama’s promise turned out to be a pretty flimsy one. He did put in place a special emissary to the region, George Mitchell. And then he proceeded to turn up the pressure on Israel to halt all settlement activity — a longtime bugaboo of the Arab world. He famously promised to create some “daylight” between the United States and Israel, to create a sense in the Arab world that America could be fair.

But within a year’s time, the results were clear: Not only was there no peace, there was also no peace process, or even a process pretending to be a peace process. Obama failed miserably as a peacemaker, and in case you hadn’t noticed, he hasn’t spent any effort on the issue these past few months, which, ironically, could be the waning days of his presidency.

But there’s a lesson here, and not just for politicians promising things they can’t deliver. Forging peace is actually a lot harder than starting a war. Just saying that you’ll try harder and that you’ll try earlier is not much of a strategy. The tactics deployed by Obama — appointing a special negotiator, creating daylight, harping on settlements — also didn’t work.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.