Ralph Nader’s imagined list of political unmentionables — the issues that he believes won’t be aired unless he runs — includes one item that might be described as missing from the current campaign debate: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Missing, that is, if “talking about” it means buying into Nader’s view that Israel is the aggressor nation. None of three main candidates takes that view. In Nader’s eyes, it seems, that means they’re not talking about it.
Nader is particularly peeved at Obama on this score. He says that Obama used to be “pro-Palestinian” before he ran for Illinois state senate, but now “he’s supporting the Israeli destruction of the tiny section called Gaza.” As Nader sees it, supporting Israel means that Obama “doesn’t have any sympathy” for Palestinian suffering.
Nader’s description of Obama’s views is, like so much else he says, a crude distortion. Yes, Obama has voiced sympathy for the suffering of Palestinians. He has also worked closely with the Jewish community to help Israel. He has made a practice of listening to both sides; that’s at the heart of his politics. He doesn’t think that sympathizing with Palestinians and supporting Israel need to be mutually exclusive. As he told a group of Jewish community leaders in Cleveland last weekend, he thinks “there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel.” But, he said, “that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel.”
We second that, and we’ll take it a step further: The best way to show friendship to Israel is to help it achieve peace through dialogue with the Palestinians. The candidate who does that best should be the choice of pro-Israel voters.