Obama on Israel, all over again?

Jews in America love Israel but they vote on America.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
OPINION After the fury around the silly and obnoxious remarks made Rev. Wright somewhat subsided, it was only a matter of time before Sen. Barack Obama's foreign policy inexperience would again be called into question and what better than to challenge his Middle East credentials, particularly his "Israel" position. I have to admit I didn't think this would again warrant a comment until after he has secured the democratic nomination. But since this is an issue that impressed itself into public debate in Israel, it obviously does justify a short reaction. Secondly, it creates a false and distorted image as if American Jews will or will not vote for Obama based solely on the verdict of the American Jewish right wing on him: "He's kosher", or "He's bad for Israel". It's a degrading characterization. American Jews love Israel but vote on America. It seems that no matter what he says on Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict/peace process, there are those who will attack him, irrespective of and in denial of what he said. The last such shallow and unfair vitriol comes in an article from Mr. Ed Lasky (The American Thinker), criticizing Sen. Obama for seeking advice on the Middle East from Dan Kurtzer, since Kurtzer's ideas are, naturally, detrimental to Israel's security and thus, to the US' interests. So Sen. Obama is in fact soliciting advice from people who would imperil America. A little perspective. Daniel C. Kurtzer, an Orthodox Jew, has been the US Ambassador to Egypt and most recently the US Ambassador to Israel. An expert on the Middle East, and expert on the peace process, an American patriot (why is it, incidentally, that in America and in Israel, if you are not extreme right wing, you have to exhibit your patriotism every day, rather than the other way around??) and an ideological Zionist who happens to believe that a strong Israel is also an American interest. You don't have to agree with all or some of Kurtzer's opinions or prescriptions. You do, however, have to read what he writes before attacking his credentials, and more to the point, those of Senator Obama. The same kind of nonsense was written about Rob Malley, a Clinton administration Mid-East peace process expert. Mind you, everything Kurtzer and Malley say and think that offends some American Jews (emphasize "some") is being expressed daily in the mainstream centrist political discourse and debate in Israel. The constant dwelling on Sen. Obama's Israel policy (one he has not formed yet nor should he have) illuminates a broader issue, that of foreign policy experience in general. Is it a prerequisite, an advantage, an asset or none of the above? Is experience superior to good judgment? Is Obama less experienced than JFK was in 1960 or Bill Clinton in 1992? He is obviously less experienced than, say, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Yet he had reservations about Iraq that they refused to even entertain. Then there is the natural fear of the unknown, the impressionable, world-changing cat in the sack. Obama is not a usual politician in terms of conventional and stereotypical background. He is running for President at a very early stage of his political career and consequently did not go through the production line of "Pro-Israel" industry. I wish he had, but the fact is he has not. It should not have any bearing on his relations with Israel. Lyndon Johnson came to power before the US-Israeli relationship was cemented. In fact, he was the one who cemented it, with Nixon and Reagan providing the polishing. Need we remind someone that Richard Nixon was not considered by most American Jews a founding father of Zionism? Bill Clinton wasn't exactly an expert on this relationship while at the Governor's mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas. So the non-expert candidate/president less seasoned and less versed on Israeli and Middle Eastern issues has one wise option: to be an expert on experts. Surround himself with people who do have experience, who are savvy and knowledgeable. Their respective positions will be balanced once an administration is in functioning mode. So give him time to assemble a team, and if he wins the nomination give him time to form policy positions. And if he ends up winning the Presidency, you may be comforted to know that he has people like Daniel Kurtzer at his side. If you don't like what you see then, bash all you want.