Obama’s mandate for peace

An attempt must be made to bring all to a table and to exert whatever pressure is possible.

US President Obama speaks with PM Netanyahu 370 (photo credit: White House Photo by Pete Souza)
US President Obama speaks with PM Netanyahu 370
(photo credit: White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Ah, how hard they tried, the AIPAC organizers, their funders, their sympathizers, to deliver the Jewish vote in America to Mitt Romney. And they failed because the Jews of America love Israel and understand that Romney’s “kicking the can down the road” is a pretty dangerous idea. Maybe it fulfills the wishes of the Israeli right, but it is clearly not in Israel’s best interest.
Now, of course, Israel wasn’t the only thing on the American Jewish voter’s mind in early November. The clear call to Jews to vote against women’s rights, against immigrants, legal and illegal, to lock the gates against the stranger, to cut the health care programs for those who need them most, the entire Republican jungle philosophy did not sit well with Jewish values or the large majority of Jews who voted in numbers exceeding 70 percent for Barack Obama.
And these are not entirely two separate matters. Jews were immigrants once and despised and blocked by the powers of senators and pastors who did not want us. Jews were needy once and most of us know that individual liberty will not be compromised by food stamps for hungry children or mammograms for women. Our prophets from Amos to Isaiah would not go on talk shows supporting the Republican candidates as they deny again and again the basic idea that we are our brother’s keeper.
We also understand, because we can imagine even our enemy’s pain, that Israel will continue to be threatened until a real peace process begins and succeeds.
Indeed, the message of the election in November was that Obama has a mandate from the Jewish community to actually seek peace. Not to placate the settlers who will not negotiate and hope to keep the present tensions going until the land is entirely theirs, an immoral fact on the ground; not to give Benjamin Netanyahu the green light to stall and harass and build until the last Palestinian has gone into exile or worse.
Israel has a right to defend itself, our reelected president has said. And he means it and will help in whatever way is necessary.
But Israel’s leaders do not have a right to keep the fires of war burning forever, as they trample on the two-state solution until it becomes one state, theirs. The American Jewish majority has said to Obama: “Don’t look away, don’t be afraid to push Israel toward its own best interest. Don’t give up because of the rhetoric or the propaganda. Make the Arab world accept Israel and make Israel accept the two-state solution.”
I know Obama is not a magician and most likely cannot do as much as we would like. And those who wish the tensions to continue, who have a long-term plan for occupation and expansion, both Arabs and Jews, may well sabotage any plans for peace.
But even so, an attempt must be made to bring all to a table and to exert whatever pressure is possible. The American Jewish community will back Obama as he proceeds. And, as for AIPAC, let them raise billions to stop him. But money can’t cow good sense or crush our hopes for a peaceful solution.
As I wrote, missiles were flying from Gaza and I listened to the news with great anxiety. And as I sat there, I said to myself, this must stop, this must stop, this must stop. Obama please act. We voted for you knowing you would if you could. Now you can.
Contributing editor Anne Roiphe is a novelist and journalist living in New York.