Obama’s trust gap

Actual quotes from Facebook threads since President Obama's Mideast policy speech, Thursday. Click for more readable graphic. (Facsimile/composite. Names & pictures hidden for anonymity)

Muslims. Obama. Trust.

Those three words are the sinking wedge that exploits another piece of the unfinished business of the 2008 campaign and election, the gap between Barack Obama and the usually, mostly Democratic, American Jewish electorate. Call it the Jewish version of the birther issue, in that it would take an overt, demonstrative act to put it to sleep for good. It’s the line that keeps several, otherwise reliable, Jewish voters, embedded in their side of the split splinters of the American pillar, and in many ways, it is similar to the one that divides our entire country. They see too much damage to even consider bridge building, unwilling to even look for a way to vote for Obama in 2012, even if he could come half-way (whatever that might look like).

Suffice to say, the reaction to the president’s remarks, Thursday, concerning using the 1967 borders as a “basis” for peace negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, where the end game is a Palestinian and Jewish state, side-by-side, has riled up that entrenched side of American Jewry, and brought back many of the untruths of the 2008 presidential campaign, specifically the questions about Obama’s faith, education and heritage. Only a dynamic, public repudiation of the proposal to allow the UN to declare its recognition of a Palestinian state later this year, may appease some of these voters.

These angry responses continue, despite the clarifications from White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney, who explained, after the photo-op with Obama and Netanyahu, yesterday:

“[T]here is nothing that the President said yesterday that contradicts the 2004 letters that were exchanged between President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon, or what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today in the Oval Office;”

and despite this anecdote from his time on the vice-president’s staff:

“I stood with the Prime Minister Netanyahu and with the Vice President, when I worked for Vice President Biden, in Jerusalem when the Prime Minister made clear that this administration’s commitment to Israel’s security is as great or greater than any administration in Israel’s history.”

None of that matters, because the critics who are raising their voices now are of the “I told you so” variety, as in, “I told you he was going to turn on Israel,” or “I told you he was a Muslim.” Looking to justify their own biases and fears, they ignore the fact that this president is doing what he can to fix the broken talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, in a situation where neither side seems willing to give up on principles – like the presence of settlements and and the involvement of Hamas – required to even come back to the negotiating table.

It’s been said many times, but bears repeating: one does not need to negotiate peace treaties with their friends. Peace cannot be achieved with backs turned. Fixing the world means facing our enemies. You don’t have to love them, but you do have to talk to them. We risk so much more by allowing the status quo to continue, and not just for Israel,  but for all of us.


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