Obama's First Test - Macleans.ca

Obama’s First Test

How will the next President deal with the conflict in the Middle East?


Obama's first test

Even during the holiday break, one cannot completely disconnect from news events. In recent years, the holiday season has been marked by tragic events: the tsunami in Southeast Asia four years ago and Benazir Bhutto’s assassination last year both captured the world’s attention. This year, it is the Israeli air strikes in Gaza that are drawing attention. The U.S. reaction has been supportive of Israel and Canada has asked for a ceasefire while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself. Demonstrations are being held across the globe and the Arab world is up in arms with calls for a third intifada led by Hamas and Hezbollah. No doubt, Iran is following events and will once again be convinced there is a need to pursue its nuclear enrichment program.

Elections are coming in Israel this February and, so far, opposition leader and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu has been setting the pace. The governing party (Kadema) in Israel stood little chance of staying in power unless it took a strong stance against Hamas’ shelling of southern Israel. During the campaign, the two-state solution endorsed by Bush and Olmert (and defended by foreign minister Livni) will face off against the more hawkish vision of the Likud and Netanyahu. By then, Barack Obama will have inherited the problems he campaigned so hard for the opportunity to resolve.

At the top of Obama’s agenda will be the economy, the wars in Iraq and Afganistan, and a host of domestic issues like health care and independence from foreign oil. However, just like Bush, Obama will inherit an explosive situation in the Mideast. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be at the heart of his administration’s foreign policy issues. Will Obama continue down the path tread by Bush and push for a two-state solution? Or will he bring a new approach more in line with his “change” agenda? Does he intend to be a broker like Nixon, Carter, Bush 41 and Clinton? Or be more of an advocate, like George W. was?

On the campaign trail, Obama had to wrestle against perceptions he may not be friendly enough to Israel. The marginal yet significant controversy surrounding his name and possible Muslim heritage contributed to the doubts about his views on Israel. Obama addressed his critics by visiting Israel and endorsing its right to defend itself. (He also courted controversy by supporting Israeli rule over an undivided Jerusalem.) Since winning office, he has made reassuring moves to Israel boosters, like keeping Defense Secretary Robert Gates in place, and appointing Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state and Raihm Emmnuel as his chief of staff. Few can doubt that Obama will bring a drastic change in policy in the short term with these nominations.

The conflict in Gaza will be the first test of the Obama presidency. The short term challenge will be to secure a ceasefire, although this will most likely happen in the next few days under Bush. The long term challenge is to forge an enduring peace that guarantees Israel ‘s right to exist and the Palestinians’ right to a state so it too can grow and prosper in peace. This will require diplomacy at the highest level, given the Iranian nuclear threat, the continuing threat of terrorism, and the need to find a peaceful solution to the conflict between Israel and its neighbours.

Hamas has no scruples when it comes to provocation and is known to set up its headquarters in civilian-populated areas. But Israel’s deadly response is hardly measured or justified by most humanitarian accounts. The international community must intervene with more than a press communiqué. Leaders such as Obama and Sarkozy are expected to do more than continuing decade-old policies. The world is more volatile now than it was during the Cold War: now, we must deal with rogue nations and the possibility of nuclear terrorism, a global recession, two inconclusive wars that have overextended the American military, and a serious gap in the credibility of the moral leadership of the U.S. (largely a product of the Bush years).

Obama must change the discourse in the Middle East and become more a broker of peace than an advocate of one side. Israel must never doubt America’s and the free world’s resolve to defend its right to exist. But it is time for greater audacity in the search for peace. The old formulas no longer will do. A new generation of Americans wants change and so do a new generation of Israelis and Palestinians. They prefer peace to war. This is Obama’s first real test—and failure cannot be an option this time around.


Obama’s First Test

  1. Surely a capable and honest man like George W. Bush will keep his promises and make lasting peace in the Middle East. By the time Obama takes office, violence between countries on the arab penninsula will be a thing of the past.


    • Great joke! You are being sarcastic I take it.

  2. I’m sure Obama will be like every other US president since Wilson, and kowtow to the Zionists. He wouldn’t have been elected otherwise. Can I say that or will it get labeled an anti-Semite? Much has been made of Hamas’s rocket attacks, but they have only killed 19 Israelis since 2002, according to an article on the Guardian website yesterday. The way the western press covers it you’d think they’ve been waging a 60-year campaign of terror against poor innocent Israel (which is second to the US in per capita military spending).

    • yr pt being they hav’n’t killed enough Israelis yet? Many Israelis areconflicted over their military response, in fact, if you remember they’re the only democracy in the region, hence our support. No other country in th world have tolerated their position. This is not a justification for Israels response, just context.

      • only democracy ????
        What about lebanon? Well, I guess they’re only arabs for you (seems Israel has a similar pov)… and, well, democracy are made of and for human beings, right ?

        • Syrian influence on the government in Lebanon has resulted in a weakened democracy (possibly non-existent).

  3. “The long term challenge is to forge an enduring peace that guarantees Israel ’s right to exist and the Palestinians’ right to a state so it too can grow and prosper in peace.”

    Israel has never denied the right of the Palestinians to a state. Conversely the leadership of the Palestinians and their supporters and proxies, have as their founding principles the destruction of Israel.

    This isn’t about “diplomacy” per se. When one side wants the other side exterminated, it is about convincing that side that their position is untenable and unnacceptable.

    It’s too bad there’s so much tacit and explicit ant-Semitism wherein the right to live without being constantly attacked and having one’s existance threatened is something that has to be pondered and bargained for. Only the Jewish state is required to actually justify its existence as a “term” of agreement.

    Only the Jewish state has to tolerate thousands of rockets raining down on it in one year. No international cries against the raining rockets which specifically target civilians. Only the response by Israelis. And the civilians? The fact that Hamas (as a classic terror organization) hides its forces within civilian centers for the explicit purpose of exacting civilian loss of life (of its own civilians no less) when Israeal responds with high precision munitions, that can only be so precise……not a lot of news stories about Hamas’s tactics using its own civilians.

    It would be like divorce proceedings where one of the terms of “negotiation” was the husband “giving up his right” to kill his wife.

    “OK let’s talk about this, how can we come to some agreement about your desire to see your wife dead….let’s talk about some middle ground.”

    Today’s tolerant progressive left.

    • Er… actually, no, it’s not only the Jewish state that has to tolerate hundreds of rockets raining down on it every year. Iraq has been in that situation for decades (first the war against Iran, which Iraq started, then the US war against Iraq, which continued on a low level between Bush 1 and Bush 2). Hundreds of thousands of dead, soldiers (a.k.a. brothers, fathers, sons) and civilians. Sri Lanka has had similar problems for decades. Parts of Africa have been in far worse condition (Sierra Leone, northern Uganda, Sudan, Somalia, etc.). Get out a map and give it some thought.

  4. Mike,

    Has Iraq threatened to take over its neighbors lately?

    Has it gassed its own people in the past while?

    Any mass graves created?

    Any Marsh Arabs exterminated, their marshes drained, their ways of life destroyed by the ruling government?

    Any oil fields set ablaze in slash and burn maneuvers?

    Any official government sanctioned rape sprees for the leaders’ sons on the weekends?

    etc, etc, etc.

    It’s quite remarkable how Bush Derangement Syndrome and the prism its created.

    Oh how Mike longs for the days of having a peaceful, benevolent Saddam controlling the largest military in the region. Damn that Bush!!!

    • Bush made huge mistakes in th conduct of his war, not the least was lying through his teeth. In kody [ and Bush/ cheney ] world, the end always justifies the means, particularly when you invent the provocation. The irony is that saddams’ record stood on it’s own, but then self-justification always needs as many allies as it can muster, even if it needs to invent them.

      • The U.N., France, Germany, Russia, Israel, the Democratic leaders in congress, including both Clintons, Kerry and others, Saddam’s own generals, every international intelligence agency on the planet,

        they were all simply mistaken about the belief in Saddam’s weapons capabilities at the time of the war.

        Bush? He and he alone was the LIAR.

        Same intelligence. Same conclusions. Bush though, ‘lied through his teeth’.

        Bush Derangement Syndrome anyone?

        • The secret services of the Brits and Germans, and parts of the CIA, among others, knew perfectly well that Saddam had shit for weapons. Mossad must have known – they make it their business to know such things. Blair was told as much by his own spies. It was obvious even to a lot of laypeople that the WMD story was bogus, months before the war was launched. Hilary Clinton was just trying to look tough, already planning on her run for the presidency, and anyway, as the Senator from New York, she had to be in favour of hammering Israel’s Arab enemies; I doubt very much that she thought Iraq was any kind of a threat to the West. Well-informed people knew the story was cooked. Where were you?

      • What do you mean Saddam’s record stood on its own?

        Frankly, there would have been people who opposed the war no matter how many people he killed. Most people who oppose the war don’t care a hoot about the millions of dead Kurds from the Kurdish genocide, the victims of war in Iran and Kuwait, or any other victims of Saddam.

        • There weren’t millions of dead Kurds, dude. There were thousands. More Iraqis have died since the American invasion, by far, than the number of Kurds that were killed by the megalomaniac killer Saddam. Sure, I support the Kurds’ right to self-determination, and Saddam deserved to be toppled, it’s just that you don’t need to send an infidel army of occupation into a far and foreign land to topple a dictator, especially when doing so will cause the state to dissolve and chaos and civil war to break out. If removing Saddam had been the goal, a single bullet for Saddam would have done the job…perhaps an extra one for Uday…supplemented a quiet message to Saddam’s successor (likely some Colonel) to play nice and to avoid threatening Israel. The invasion wasn’t about Saddam. The US government, Reagan et al, including special envoy Donald Rumsfeld, helped Saddam kill a million Iranians and (yes) supplied the chemicals for his attacks against the Kurds, too. Saddam wasn’t the reason for the US invasion of Iraq, dude. He was just the excuse.

        • Saddam’s record spoke for itself in the sense that there was no reason to invent the WMD smoking gun. The world already knew how bad he was, hence the
          un snctions and no-fly zones to proect the kurds – ineffective maybe. Yr assertions about the millions who opposed the war not ‘caring a hoot’ are too stupid to warrent serious reply. As for the dead Kurds, please tell me that pictures of Rumsfeld shaking saddam’s hand at the time were not revolting, whatever yr views on the later war[s].

          • If you are too stupid to spell “warrant”, and my remarks are too stupid to elicit a reply, maybe you could enlighten me about all the people clamoring for intervention in the Congo.

            Because, after all, the war there has killed 5.4 million people. So you’d expect the peace crowd in the Western World to be mounting a massive campaign to do something about it. Or perhaps the majority of them don’t even know about it. Perhaps they don’t even bother to pay any attention at all.

            I suspect that if you polled the general populace about what to do about the war in the Congo, they would tell you they did not know there was a war in the Congo, and in fact they’d tell you they did not know there was a country called Congo, because they pay no attention to what is going on over there, wherever that is.

            Back to Iraq. If all the Iraq war protesters really did care about what was happening in Iraq during the 80s and 90s, perhaps you could enlighten me about the plans to do something about it. Bush came to power in 2001. The Kurdish genocide occurred in 1988. So I’m sure that the anti-war crowd, given all that time, would have been pursuing their own course of action.

            If I remember correctly, they spent their time protesting the sanctions. The no-fly zone did nothing to protect people on the ground. So what they really wanted to do was: nothing. All they want to do is protest against any involvement at all. And they had an entire decade to accomplish something, so you’d think they’d have accomplished something.

          • I can’t spell or work the spell-check so sue me. As i read yr comment you condemn all who opposed the war. This is a broard generalization and like all such assumptions stupid whether they originate from you or me. I know plenty of people who objected on principle as i’m sure plenty of people who supported the war on principle.There will always be those who oppose everything on principle too. Unfortunately from my pt of view far too many of those people are on the left. Incoherant , intolerant people inhabit all of the political spectrum. Don’t get yr particular pt on Congo. It isn’t necessarilly inconsistant to advocate intervening there while opposing intervention in Iraq. There were other options in Iraq. My belief is that Bushes policies were self-serving and ultimately stupid [ eg no plan after the invasion,’ they will greet us with flowers’ etc. ] Myself i would have been happy if they had assasinated him ; then again thy didn’t do that well with Castro.

    • Kody: No takeover of neighbors threatened. They’ve been too busy with a sectarian civil war killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of their own. Gas? Well, the Americans gassed Falluja with white phosphorus, but sshh, don’t tell anyone, it’s a secret cuz it was technically a war crime. Mass graves? Hell yes. Way more people have died in Iraq in the past few years of chaos than were dying in the few years just beforehand, though the American-led boycott of Iraq may have killed a million kids, some say. Then there was the war against Iran in the 80s, when America mostly supported Iraq and Israel cheered while Persians and Arabs slaughtered each other (but when it ended, Saddam had a big army and that needed to be destroyed, didn’t it).
      Oil fields ablaze? Well, Bremer’s extreme privatization and foreign investment decrees tried to open Iraq so wide that US companies could simply seize control of the second largest oil reserves on the planet, but saboteurs and recalcitrant Iraqis got in the way. Rape sprees? Well, there was that gang of US soldiers who raped and killed a 17 year old girl. Perhaps you imagine that was the only rape that has occurred. Do you think the media would bother reporting rapes by Iraqi soldiers or the sons of corrupt high officials in Iraq’s current government? Hell, there are so many suicide bombing in crowded marketplaces these days, the media hardly even bother reporting them anymore. How many suicide bombings were there in Iraq before the US invasion? Er…none. And how do rapes by Uday Hussein stack up against rockets fired from US helicopters into Iraqi wedding parties (oops!)? Tough call. But gosh darn, well, shucks, surely America meant well, that’s whut counts, ain’t it? It just seemed to make sense at the time — sending an infidel army into a tenuous Muslim tribal nation riven by sectarian hatreds and three major ethnic groups (plus a few minor ones), pounding the army into rubble, disbanding the entire civil service (and the army), imposing foreign administrators who didn’t speak the language, and inviting Republican bagmen to come steal government cash through fraud and misappropriation. Gosh darn, such a surprise it didn’t work out too well. Except in the eyes of bona fide right-wing nuts like Kody.

  5. Oh, by the way, Mike,

    guess what girls do in Afghanistan:

    they go to school.

    Guess what is no longer in Afghanistan: numerous large, governement sponsored, sprawling terrorist training complexes, with the full resourses and the run of the country. Those terrorists (many of whom are now dead), now hide from cave to cave and are killed on site. They don’t have the luxury of planning over seas extravagant missions to take down office towers.

    Mike, guess what hasn’t happened in eight years?

    A major terror strike against N. America.

    As Bush Derangement Syndrome fades (as it was nothing more that the partisan desire for power of the day fueling it), it will be interesting to watch the former Bush haters and their reaction to Bush’s historical legacy played out (recall Reagan was widely seen in much the same way as Bush by the popular media – an ignorant buffoon, who’s misguided ways harmed his country – and now viewed as a great man who defeated the Soviets).

    I suspect the emancipation of more in the middle east than at any time in history, and the creation of the first two viable democracies in the middle east will be more than just a footnote in Bush’s legacy. The partisan driven pettiness of such things as panties being put on the head of a few prisoners, which stories (hundreds of them dominating the news) were intended to deligitimize an entire military by the far left, have already faded.

    • kody derangement syndrome: symtoms, inability to see anything in any context other than that which supports and buttresses own view of events. Selective memory which only recalls details and events in such a manner as to justify own view of said events. Only known cure, keep an open mind and occasionally allow other pov to intrude on yr self constructed reality.

      • Sure i haven’t listed all of Kody;s symtoms.Others should feel free to help Kody

        • I now regret posting this comment, it is in poor taste. I would happily have Macleans remove it. However i don’t regret the Kody derangement comment. If you read it, all i actually ask him to do is keep an open mind and occationally consider someone elses pov.

      • One thing Kody does not do: resort to personal insults.

    • Kody, keep telling it like it is. The left is so consumed by hate and ideology that it is unable to see things the way they actually are.

      • How bizarre. This is exactly what we centrist folks think you right-wing nutters do. Hatred and blind ideology, yep, that about sums it up.

    • Kody, guess what happens as soon as we stop sending our young people over to Afghanistan to get killed? The “terrorists” start up again. Opium production is through the roof there, and we don’t do anything about that, despite the fact that 90% of the heroin it is used to produce ends up in North America. People in countries with no stake in large petroleum deposits get slaughtered all the time (e.g. Rwanda, the Congo, Sudan) and we don’t rush over to help them.

      Democracies aren’t imposed on a nation by outside warmongers, and certainly not on a nation that has been ruled by tribal warlords for thousands of years. The only reason the US and the rest of the coalition forces, including Canada, wanted to depose the Taliban is because they would not and will not permit the construction of a pipeline that would transport oil from the Caspian Basin to the Indian Ocean. This is well-documented. But you can continue drinking the neo-con Kool-Aid and believing that we’re there for the schoolgirls if it helps you sleep better. No, we haven’t been attacked in seven years. So what? More Americans have been killed fighting the “War on Terror” that died on 9/11. How is that a rational response?

      Reagan didn’t defeat the Soviets (seeing as how his Presidency ended in 1988), but he was the first President to put the privatization machine into overdrive. Gorbachev ended the Soviet system and had plans in place to turn Russia into a social democracy until Jeffrey Sachs and the IMF went in and basically handed all of the state assets to a powerful few that became the oligarchy. All part of the Reaganomics/Friedmanite playbook, but that is an argument for another day.

      It is hard to say if Reagan believed there really was such a thing as “trickle down” economics, but whether or not his motives were pure, the result 25 years later has been a massively increased disparity between rich and poor, and a marketplace in which CEOs make hundreds of times what a regular employee makes. An economy in which many families with both parents working struggle to put food on the table. The trickle down effect never happened, nor will it ever. That is why essential services must be left in the hands of government if they are ever to be distributed in an equitable manner. I’m not saying that governments always do this well, but at least the do it better than corporations whose only objective is increasing profits.

      • “Democracies aren’t imposed on a nation by outside warmongers”

        Except Japan. And Germany. And the Philippines. And South Korea.

    • In 2007, Bush said he’d make a peace accord by the end of his office. That was unlikely at the time and even less so now.

      Everything else is either you typing for your own amusement or not actually grasping the comment.

  6. Speaking of Afganistan, does anyone have any information or know about the group RAWA (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)?

  7. Much has been made of Hamas’s rocket attacks, but they have only killed 19 Israelis since 2002, according to an article on the Guardian website yesterday.

    I drink and drive. I’ve had some near misses, but I haven’t killed anyone yet. For years. Should I be arrested? Would suspending my licence be considered a “disproportionate” response? I need my licence to drive to work so that I can earn money to pay my bar bill.

    • Terrible analogy. You are equating losing your driver’s license to killing over 400 people and wounding over 1100, including many women and children? There’s a rational argument!

      Do you drink and drive as the result of oppression? Were your people displaced from their homeland 60 years ago? Are you and your neighbours confined within a small, walled district with unreliable electricity, water and food supplies, and suffering from massive unemployment? Do your oppressors use the backing of the most powerful nations in the world to maintain a ridiculously lopsided military advantage over you?

  8. Anyone that defends Bush’s legacy MUST be at least one of the following:

    a) a rapture Christian
    b) a holder of a significant number of shares in Halliburton/KBR/Bechtel, Big Oil or Big Pharma
    c) delusional

    There is no rational argument to support the war in Iraq, and a pretty feeble one for the war in Afghanistan. Like it or not, both wars were initiated with oil & gas in mind, not human rights. 9/11 was a convenient, if not planned, motivation for the wars.

    • So, I guess the 30% or so Americans that continue to support Bush (in satisfaction polls) are all one of the above. Thanks for the insight.

      I guess 30% is a small enough number that it’s possible to declare them all crazy. I suppose then it’s fair for me to declare the 26% of Liberal voters a bunch of secular yahoos, shareholders in Power Corp, or simply nuts.

      • Do you support Bush? If yes, why? It would be fascinating to learn of your — reasoning.

  9. Both sides should want to find a solution and neither has shown to date that they want to. I think Hillary should be assigned to work on a solution. If one side has “it all” the other side can’t have much.

  10. Most likely the “leaders” on both sides created and exacerbated the crisis in order to shore up political power and create opportunities for themselves and their cronies to steal even more billions from local taxpayers and from foreign donor countries.

    Israeli politicians will use this little war to reinforce the bunker mentality that lets them maintain their control over everything that moves within their territory, and the attacks against them will ensure that the billions of USD will keep flowing to them thanks to their co-religionists’ stranglehold on US foreign policy.

    Gazan politicians will use the bloodshed and destruction to focus their public’s anger on the Jewish attackers and away from their own corruption and incompetence. The utter ruin of their little territory will bring in billions more in foreign aid from all over the world, large amounts of which they will be able to steal and salt away in foreign bank accounts.

    The most sensible policy for outsiders would be to keep their noses out of this little exercise in greed and stupidity. Let the Israeli and Gazan politicians suffer the fate that they richly deserve, namely, being strung up by their heels by their own people once they are deprived of foreign subsidies for their bloody and immoral policies.

    • Interesting perspective. Not sure you’re all that far wrong in your analysis, Al Heck.

  11. The conflict will never end until one side soundly defeats the other. And only one side is capable of winning.

    What Obama does matters little.

  12. There are two points which must govern the discussion on the current violence and a lasting peace.

    The first is the need to understand the history of the region. Israel was carved out of Palestine to become a Jewish state. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza were elected governments. Hamas shares much in common with Sein Fein and the IRA . Destroying the Gaza Parliament building will not win the hearts and minds of Palestinian moderates. Military strikes in one of the most densely populated areas in world will undoubtedly lead to civilian causalties. The current situation resembles the Russian/Georgian conflict. The Georgians seemed to be the aggressors; however, world opinion sought a measured approach on the part of the superior power, Russia. Do not be confused, the Israeli military has vastly superior weapons, and have covert capabilities to “assassinate” Hamas leaders, rather than pummelling the general population.

    The long-term peace will only be serve by a Palestinian homeland. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary. The sabre-rattling of Iran and others will be greatly reduced with the reduction of US involvement in Iraq, and a lasting solution for Palestinians.

    Israel has a right to exist, and to defend itself; however, the response should be commensurate with the threat. It appears that the current crisis is both literal and figurative overkill!

  13. Looking at who his closest advisors are, it seems pretty clear that Obama will do whatever AIPAC tells him he should do. Best we can hope for is that it will be a less crazed faction within AIPAC than the group (Perle, Wolfowitz, Abrams, Libby, Feith et al.) that was advising Bush on sending in the US armed forces to bomb and occupy Arab countries as a proxy force for Israel. Maybe the new guys will recognize there are better ways to secure Israel’s future than bombing the stuffing out of the neighbors…

  14. Looks like the Israelis are poised to turn things up a notch by launching a ground war to crush Hamas or so the Times of London is reporting today. I wish them well in taking these thugs out.

    • “Thugs”, eh? How are the IDF going to tell who is a Hamas supporter and who isn’t? Should they “take out” all the Hamas elected officials, or also the people who elected them in a democratic election? Or just kill everyone in Gaza and let G-D sort it out? I’m no fan of theocrats, but I think you may be looking at things a bit one-sidedly here. Hamas is a political party with a religious base and outlook. There is a huge religious revival underway amongst young people all round the Mideast, because they’ve completely lost faith in their corrupt, autocratic governments (and in Fatah). Those parties, like Hamas and Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, which marry religion and politics, have been gaining support because they provide social services and a sense of belonging (and apparently they are less corrupt than the long-serving secular governments). The fact that Hamas is enraged at Israel’s forty-year occupation is not in the least surprising – imagine how Jews would react if they were the ones being penned up in an open-air prison like Gaza (shades of the Warsaw ghetto). First step, if you see an entire class of people as “enemies”, is to take a step back and try seriously to imagine what the world looks like from their point of view. It’s really eye-opening if you do it with an open mind.

      • If Gaza is an open-air prison, shades of the warsaw ghetto, then I guess you are saying that the Egyptians are Nazis?

        Oh I get it, you’re saying that the Palestinians no longer have the freedom to blow themselves up in Israeli restaurants.

        • There is no such thing as “The Egyptians” or “The Palestinians” in this regard. The Egyptian government is indeed colluding in penning up Gazans – and many Egyptians are very unhappy with their government about that. But Egypt isn’t a democracy, so the government can get away with this sort of atrociously unjust policy for now … yet this is exactly the sort of policy that drives people to support Islamic parties in Egypt, as elsewhere. (By the way, I don’t know why Gaza isn’t simply returned to Egyptian control; that would make geographical and historical sense. So would returning most of the West Bank to Jordanian control. It used to be called Transjordan, if I remember right… That would make more sense than a tiny Palestinian nation composed of patches of territory separated by Israeli enclaves and checkpoints.)

          As sickening as it is for people to blow themselves up in restaurants, it’s hard to see why it’s more sickening than firing missiles into crowded streets and buildings from helicopters or fighter jets. Or is it that Palestinian mothers do not grieve when their children and husbands are slaughtered? Is their blood a different colour? Way, way more Palestinians have been killed in this long feud than Israelis. Neither side has clean hands… Israel was founded on the blood spilled by the Stern Gang, and even governed for a while by a bona fide terrorist (Menachem Begin). Palestinians chose violence to try to drive Israel into the sea, which was stupid and wrong, but it was violence provoked by violence, provoking more violence, in a spiral that will have no end until one side just stops answering violence with violence. One side has to let the other side have the last word, as it were. Are IDF bomb attacks on crowded streets and buildings the best way to prevent more suicide bombings? Has the strategy been working well so far? Or does it just cause enraged and grieving Palestinians to run to sign up for the next suicide bombing? This is not a trick question. If the answer isn’t obvious to you, you’re blinder than a tapeworm. C’mon. The way to peace does not lie through more war. If Israel ever decides it wants to end this feud, it will have to withdraw their troops from the West Bank and Gaza, and it would also be enormously helpful if the government of Israel acknowledged the suffering of Palestinians under the occupation and simply expressed sadness at all the people harmed on both sides…an apology. Ask yourself: What would it mean to “wage peace” in this situation? There may be no simple and quick answer, but one thing for sure: more bombs will not bring peace.

          • Perhaps you could stick to the topic instead of the never-ending historical diatribe.

            I’ll answer one thing: they HAVE vastly reduced the suicide bombings, not by bombing Gaza (the bombings are a responce to the rocket attacks). They reduced the suicide bombings by building the wall and controlling the border (which is one of my two points). The suicide bombing in February was the first in a year, and the bomber entered Israel by travelling into Egypt and then crossing into Israel from Egypt.

            Anyway, I don’t even know why I’ve continued this thread at all, considering your gross and ridiculous validation of Godwin’s Law.

          • SF is too tough on you . It is important to get different historical perspectives .

  15. Hi everybody at Maclean’s !

    Aren’t you jumping the gun ? Can’t you wait a few weeks ? Our dear Barak Obama will not be president till January 20th. No matter what he thinks he could perhaps do in the eternal quagmire of Middle-East, HE CAN’T DO NOTHING. Period.

    Please, give the guy a break. Ask the Question on January the 21st.

    Before that date, it’s your marketing that’s taking precedence over your editorial judgment.


    Michel Heroux, Quebec City

    • I think Kody will start yelling at you now.

  16. There is absolutely nothing anybody could do to resolve the Palestinian problem.Just like the other American Presidents Barack Obama will go through the motions of a peace initiative with the help of Hillary Clinton and bide his time to pass on the problem to his successor.It is all as simple as that.

  17. Certain people above need more facts and less emotion before arguing about the Mid-East morass.

    Firstly, call it a draw as to which people have more rights to the area now called Israel-Palestine. Depending on how far back you go, a reasonable case can be made for either side. There’s a black wit who termed it the “twice promised land”.

    Facts that few seem to know: Jews actually bought much of the land they now occupy from its Arab owners starting early in the past century. Also, those who call themselves Palestinians are Jordanian Arabs in the West Bank and Egyptian Arabs in Gaza. However, neither country nor any other Arab country wants them. Lebanon regrets taking them in and keeps them in abysmal refugee camps. Look at Egypt’s panic and quick rebuilding of the wall when Palestinians broke through recently to go on a buying spree for supplies. So fellow Arabs prefer to keep Palestinians penned up but Israel alone gets criticized for it.

    Remember that there were two displaced populations with very different fates after the Arab Israeli War started by the Arabs. Fellow Arabs were instructed to leave Israel’s borders until the nation of “inferiors” (Jews) had been defeated. What a shock when that didn’t happen and the Israeli Arabs who obeyed bad advice were left homeless, now calling themselves Palestinians. They are persona non grata to all other Arabs, used merely to stoke the world’s guilt through the UN and kept up by contributions from non-Muslim countries. Muslim countries keep their purses and borders locked up when it comes to helping out their fellow Arabs. The West should ponder this hypocrisy more than it has. Why are Palestinians like kryptonite to their fellow Arabs/Muslims?

    Meanwhile, Arabs ejected their Jewish populations after they lost the war they started. Compare the number of Jews left in Arab states (insignificant) vs Arabs in Israel (a sixth of the population). Please note the irony that Israeli Arabs have more legal rights than citizens of any Arab state. The displaced Jews were absorbed by Israel. Those who tout the “Palestinian’ right of return” must in all fairness add the right of Jews to return to their property in Arab states. Either everyone returns or no one does.

    Those who claim that the solution is two states and both people reject this are plum ignorant or bare faced liars. Listen to what Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians actually say instead of what you want them to say. Their holy book and Mohammed’s example teach them that they must never accept Jews as equals because Allah has decreed it. Some Muslims pretend to accept a two state solution as a form of takiya (lying to gain strategic advantage over one’s enemies for the glory of Allah) and as a way of turning on Western money taps. However, there are plenty who are honest in their intentions, including Hamas. They were elected by the Palestinian people explicitly on a platform of Israel’s destruction. Palestinians unhappy with the war Hamas brings to them could have elected people who accept Israel’s existence and sign a meaningful peace pact with them. They chose otherwise, gambling that they could kill Jews AND get the world to save them from the consequences of their choice of representatives who think lobbing rockets into Israel a greater priority for their people than clean water. Hamas appears to be right, as there are no large protests from an otherwise excitable people against Hamas policy.

    The world demanded that Gaza be turned over to the Palestinians and Israel obliged. A people interested in building a second state alongside Israel would have used the opportunity to start building in Gaza – hospitals, schools, civil society. Instead, one of their first acts was tearing down economically valuable Jewish-built greenhouses gifted to them by California donors.

    The naifs or ideologues who keep superimposing their own western values onto the Palestinians talk about “mothers grieving” as though this is done in a universal way. It is not. Palestinians indoctrinate their children in hatred of Jews from nursery school on, with warped Sesame Street type programing where cartoon characters act out martyrdom. When they can read, their textbooks have maps with Israel missing etc. These are physical evidence of intent opposed to leftist illusions. Palestinian mothers and fathers carry their toddlers dressed as terrorists complete with dummy gun belts etc. in adulating receptions for Hamas fighters. (It is easy to google up video on this as there is so much footage available). Palestinians are feted and monetarily rewarded when one of their children die in a suicide bombing. By their belief system that child has gotten their parents as well as himself/herself an express ticket to Muslim heaven.

    As militant Maulana Inyadullah told a British reporter, “The Americans love Pepsi-Cola, we love death.” (It is doubtful that Pepsi will be using this endorsement in the cola wars).

    The Western Left cannot comprehend anyone thinking differently from them. Though they promote multicult like mother’s milk, they never bother to actually find out what those other cultures think, say and do but present them all like some homogenized innocuous pablum.

    Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims will never accept a Jewish neighboring state. In fact, they are working toward a judenrein world as sporadic attacks on Jews and their community centers in Mumbai, Argentina, Los Angeles, Montreal and Denmark etc. evidence.

    There is not a speck of evidence for the contrary view, just a whole lot of wishful thinking. Name one concession that Palestinians have made in return for a long list of demands. Name one thing that Palestinians have built, compared to a long list of what they have destroyed. There is no sign of a people wanting to build a country for themselves, merely a people who want to destroy another people and their country.

    Israelis moved back to an ancestral home in a very bad neighborhood that is incorrigible. That is their second tragedy. I’m sure they’re regretting it now because what one needs to survive among thugs is dehumanizing to oneself.

    Commenters are welcome to refute any facts above with evidence (e.g. Arab textbooks describing Israel’s borders and existence in a normal way) as we all need to refine our knowledge, myself included. Don’t embarrass yourself by merely repeating things you wish were true or trying to distract from facts you don’t like but can’t refute by calling people names or the usual huffing and puffing. It’s too pathetic.

    • Well said.

    • i do not agree with your characterization of different groups but this is a very thoughtful response to the subject matter on this blog .

  18. One thing I know is for certain….. The US discovered in the first World Wars that war is a great economy booster that definitely keeps the dollar train steaming along. Since then they have found any possible reason to be involved in conflict around the world as the #1 spender and participant, capitalism at work. When the Russians pulled out of the middle east, the US saw big dollar signs and went in under the radar to antagonize each countries situation eventually surfacing as the main player in all conflicts in my opinion. All under the guise of Good ol’ uncle SAM defending democracy. So I ask this question… Does anybody realize just how much wealth and power comes from controlling the Mid-East Oil and how much in billions is circulated though the US economy fighting for that control? Hmmmmm … could that be what all this unrest is about?

    • Very good point, but this is imperialism at work, not capitalism.

      The twin policies of imperialism abroad and welfare at home are starting to bite hard. Obama’s *real* first test is whether he can resist the urge to destroy the USD in order to bail everyone out using money created out of nothing.

      Assuming that the Chinese, Japanese, et al. will lose their enthusiasm for lending the US their money only to have their faces slapped with protectionist policies at the other end, and judging from this article (bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=axoaniRp5i9w), Obama is about to flunk the test.

      In response to this, your own parliament will not be able to resist the urge to flush your own paycheque and savings down the toilet by giving your countrymen unlimited bailouts and welfare (at least the ones who have lots of lobbyists on retainer and who live in swing ridings), so I’d be lying if I told you that things look rosy right now.

      The strong fascist tendencies popping up in the USA are also a worrying trend. I’m thinking of events such as the moves to deploy regular military troops domestically, and the recent federal coups against the governors of New York and Illinois. Federal-state-municipal power conflicts could lead to civil unrest, which naturally would be tamed through the tried and true policy of starting a really big foreign war. I see Obama as a big supporter of these trends. The guy is a little bit too full of himself to do the right thing by taking the pot off the boil and stepping out of the limelight so the economy can fix itself. Another FDR, only worse.

  19. Lets get down to the core issue here: Religious extremists control both governments, and are armed with extremely dangerous weapons.

    Lets not forget that these people are fighting because they think an invisible man, thousands of years ago, gifted their particular brand of mental illness this piece of land until the end of times, at which point the invisible man will return to earth and create paradise.

    These people dont need peace talks, they need powerful anti psychotic drugs.

    • Very interesting observation.

  20. Here here Jim!

  21. Obama or no Obama, no human can solve the problem between Isreal and the Arabs unless when Jesus comes again.

    The problem is rooted between the sons of Abraham – the lineage of Jesus, and of Ismail from of old and will only be settled at the end of time. Humans can only effect temporay solutions. Good luck Obama.

    • It will take more than luck . Bush was a tough sob on that issue

  22. Just heard Bush at his last press conference. Don`t know what to make of it . Very disappointing.I guess John was right about this being the first test .for Obama. Tough way to start.