Paul Findley: Obama plans showdown with Israel

Paul Findley, member of Congress, 1960-83, author of They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, presents a rather optimistic view of Obama’s Cairo speech and actions to date.

He believes Obama is a long-range planner heading for a showdown with the Israel lobby.  I don’t share his enthusiasm for Obama or for the two state solution.  After all, even if it happens, what type of two state solution can Palestinians really expect?

As a Capitol Hill insider with long, close experience with Middle Eastern affairs and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel’s principal lobby in Washington, I believe I can explain why Barack Obama, as president-elect, chose Rahm Emanuel as his chief-of-staff and Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. I am not an Obama insider. This is my analysis, based on strong evidence that the president is a careful, long-range planner.

It is likely that weeks before he took the presidential oath, Obama already had his own, detailed plan for ending the dreadful cycle of violence in the Middle East.

He knew that he had to resolve the long, blood struggle between Israeli and Palestinians, in order to quell violence elsewhere in the world. His plan, I believe, required a carefully executed showdown with the state of Israel that would begin with insisting that the expansion of Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory must stop. Just the first step would be a tall order. No president since Dwight D. Eisenhower has prevailed in a showdown with Israel, and none had even dared to make a serious public effort to force Israeli cooperation.

To assure success, Obama needed the right people heading his presidential team. Above all, he required people highly respected in Israeli officialdom, with a record of allegiance to the Jewish state, and noted for political skill.

Rahm Emanuel, a rising star in the House of Representatives who demonstrated great skill in getting things done politically in that daunting arena and who showed his devotion to Israel by once volunteering as an aide to Israeli Defense Forces, was an ideal selection as Obama’s chief of staff. Hillary Clinton, the first woman to make a close race for a major-party presidential nomination is a political power well-prepared to shore up support, in the United States and abroad, for Obama’s showdown with Israel.

Obama surely knew that his administration would have to move rapidly and wisely, because, under the best circumstances, the showdown would provoke intense opposition on Capitol Hill and among U.S. organizations with a long record of defending every twist and turn in the government policies in Israel. To prove the point, on two recent occasions, overwhelming majorities in both House and Senate demonstrated unqualified fealty to Israel, first in resolutions that congratulated Israel on its bloody assault on Gaza and second in letters urging Obama to abide by Israeli sensitivities in any negotiations with Palestinians.

Even though Obama’s plan would enhance the security of Israelis, as well as Palestinians, its failure could doom Obama’s plans for a second term. As the “number one enemy” of Israel’s lobby when I sought re-election to Congress in the 1980 and 1982 election cycles, I know from personal experience how resourceful and effective AIPAC and its associates can be.

The opening salvo in a showdown with Israel may have come in the president’s much-heralded speech last week in Cairo. In it, he said that Israeli settlement construction must end and an independent Palestinian state must come into being. He minced no words, and he stated them to an international audience that may have been the largest and most attentive in world history.

If a new state of Palestine quickly becomes a reality with the promise of true security, at long last, for both Israelis and Palestinians, Obama will win enduring fame as a peacemaker and ride to a smashing victory for a second term. If not, a second term will be highly unlikely. I am sure the Neanderthals who presently rule Israel already are scheming for his political demise.

Paul Findley, a resident of Jacksonville, served as a Republican member of Congress, 1960-83. He is the author of the best-seller “They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby,” and two other books on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

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