Against this background, Bush has shifted the goal posts of the Palestine-Israel debate such that Likudist thinking is now viewed as centrist. This was demonstrated by Kerry's campaign which warmly endorsed Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's policies. But the bankruptcy of the discourse was brought home in a most personally disappointing way.
Illinois swept Barack Obama, a rising star in the Democratic party, into the United States Senate with a stunning 70 percent of the vote - a rare Democratic gain. Obama, whom I've met many times, has served as my local state senator in the Illinois legislature. I found him to be an inspiring politician, not least because he appeared to understand Middle East issues and take progressive views supporting Palestinian rights and opposing militarism. He participated in many events in the Chicago-area Arab community including a 1998 fundraiser with Edward Said as the keynote speaker. I even made contributions to his campaigns.
But following Obama's nationally-televised address at the Democratic National Convention everything seemed to change. In the campaign's final weeks, Obama proclaimed his support for tough sanctions and military strikes against Iran if it refused U.S. demands to give up its nuclear programs. According to the Chicago Tribune, Obama now says that the onus of peace in the Middle East "is on the Palestinian leadership, which ... must cease violence against Israelis and work 'to end the incitement against Israel in the Arab world." The unique fact about Obama's campaign is that he did not need to parrot the pro-Israel lobby's standard line to get elected. He ran effectively unopposed. Such a capable and ambitious man must have calculated that any hope of higher office requires that he not offend when it comes to Israel and its interests. This begs the question: If a man like Obama will not speak frankly when it comes to Israel, what hope is there for a change in U.S. policy coming from within the establishment?
As they say in right-wing blogs, indeed.