The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Obama's AIPAC speech

It's interesting that a lot of people who follow Israel lobby issues think that Obama's speech to AIPAC was actually a tough one, once you strip away the usual "unbreakable bond" stuff. I'm less excited about this because I think in their enthusiasm that Obama is making it clear to the Lobby that they are imperiling Israel's future (and America's ability to guarantee it) they oversee the fact that the Lobby is winning the tactical fight — even if it may be at the cost of longer-term strategy. Netanyahu will once again get away with running circles around an American president. People might be growing increasingly bitter about this, but American politics is structured in such a way that it resets frequently. A new PM in Israel or a new president in the White House and we might be back, for all intents and purposes, to zero while we wait for the long game of delegitimizing AIPAC and the lobby more generally. 

Anyway, here are some of these takes.

Stephen Walt:

But the important part of the speech was when he told AIPAC what everyone knows: Israel and its die-hard supporters here in the United States have a choice. Down one road is a viable two-state solution that will guarantee Israel's democratic and Jewish character, satisfy Palestinian national aspirations, remove the stigma of looming apartheid, turn the 2007 Arab Peace Plan into a reality and ensure Israel's acceptance in the region, facilitate efforts to contain Iran, and ultimately preserve the Zionist dream. Down another road lies the folly of a "greater Israel," in which a minority Jewish population tries to permanently subjugate an eventual Arab majority, thereby guaranteeing endless conflict, accelerating the gradual delegitimization of Israel in the eyes of the rest of the world, handing Iran a potent wedge issue, and making the United States look deeply hypocritical whenever it talks about self-determination and human rights. 

Phil Weiss:

The beauty of the speech for me was about the Arab spring and the impatience of history.

Obama said that time is running out on the endless peace process. I was abusing him through most of the speech but when he said, "The world is moving too fast," I cried out in pleasure. Obama knows what we on the left know: that because of the Arab spring and the millions on the Arab street whose demands he dignified today, and because of the disgust of peoples everywhere with the American-led peace process-- in Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Arab world, as he reminded the lobby-- the world is sick of a Jim Crow state. When I go to Europe this week, this is all people will ask me about, he said, veiling angr.

And when Obama spoke twice of the “demographic” realities west of the Jordan, he was only echoing what Mearsheimer said the day before, there is a majority of Palestinians between the Jordan and the sea, and this is your last chance to gerrymander a Jewish majority on the vast majority of the land that you already ethnically cleansed. I believe he spoke these words about demography with rage-- how can an anti-racist say racist phrases without rage? And when he said that Israel and the U.S. share the background of claiming their freedom against overwhelming powers – the British, the Arabs—I think he was offering an ironical history lesson. Obama doesn’t believe in a Jewish democracy any more than he believes in a white or a Christian democracy. He will say these words over and over, in bitterness, to the lobby that has got him politically hogtied because he depends on, according to the Wall Street Journal, Jewish money, and he may well believe in partition for the same reason Mearsheimer does, to head off violent cataclysm in Israel and Palestine, but he is on our side in his heart. On the side of the world moving forward with progressive ideals.