If I had to choose between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and if my deciding issue were Israel, I’m not sure I’d go with with Hillary. I am a card-carrying member of the pro-Israel “right wing,” and my gut says that Hillary would be a bigger threat than Barack to the safety of Israel.
(Note: I am not endorsing anyone in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Personally, I am a registered Independent - and rabbi of a religious institution.)
True, Barack Obama has a stable of staunchly left wing foreign policy advisers. Ex-President Carter has endorsed him, former Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer is said to be a key adviser, and the further list of left wing associates who claim to be his advisers is quite long. (This is separate from the Reverend Jeremiah Wright issue, about which enough has already been said.)
In fact, I do think that Senator Obama supports Israel’s left wing. Based on his own public comments (which have been admirably frank; I wish others were so forthright!), it is clear to me that he believes Israel’s best interests include making lopsided “peace deals” which rely far too much on trusting the Arab world to mutate into honorable societies who keep their words and honor their agreements.
Further, I do think that Senator Clinton is less likely than Senator Obama to trust the Arab world, and less likely to strengthen terrorist sponsors in the course of “diplomacy.”
However: The issue of where these candidates stand on the Middle East is not nearly as important as where the Middle East stands with them.
For Senator Obama, based on his brief national-legislative history and this campaign, the Middle East is an issue that he must face in the course of politics, but that he doesn’t consider “front and center” in his plans. As President he would be forced to deal with terror, and with issues that affect American soldiers overseas and the American economy at home, but domestic matters like poverty and healthcare and taxes, as well as issues like environmental concerns and energy policy, seem to be at the top of his agenda. He won’t have the time, or political will, for the sacrifices needed to muscle the obstinate Middle East into his vision of peace.
On the other hand, Senator Clinton has made foreign policy a central part of her sales pitch to America. Although she has plenty of plans for domestic policy, she considers herself accomplished in the global arena, and it seems far more likely to me that she would want to achieve a landmark (dare I say legacy?) in the Middle East, than that Senator Obama would want to do the same.
I plan to attend a Monday night program at a local college, featuring Steve Rothman, a New Jersey Congressman, speaking on Senator Obama’s Middle East policy. The campaign is involved with the event, so I expect Congressman Rothman will be able to speak authoritatively.
I won’t need to ask Congressman Rothman what the Senator thinks Israel ought to do; the Senator has made that pretty clear himself. Instead, I’ll want to know: How pressing will Middle East peace be to the Senator from Illinois?