Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

The Argument We SHOULD Be Making About Gaza

People on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including committed Zionists, have expressed horror at the carnage and humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.  Among democrats and progressives, debates are taking place in an attempt to put history in context and assign responsibility.  Others argue about whether President-elect Obama should or could be more involved at this point.  

But there is, I think, one thing upon which we can agree: what is happening now highlights another horrific failure of the Bush administration.  And though that might make it a moot point with regard to debate in this forum, it does not diminish the importance of broadcasting it.

George W. Bush has been widely perceived as one of the “friendliest” and “most supportive” presidents to the State of Israel.  Others have criticized him as the most “permissive.”  What we are seeing now highlights that these are not equally true.  In fact, they stand in conflict.  The Bush administration’s near carte blanche support for Israeli governments has turned out to be disastrous for Palestinians, but also for Israelis.  The hands-off approach has not eased the humanitarian hardships caused by the stand-off with HAMAS; it has not helped stop the rocket fire on towns in southern Israel.  I cannot argue with confidence that a different approach would have led to a significantly different situation, though I believe it very well might have done so.  But Bush and Cheney’s lack of proactive involvement represents a severe abdication of responsibility that also impeded international involvement in this crisis more generally.  Friendship requires more than inscribing the self-evident platitude of Israel’s right to defend itself as its beginning and end.

The importance of making this argument is not just evaluative, but proactive and productive.  It’s all too easy to make the case that permissiveness and true friendship often contradict one another, particularly when one party is both in danger and a danger to itself, as I believe to be the case with Israel.  When a friend is in crisis and not only apparently incapable of resolving that crisis, but also displaying self-damaging tendencies, a friend is obligated to engage the situation.  What this current situation lays all too bare is that critical engagement of Israel can be a more powerful expression of friendship than giving it free rein.  That fact must inform the next phase of this relationship and this conflict.  AIPAC got what it wanted for 8 years.  How did that work out for Israel?  Contrast this trend with the one we witnessed under the administration of President Bill Clinton.

I emphasize this side of things because of its political and rhetorical importance, not because I believe we have more of a moral responsibility to Israelis than to Palestinians.  We also have one to ourselves, of course, given the broader political and economic ramifications of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  We should be shouting it from the rooftops.  If you believe that this culminating chain of events that has occurred under Bush and Cheney’s republican watch will yield results for Israel, that it will break the will of HAMAS terrorists and their supporters, that it will benefit Fatah and the Israeli left and lead to a just and sustainable peace agreement, then all that’s left to debate is the morality of the cost and whether we could have reached that result with less suffering.  But I believe this benefits neither Fatah nor the Israeli left.  Furthermore, I do not believe that these alignments, if empowered, represent a simple recipe for success.  

Just as the financial crisis underscored the disastrous result of deregulation, we must use this situation to underscore the disastrous results of diplomatic disengagement in Israel and Palestine.  The situation in Israel and Palestine requires critical and sustained intervention.  Both populations require our friendship.  Republican policies, seen as so friendly to Israel, allowed things to fester and escalate.  A situation such as this requires critical engagement not merely as the best form of friendship we have to offer, but as a necessary one.  We must intervene more forcefully and consistently, even if doing so infringes upon the sovereignty and independence of our beleaguered friends, as a moral and political imperative.  We should be shouting this from the rooftops.  

Cross-posted at MyDD


  1. …and wonderfully framed. I think all of us can agree that Bill Clinton did much to ease conditions for both Israelis and Palestinians. Until the assassination of Rabin, the peace process and the Oslo Accords were working.

    Bush has been a catastrophe, but Obama, working with Hillary Clinton, probably stand the best chance for over a decade for creative US engagement, and perhaps even some kind of eventual peace.

    I just wish Obama had more leverage during these transition days.  

  2. creamer

    I am begining to believe that Hamas needs to be absolutely crushed. They have at this point rejected any foreign peacekeepers or observers, and by the way continue to call for the destruction of Israel. I fail to see how you come to terms with a group that will not aknowledge your right to exist.

  3. anna shane

    is Israel’s best worst friend, he has provided no political cover to even set the stage for peace, and he’s allowed Israeli infractions to go on with impunity.  Barack finally said that the loss of civilian lives on both sides saddens him.  That’s good, clearly far more civilian Palestinians have been killed and grievously wounded. This is one of the Bush policies that needs to be reversed, we need to show empathy for both sides, with truth, and we need to press Israel to allow in international peacekeepers and a free foreign press.  The truth might help.  

  4. HappyinVT

    Clinton’s confirmation hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday with a vote expected Thursday.

    Assuming she’s confirmed, and there’s no reason to expect otherwise, will she then be able to receive the same intel reports that Rice gets?  If so, that’s a huge step in getting her hitting the ground running on January 20th.

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