The Economist hosts these great debates on various issues and the current one that will run until the end of the month is: This House Believes that Obama’s America is now an honest broker between Israel and the Arabs.
Supporting the motion is Daniel Levy who used to work for as an adviser to Ehud Barak and is p0litically what would be called a Clintonista. Against the motion is David “Shiver When You Here My” Frum, the neoconserative, who is, and I quote the moderator Xan Smiley, “…credited with coining the phrase ‘the axis of evil.'” I wonder if Xan Smiley would credit Ahmedinjad with coining the phrase, “Wiping Israel off the map,”? So you get the idea that this debate is a Israeli-American debate rather than an Israeli Arab one and if you are in any doubt the guest speakers confirm it. In fact not one ‘Arab’ perspective is introduced into the debate the closest we get is to the moderator Xan Smiley quoting some of the comments left by readers, “Understandably, many of those from a seemingly Arab standpoint remain unconvinced that Mr Obama will truly change American policy…”
The argument in fact goes beyond weather Obama is an honest broker and displays the split between those that support the idea of the Greater Israeli state (Frum) and those who want pre-67 borders. Those that support the Greater Israeli state are basically arguing for a security Iron Wall, the revisionist Israeli ideology that Shlaim articulated in his book the Iron Wall. The realist in me tells me the reality is going to be dominated by those that support the Greater Israel debate and that any solution is a long long long way away. Anyway back to the debate:
Levy articulates, arguing why Obama is an honest broker, quite the opposite and more to the point why no US president can ever be. Yes they are the well known facts that every person with an anti-Zionist or, as in the case of Levy, anti-greater Isreal perspective will throw at you. “Israel remains the largest recipient of overseas US assistance ($2.7 billion) despite having a PPP GDP per head of $28,000….In opposing settlements, the Obama administration does not embrace international law or punitive measures, and the US maintains unparalleled military measures and strategic cooperation with Israel.”
You really get the sense from Frum how Israelis on the right want to frame the debate. Apart from the obvious Iran arguments what the US and Israeli right have a problems with is that Obama thinks about the creation of Israel in terms of the holocaust and not the “millennial Jewish connection to the land of Israel…the narrative that moves him [Obama] is an anti-colonial narrative…”
Well I really hope so! Not that this will be enough. Even with the strong reaction against Obama by segments of the Israeli population he will still play it very much on the Israeli side. For instance the US focus has been on the growth of illegal settlements not the settlements themselves. I think we should think of Obama as being the most honest US President the Arab world is able to get but not an “honest broker”.