Volume 22, Number 51 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 30 - May 6, 2010
Koch: Angry Man… Why he’s slamming Bam on Mideast
By Ed Gold
Despite repeated and continuous efforts by the Obama administration in committing U.S. support for Israeli security, Ed Koch, in a series of angry essays, finds “shocking” Obama’s “abysmal attitude” toward Israel and his “humiliating treatment” of its prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu.
He alludes to “hostile statements” by Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton and calls the Obama policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a “betrayal” of U.S. historic support for the small, democratic, Jewish state, which is surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Muslim Arabs.
The truth is that Obama is not George Bush and, as he promised, is attempting to settle the conflict by working toward a two-state solution.
Koch, in his blast against the administration, compares Obama’s actions to those of a fifth-century Roman emperor “who launched a war against the Jewish nation.”
Further, he chides the powerful Israeli lobby AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) for applauding Secretary Clinton at its recent convention in Washington.
The flap between Obama and the current Israeli government began as the U.S. set in motion negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with George Mitchell serving as moderator.
As Biden arrived in Israel on a goodwill mission, the Israelis leaked information that they planned to build 1,600 apartments in East Jerusalem, a location in deep contention. The announcement was certain to upset the Palestinians, not to mention Biden, Obama and the rest of the U.S. administration.
Biden made clear his distaste for being blindsided, and Obama, at a White House meeting later with Netanyahu, showed his annoyance by not taking photos with the Israeli leader, nor holding a press conference with him.
Tom Friedman of the Times, a longtime supporter of a two-state solution, actually thought the U.S. action was mild, suggesting that Biden should have hopped the next plane out of Israel when he learned of the construction plans for East Jerusalem.
All those of us who support the Jewish state and its right to security and peaceful existence understand the historical threats to Israel’s existence — in the War of Liberation in 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Each time the Israelis had to fight for survival against unified Arab attacks on all fronts.
The seizure of Gaza by the extremist Hamas organization, which does not believe in an Israeli state, is another reason for Israel’s passion for its security.
But Koch’s contention that Israel has offered the Palestinians “virtually the entire West Bank and parts of Jerusalem” is not borne out by actions of the current right-wing leadership in Jerusalem, headed by Netanyahu’s Likud; the rigid nationalist party headed by Avigdor Lieber, the foreign minister; or Shas, the extremist religious party. Netanyahu gives lip service to a two-state solution, but neither he nor other elements in his administration have backed action to achieve such a solution.
Obama campaigned for the presidency advocating a change in Mideast policy and continuous efforts aimed at a two-state solution.
Obama’s view, one that Koch apparently does not accept, is that creation of a sovereign Palestine would be “a vital national interest” for the U.S., given our current involvement in the Middle East, our relationship with Arab states and the Muslim world in general.
Unlike W., Obama sees the Palestine dilemma as a barrier to better relations with virtually every Arab state.
We are currently involved in two wars in the Middle East. We face a dangerous Iran; a Saudi Arabia not willing to assist in the Palestinian situation without movement toward a two-state solution; a difficult Syria that supports an anti-Israeli army in Lebanon, but on occasion seems interested in negotiations about the Golan Heights; and Egypt and Jordan, which recognize Israel but in a cold war atmosphere.
Relations with all these nations could improve, Obama feels, if their fellow Arabs in Palestine had a state of their own.
Finally, what Koch fears most is that the U.S. might offer its own peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Bush days are over. Obama will not walk away from this festering Middle East infection. A successful agreement there could even ease tensions with Iran, whose pipsqueak president continuously threatens Israel. Existence of a Palestinian state would almost certainly cut down the threatening rhetoric from Iran.
I share with Koch a deep affection for Israel. Four of my cousins, survivors of the Holocaust, now have grandchildren there. I believe Obama’s two-state policy will best serve America’s, as well as Israel’s, national interests.