As a Canadian, and therefore as a subject of the American Empire, I’ve
been following the U.S. election season pretty closely. I agree with
you, in general, about Obama; he seems like the best hope we in the
rest of the world have for an America that might largely leave us
alone. However, I was quite worried by his behaviour with AIPAC. He
seems to have set himself to genuflect to them further than any
previous American politician. His remark that Jerusalem can never be
divided was particularly troubling. If it was a ploy to neutralize
AIPAC’s opposition, and he has no intention of following up on his
words, it’s a pretty big whopper even by the standards of campaign
promises. If it’s what he truly believes and intends to act on, it
amounts to renouncing any commitment to peace in the region. Either
way, it strikes me that he’s probably thrown away what credibility
America had left with the Arab world. What is your take on this?

–Nicholas Welch

I don’t think that line is anything to get excited about. It’s not that he’s insincere; but a political speech to the pro-Israel lobby shouldn’t be taken as the terms of a treaty. As his supporter Robert Wexler put it, he considers the final status of Jerusalem something for Israel and the Palestinians to decide. So if Israel accepted a division of Jerusalem, he would certainly accept it. (And he didn’t go farther than other US presidents; this “undivided” stuff has been a staple of US policy for decades, though the Clinton administration is I think an exception.)

I’d be more criticial of his optimism. I’m not sure that there’s a peace process to revive at this point. Realistically, as president, he’d have his hands full dealing with Iraq for a couple of years. Perhaps he could try a peace conference… but who’s he going to talk to? Hamas doesn’t want to negotiate peace and Fatah can hardly do it on its own.

On the other hand, if he’s elected we might get a grace period of good will, and it would probably be foolish not to act on that, and at least try to press negotiations. Presidencies have to hit the ground running, because they tend to get major things done only in their first few years.