U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, recognized today that the creation of an independent Palestinian state would be "inescapable" (read the article here: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090303/ap_on_re_eu/ml_mideast_clinton). This statement by our highest foreign relations official signifies an important shift from the Bush Administration stance on the Middle East, which basically engaged in a policy of isolationism toward most Arab nations (including Palestine), coupled with unconditional support for Israel. Even the Republican Party vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, proclaimed several times during the 2008 election season that she "loved Israel." John McCain, the Republican Party presidential nominee, similarly proclaimed support for Israel, and attacked his opponent, Barack Obama, for the latter's willingness to engage with Arab nations like Iran and Syria without "precondition." The Bush Administration, and likely the McCain-Palin duo, if elected, seemed to blindly ignore the issues and problems present in the Middle East, to support Israel and to isolate and ignore everyone else. But that policy did not work, and it would not work in the future. Ignoring problems does not equate to solving them, and ignoring enemies does not equate to making them disappear.
President Obama, contrary to the Bush Administration and the McCain-Palin team, is correct in his approach to the Middle East, which consists of the following foreign policy features. First, the Obama Administration has pledged money - $900 billion - to rebuild Gaza. By helping the Palestinians, engaging in open dialogue with them, and stimulating their economy, the Obama administration hope to win more American support, to eradicate fundamentalists like Hamas, and to rebuild a democratic state in all the Palestinian territories. Second, the Obama Administration started to "nudge" Israel toward recognizing the inevitable: that the Palestinians are entitled to form their own independent state. It seems more than evident that the Jews and the Palestinians cannot live together. Moreover, isolating Palestinians and denying them economic progress only seems to foster fundamentalism and terrorism. Groups like Al Qaida, Hamas, and the Taliban thrive in poor, economically underdeveloped regions. Instead, allowing the Palestinians to form their own state and working with them to ensure that they respect the democratic process, and the territorial sovereignty of Israel, promises a more peaceful future. Third, the Obama Administration began to reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel's hostile neighbors, such as Syria. President Bush had, in yet another example of isolationism, severed diplomatic ties with Syria, which he accused of sponsoring terrorism. President Obama has recognized the inherent mistake of isolating our enemies and has begun the "restoration" process - Hillary Clinton has traveled to Syria this week in order to negotiate the reopening of diplomatic channels between Damascus and D.C. By engaging in diplomacy with hostile Arab states in the Middle East, the Obama Administration hopes to end the cycle of violence in this volatile part of the world, and to ensure that Israel is no longer surrounded by enemies.
The United States can remain "fiends" with Israel while supporting the creation of a Palestinian state and by dialoguing with Syria and Iran. In fact, such American course of action can only benefit Israel. I can only hope that the Israelis understand what President Obama is trying to accomplish.