The Plank

Obama: Puppet Of The Israel Lobby?

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Yesterday Barack Obama said he would not negotiate with Hamas. The American Prospect's Ezra Klein says that this position "doesn't really track with his past approach to foreign policy," and proceeds to suggest that Obama must have been intimidated by the Israel lobby.

For purposes of balance, it's nice to see Obama getting attacked unfairly on Jewish issues from the other side. But I'm not sure this attack holds any water. It's true that Obama has declared his willingness to negotiate with various dictators. But there are some key differences. First, Obama has not said he'd negotiate with terrorist groups -- indeed, the centerpiece of his foreign policy is destroying al Qaeda, not negotiating with it. I think there's a pretty clear principle operating here. When you merely have strong differences with an adversary, like the Soviet Union, you can negotiate. When your adversary is committed to your destruction, there's nothing to talk about.

Now, it's true that Hamas is not committed to the destruction of the United States. But it is committed to Israel's destruction. And Israel is our ally. Now, you might think that makes the principle of not talking to enemies would be weaker, but it actually makes it stronger. We can negotiate with our own enemies at our own risk. To negotiate with the enemy of an ally is to undercut your ally.

I suppose you could take the logic of Obama's foreign policy in the other direction. But refusing to negotiate with Hamas is clearly a consistent application of that thinking, and I would argue that it's the most consistent application of that thinking. Klein's post is telling, though, because it reflects a common tic of lefty foreign policy types: to assume that their position is so obviously correct that the only reason Democratic politicians could possibly oppose it is the muscle of the Israel lobby.

--Jonathan Chait

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