Sunday, December 11, 2011

Trailing A Bomb Thrower

"I'm not a bomb thrower, rhetorically or literally," Mitt Romney said last night at the GOP debate (literal transcript, here) at Drake University in Iowa.

Maybe that's the problem. The former governor of Massachusetts has fallen behind a man who we learned only only two months ago had said of the President of the United States

What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior. This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president...

Soon thereafter, Newt Gingrich began his ascent in the polls to the position of front-runner in the GOP race to the nomination.

So it was no surprise that on a Saturday night in Des Moines, Gingrich would defiantly defend his assertion that until the early 20th century

Remember, there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire.....

I think that we've had an invented Palestinian people who are in fact Arabs and who were historically part of the Arab community. And they had a chance to go many places, and for a variety of political reasons we have sustained this war against Israel now since the 1940s, and it's tragic....

Newt's words are as dangerous as they are accurate. He could have added that Jews have lived in the land of Palestine since time immemorial; that Arabs were encouraged by other Arabs to vacate the land once Israel was declared a state; and that traditionally, most Jordanians are ethnic Arabs. But we don't need a history lesson from a man who once proclaimed "people need to hear what I have to say" and characterized himself as an "advocate of civilization" and "definer of civilization."

At one time, it may have been realistic to pursue a one-state policy in the Middle East, but that ship has long ago sailed. The U.S. government, bowing to reality, has supported a two-state solution since George W. Bush, universally viewed as a staunch supporter of Israel, came out early in his first term in support of a Palestinian state. The Israeli government has accepted, if not clearly supported, the two-state solution since early 2009 when Israeli President Shimon Peres

said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would support a two-state solution to achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and that if Obama wants to engage Iran, the Israelis are willing to back him.

"Mr. Netanyahu said he will cooperate (with) the commitments of the previous (Israeli) government. The previous government accepted the roadmap (to Middle East peace). In the roadmap, you'll find the attitude to the two-state solution," Peres said.

He said Netanyahu is ready to "start to negotiate right away" and does not want to "govern the Palestinian people."

Washington will continue to encourage Middle East peace in that context, notwithstanding the prerequisite that Israel actually have a flexible negotiating partner. Newt Gingrich's bold and brazen bluster runs counter not only to America's approach to the Mideast in the last several presidencies, but would stand in stark contrast to policy even in a Gingrich Administration.

The intransigence of Israel's enemies will not be mitigated by politically-inspired rhetoric which runs contrary to American policy and can only ratchet up the tension in the Middle East. The American people deserve serious discussion and are ill-served by histrionics from presidential candidates. Mitt Romney had it right when he did not contest his rival's historical analysis but urged we not "jump ahead of Bibi Netanyahu and say something that makes it more difficult for him to do his job." He condemned Gingrich's bombast, explaining

we let the Israeli leadership describe what they believe the right course is going forward. We don't negotiate for the Israeli people. We stand with the Israeli people, stand with our friends, and make it very clear: We are gonna t-- we're gonna tell the truth, but we're not gonna throw incendiary words into a-- a place which is-- a boiling pot when our friends the Israelis would probably say, "What in the world are you doin'?

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