Obama’s speech in Israel was very conciliatory toward the Palestinians and may go further in challenging Netanyahu than what any other president has done. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough. The structure – a hegemonic union between the U.S. and Israel – isn’t challenged. And this is not simply regrettable, it is wrong. The settlements are a violation of international law. This is an area where Obama needs to be bold and uncompromising: demanding the dismantling of the settlements. Because they, as well as the overall occupation, are immoral and illegal. Is he inching toward morality with his approach? Perhaps. If so, is this a more effective strategy than confronting Israel? Perhaps. But when a basic structure needs to be changed, whether it be the U.S.-Israel alliance or the corporate welfare state in this country, it seems there must be a moment when a decisive step is taken to change it, when that line between injustice and justice is not only inched toward but actually reached, and then…crossed. Maybe Obama is investing his presidency in this effort, setting things up for the next president to actually cross that line and be the hero. I hope so. Because if not, he will go down in history as just another president that never really challenged the status quo.
The thing I liked best about his speech was the blurb about how politicians such as he must be pressured to do things by the populace. How much pressure does he need? 10%? 20%? I’m afraid he may be waiting till he has so much people pressure that there is little or no risk for him to act. Maybe that’s an essential question: how much risk is he willing to take? To me, what he said is true, he must be pressured. But that’s only half of it: he also, by virtue of his position as the most powerful man in the world, has the capacity to pressure the people. It could, and should, be a reciprocal process. If he is truly a man of his word, he could use the force of his moral commitment to sway the people. It might set in motion a spiraling up process where the more he pushed the people, the more they pushed him, and revolution might occur rather quickly. But that doesn’t appear to be his style, and that’s regrettable, for the Palestinians, for the 99%, for the planet.