Huffpost Politics

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

MJ Rosenberg Headshot

President Obama: Go for It

Posted: Updated:

It is impossible to get Mumbai out of my mind. I keep thinking about two-year-old, Moshe, sitting in his parents' blood, crying out to a mother and father who are gone forever.

It is hard to imagine how anyone can justify terror against children, but many people do. In fact, fanatics of virtually every faith and nationality justify killing kids or leaving them orphans. It is sickening. Until humanity comes to the understanding that there is no justification -- none, whatsoever -- for killing children or making them orphans, we remain uncivilized.

Since the early twentieth century, the slaughter of innocents has been considered a legitimate military tactic or, not much better, unavoidable collateral damage. The Arab-Israeli conflict has not yet fully descended into mass carnage (with the awful exceptions of the Hamas suicide bombings and massacres like Baruch Goldstein's Hebron slaughter) but, no doubt, that is where we are heading unless we begin treating the Arab-Israeli conflict with the urgency it warrants.

So far that hasn't happened. Here in Washington, otherwise intelligent people say that immediate action to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict might be nice, but isn't critical. Invariably, the people who make this case are strongly attached to Israel and believe that the certainties of the status quo are less threatening to Israel's future than the uncertainties of negotiation.

They could not be more wrong. The status quo is destroying Israel.

A few hundred thousand settlers are holding the entire country hostage. The once universally respected Israeli army is now treated with scorn by rightists who view them as symbols of the government of Israel, the legitimacy of which they reject. Settlers abuse and humiliate Palestinians, steal their homes, and destroy their livelihood. They are on a continuous rampage -- grabbing Palestinian homes in Hebron, terrorizing olive farmers and destroying their crops, poisoning the land so that sheep and goats cannot graze, and snatching territory in the heart of Palestinian East Jerusalem.

Of course, their Hamas counterparts are even worse. So far, no Hamas rockets have landed on a school and killed a few hundred kids, which must be a source of disappointment for the terrorists. But if the cease-fire breaks down, fails to be renewed, or continues to be violated, it is inevitable that innocent Israeli kids will die. Meanwhile, in Gaza, Palestinian kids are suffering, and dying, from the Israeli blockade which, like the rockets, makes no distinction between children and terrorists.

Yet there is no sense of urgency about ending this conflict. And it is quite possible that there won't be until more unspeakable carnage takes place.

As a Jew, and a lifelong supporter of Israel, it infuriates me that people who call themselves friends of Israel work with such fervor to preserve this situation.

A few months ago when Secretary of State Rice wanted to go to the region for one final push to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, a top Jewish spokesman rushed to the White House, met with the President, and succeeded in thwarting Rice's plan.

No doubt he went back to New York feeling that he had done something good for Israel. He hadn't. He damaged Israel, as he and others who share his views have repeatedly done every time they throw obstacles in the way of Arab-Israeli peace. If it had been up to that crowd, Israel would still have no dealings with the Palestinians, the Israel-Egypt treaty would have gone unsigned, and Jordan and Israel would still be in a state of war.

Do you doubt this? Go to the archives of any of "the friends of the status quo" organizations and you will find one press release after another warning America not to "pressure" Israel and that "now is not the time" to ask Israel to do anything (it is always the time to issue demands to the Palestinians).

These spokesmen devote their efforts to a status quo that cannot be sustained. There are four million Palestinians in the occupied territories. Do the proponents of doing nothing imagine that they will disappear? Do they believe that they can be denied basic human rights (like self-determination) forever? Do they think that the Israel Defense Forces can control four million people when they decide -- perhaps with the assistance of Iran and Al Qaeda -- that armed resistance offers the only chance to achieve their rights? Do they really want to wait and find out?

Pro-Israel? Only if that means preserving conditions that will lead to Israel's demise.

Enough is enough. We have a new President who has pledged to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian agreement from day one. We have a Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who is fully committed to peace with Israel and works with Americans and Israelis to secure it. Most important of all, we have a pledge from all 22 Arab states to establish full normalized relations with Israel in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the 1967 territories.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said last week that the two-state solution is now the 22-state solution. Actually, it's 23. 22 plus one Jewish state: Israel.

For Israel's sake, and our own, President Obama should appoint a Special Envoy to the Middle East charged with implementing the Arab Initiative and Arab-Israeli peace. With 365 electoral votes, a Congress in the hands of his party, and with the votes of 80% of American Jews in his pocket, President Obama has no excuse not to act. Nor do I think he is looking for one. Barack Obama will be the President who ends this conflict.

MJ Rosenberg is the Director of Israel Policy Forum's Washington Policy Center