09/25/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Biden Balances Obama's Palestine-Israel Problem

There is no doubt that one of the main factors behind presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama's choice of US Senator Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate is Biden's unwavering and rock solid support of Israel, support that has come at the expense of genuine peace.

Biden is, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, a self-described "Zionist." There's nothing wrong with being a Zionist -- the "Z" word sometimes raises as much apprehension as the "A-S" word. But Biden clearly is there for a purpose. The mainstream media will focus on the fact that Biden appeals to many of the supporters of US Senator Hillary Clinton, who continue to resist enthusiastic support for Obama. Although, where else do they have to go? John McCain is a third-term Bush and that's worse than any of the possible outcomes.

But for Arab Americans and Muslims, and for the Arab World, Islamic World and the Middle East, Biden's selection sends a clear signal that Barack Obama, once the courageous champion of hard-to-embrace justice and fairness in the Middle East, has decided that while he can remain a progressive on all other issues -- from domestic to foreign policies -- he will compromise his principles and shift from what could have been the answer to the Israel-Palestine conflict to embrace Israel's agenda.

Pro-Israel voters clearly are concerned about Obama. He spent some years in a Muslim country, albeit not an Arab country. However, the Middle East is slowly and steadily shifting. What was once a secular-driven Middle East is fast becoming a bastion of rising and uncompromising Islamicism. Supporters of Israel are only interested in the short term. Although it would be easier to negotiate peace with the secular Arab leadership in the Arab World and in Palestine, it is even easier to justify Israel's harsh policies in an increasingly expanding Islamicist Arab World. That he was in Indonesia and not Palestine doesn't matter to Israel's supporters. He's just one step closer to understanding the Arab and Muslim mindset on Middle East peace.

Selecting Biden helps make it easier for supporters of Israel to reluctantly accept Obama's past -- his Arab and Muslim middle name, Hussein, and his long time associations with Palestinian activists in Chicago, some good and some very bad. And, it will allow them to support the Obama-Biden ticket knowing that at least one of them is a long time, veteran Zionist activist.

Biden, afterall, is the sponsor of the so-called "Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006" which branded the Palestinian leadership a terrorist organization when the political wing of Hamas, a terrorist organization, took over the Palestinian government. Although the Act claims to support the two-state solution, it's real focus is to block funds to the Palestinian government, weaken the Palestinian negotiating stand in the face of continuing to expand settlements and hardening peace offers, and smoother Palestinian claims for justice with the "anti-Semitism synonym" of the new millenium, "terrorist."

Biden is a better choice in this respect than Hillary Clinton, whose husband championed the only real efforts to bring about peace, but traded in genuine peace at the last minute when during his final year in office, he realized all anyone would remember was Monica Lewinsky and oral sex. Clinton hoped to light a new cigar by imposing a pro-Israel peace plan down Yasir Arafat's throat, resulting not in peace but the set-up for continued conflict when it collapsed.

Hillary Clinton, though, also offered some hope. Although she also changed like like Obama did when she decided to run for president -- moving away from her once progressive support of a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians and joining the bash-Palestinian movement, the reality is that deep down, Hillary Clinton really does offer a chance to Palestinians that she would force Israel to make the real tough compromises in exchange for a genuine peace. Politicians change in the face of career choices. But Hillary would more likely moderate back to a position acceptable to Palestinians and Arabs than Biden.

With Biden at his side, the Obama-Biden presidency will remain stalwart pro-Israel. No more of the experimenting about making Israel withdraw from the illegal settlements not only in the West Bank but also that ring Jerusalem. And definitely, no sharing of Jerusalem.

But then, what else is new in American politics? Any candidate seeking the presidency who insists that Israel make fairer compromises, return land expropriated by the illegal settlements and by the Wall, and who supports a sharing of Jerusalem, would never make it to political first base.

-- Ray Hanania