This morning The New York Times published an op-ed from Aluf Benn of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, where Mr. Benn decries that President Obama has not delivered a major policy address to the Israeli people. While he raises one or two legitimate points, I found most of the column some sort of cry for attention. In perhaps the most succinct example the ridiculousness of Middle East diplomacy, Benn cries foul declaring:
“The Arabs got the Cairo speech; we got silence”
Never mind the fact that Obama is just entering the eighth month of a forty eight month term. Never mind the fact that for the past seven years the only message coming from the White House to the “Arab” people is that the U.S. sees every single last one of them as a threat. Never mind the fact, as Benn even points out, Israel has enjoyed more then sixteen years of steadfast, dare I say, blind support from the United States. No, what strikes me most is the tone of the statement. Benn’s remark smacks of a petulant child, bemoaning the inequity that Jimmy got a chocolate, while little Tommy didn’t. If that sounds overly harsh, so be it. This column for me gets at the heart of the great underlying threat to meaningful and lasting peace in the Middle East: pride.
Benn’s single comment suggests some great disrespect has been done because Obama hasn’t gone to Tel Aviv and spoken directly to the Israeli people. This seems wildly over blown for the reasons I mentioned above. It was a speech aimed at the second largest religious group in the world. Perhaps just by their sheer numbers, they deserve a speech sooner then the 7.4 million Israelis.
I have latched on to this particular comment, but by no means are Israel’s Palestinian counterparts free from the same charge. This underlying pride, buttressed by opposing views of what God wants, creates an unworkable situation. This perceived slight could be mentioned in a conference room as a reason to not negotiate. We need serious men and women at the table and quite honestly I don’t see any serious men or women in Israel and Palestine right now.
I see a whole bunch of people so focused on their own pride that they cannot and will not work to find common ground. The best possible solution for peace in the Middle East has become increasingly evident in the past decade, but like healthcare reform it requires the right combination of timing and men and women of selfless, humble character to subvert their ruinous pride to find pragmatic, lasting solutions.