Voting the Mideast

Neither President Can Solve This Conflict

Omar H. Rahman doesn't think any president will solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Except for a select minority of people, very few Americans actually base their choice for president on a candidate’s record or rhetoric regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As one of the few who heavily weight these factors, I have to say that this year I am joining almost everyone else and voting for a swift economic recovery. It's not that financial issues have trumped everything else in my life, but after four years of a Barack Obama presidency, I no longer believe the American president—whoever that may be—is capable of making the type of impact necessary for real change on this issue.

I had high hopes for Barack Obama. His failures over this issue are not entirely his fault, but where it counted, Obama has dropped the ball on Israel-Palestine. Even in moments of profound opportunity, such as the chance to support—or at least not fight—the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations, Obama made the type of decisions that caused me to lose faith in the man and the office. Although he began his presidency on the right note by going to Cairo and issuing strong language condemning Israeli settlement expansion, he eventually caved on every single point and allowed a rejectionist Benyamin Netanyahu to grow in strength and defiance.

Many people I know still believe Obama will be much better on the issue the second time around—if he's reelected. Personally, I don’t buy it. Obama will face all the same obstacles he did in his first term, save his potential reelection. That may seem like a meaningful difference to some, but not me. From the settlement freeze failure, to the appeasement of Israel with additional financial and military support, to the veto of the settlement resolution at the United Nations Security Council (in contradiction of his own stated policies), Obama demonstrated no backbone whatsoever amid pressure not just for reelection. Democrats will no doubt hold Obama responsible for their future prospects, too. And if all this can be explained by a hostile domestic environment and the necessity to fall back on these issues to garner votes, how can we ever expect another American politician to act differently?

Moreover, I'm unconvinced that any president in the foreseeable future will take the steps necessary to resolve this conflict because the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem requires a radical change in thinking. It can no longer be solved along the same narrow lines as people once thought, if it ever could. Not only have the vast obstacles that American politicians faced in addressing this issue prevented any real commitment to finding a just solution, but they certainly will not allow the space necessary for the type of maneuvering that is needed going forward, such as a creative solution that lies beyond the confines of the two-state parameters. America is stuck in a box and it is not going to move outside of it no matter who is president.

So, this November 6, I may still be casting my vote for Barack Obama, but not because I am convinced he is the right man for the job or that he will be bring about positive change on the one issue I care most about. It’s just he’s a bit better than the other guy. That's the sad reality of caring about these issues.