Why does Barack Obama have so many foreign policy and national security advisers whose statements about Israel and American Jews are problematic? We’ve written at length about Samantha Power, perhaps his closest foreign policy adviser until she was forced to resign for insulting Hillary Clinton. We’ve also touched on Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley. And by now everyone who follows these things realizes that Obama’s long-time spiritual adviser Rev. Wright hates Israel passionately.
Now comes evidence that Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak, who serves as Obama’s national campaign co-chair and his point man when it comes to establishing the candidate’s bona fides on military matters, is also hostile towards Israel, viewing its positions as preventing peace from breaking out in the region. Moreover, in something like the style of Walt-Mearsheimer, he blames American Jews for enabling Israel to take the positions that prevent peace.
Robert Goldberg at the American Spectator provides the details. Goldberg points to a 2003 interview McPeak gave to the Oregonian newspaper, which included this exchange:
McPeak: We don’t have a playbook for the Middle East. You know, for instance, obviously, a part of that long-term strategy would be getting the Israelis and the Palestinians together at . . . something other than a peace process. Process is not a substitute for achievement or settlement. And even so the process has gone off the tracks, but the process isn’t enough. . . . We need to get it fixed and only we have the authority with both sides to move them towards that. Everybody knows that.
Q: So where’s the problem? State? White House?
McPeak: New York City. Miami. We have a large vote – vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it.
McPeak then explains that because of the political influence exerted by those New York and Miami Jews, the U.S. can’t get “Israelis to stop settling the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and maybe even withdraw some of the settlements that’ve already been put there.” And under these circumstances, “you can’t develop a Middle East strategy; it’s impossible.”
In response to a follow-up question, McPeak gives a bizarre answer in which he seems to equate the extremism of Hamas and Hezbollah with extremism you can find even in Oregon (if you know where to look — see below). He then concedes that there is some “good will” in Israel (though not apparently among American Jews in New York and Miami) but only perhaps among the “cosmopolitan” set.
Q. Do you think . . . there’s an element within Hamas, Hezbollah, that doesn’t want Israel to exist at all and always will be there?
Q. Yeah. So this is – this is multilateral.
McPeak: There’s an element in Oregon, you know, that’s always going to be radical in some pernicious way, and likely to clothe it in religious garments, so it makes it harder to attack. So there’s craziness all over the place.
I think there is enough good will on the Israeli side – I’ve spent a lot of time in Israel, worked at one time very closely with the Israeli air force as a junior officer, and so – but that’s maybe the more cosmopolitan, liberal version of the Israeli population – I think there’s enough good will there – I don’t know if there is still on the Palestinian side, because they’ve been radicalized pretty well. But there’s enough good will, I would hope, on both sides that you can get the majority into some kind of a big tent, and make something better than what you’ve got now. If you do that, you’ll still have radicals on both sides doing stupid things, but that is basically a problem in internal security. Hopefully. You can handle it with police. But if you don’t do that, I don’t see any way to put together a strategy for the Middle East. I mean it’s just kind of a linchpin.
Who constitutes this “pernicious element,” found even in Oregon, that clothes its radicalism in “religous garments” to “make it harder to attack”? Goldberg quotes McPeak as follows:
Let’s say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq. Let’s say you are a born-again Christian and you think that Armageddon and the rapture are about to happen any minute and what you want to do is retrace steps you think are laid out in Revelations, then it makes sense. So there are a number of scenarios here that could lead you in this direction. This is radical. . .The secret of the neoconservative movement is that it’s not conservative, it’s radical.
Goldberg concludes: “Obama can issue all the boilerplate statements supporting Israel’s right to defend itself he wants, but until he accepts responsibility for allowing people like McPeak so close to his quest for the presidency, Obama’s sincerity and judgment will remain open questions.” It seems to me, however, that the question is largely settled, whether Obama accepts responsibility or not.
UPDATE: Ed Lasky has more on McPeak and Obama. He writes:
If Senator Obama becomes President, McPeak might very well be in line for an appointment as Secretary of Defense. Given the close ties between the defense forces of America and Israel, can the millions of supporters of this close alliance [have confidence] that McPeak will not seek to weaken this relationship and make Israel even more vulnerable to the enemies that surround her?
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