Monday, October 22, 2012


Third Rail of Foreign Policy

As we say in church, after the bible reading:  Here endeth the debate.

Thanks be to God!

I had to listen to the entire 95 minutes to be sure I didn't miss the discussion of an important issue.  The topics for discussion (argument? debate?) were related to foreign affairs.  The moderator started with a recent event that has achieved much publicity but really isn't important enough for inclusion in a serious discussion of American foreign policy: the attack on our Consulate and the death of our ambassador to Libya in Benghazi.  Other unimportant issues were discussed and argued over.  Altogether, it wasn't a very educational or enlightening program.  It was comparing the tactics of the two contestants for the Presidency.  Mr. Romney was smooth, a good speaker.  Mr. Obama was not a smooth speaker.  I am tempted but will refrain from saying that Mr. Romney was slick.  After all, I am prejudiced against him.  I've already sent in my vote-by-mail ballot and I didn't vote for him.  The third debate between the two men had no more effect on my decision than either of the first two.

What I missed was a serious discussion of one of our most serious and long-running foreign policy problems.  To be unkind, I will call it a failure.  Many Presidents have struggled with this problem: both Bush younger and elder, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, and now Obama.  Solving this problem would greatly ease our problems with the Muslim countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.  I mean our failure to bring about any agreement or even a willingness to negotiate between Israel and the Palestinians who were displaced in various wars after the creation of Israel in 1948.  There are Palestinians in exile who have title to properties in Israel.  Some still have keys to their houses.  These properties and houses are now occupied by Israeli citizens.  Israel will not allow the displaced owners to return, even for a short visit.

American Presidents have repeatedly urged the Israeli government to stop its program of supporting "illegal" Jewish settlements being built on land that is on the Palestinian side of the boundary between Israel and a proposed Palestinian state.  Every nation in the world except Israel and probably Iran agrees on that border.  It's understandable that the Palestinians see the continued growth of "illegal" settlements as a threat to the existence of any Palestinian state.  To a Palestinian, it seems that the true intention of Israel is to delay negotiations for a long, long time, while additional settlements enlarge the Jewish state until the entire land of Biblical Israel is cleared of Palestinians.  To a fervent Jew, the settlement activity is a process of reclaiming land that long ago God gave to the children of Abraham and to Moses.  To a Muslim, the land formerly known as the British Protectorate of Palestine (and before that as part of the Turkish Empire) is land that had been converted to Islam.  Having been converted, it must never be allowed to relapse.

Of course, these religious arguments have no place in any decision as to who should be allowed to live on the land.  On religious grounds Muslims could argue that the entire Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) should be returned to Islam.

The only mention of this serious problem in our foreign policy came when Mr. Romney quoted Mr. Obama as having said that their was space between our policy and that of Israel.  Mr. Obama quickly denied that there was any space.

Our policy regarding Israel is a "third rail" that politicians dare not tough.  That's a pity.
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