Obama took some heat last week when confronted in the Democratic debate about a comment he made in Iowa about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Brian Williams asked him,
“You said recently, ‘No one is suffering more than the Palestinian people.’ Do you stand by that remark?”
Obama responded, saying:
“Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region.
Obama has been criticized since for changing his tune on the conflict, becoming more Pro-Israel to court the much-sought-after Jewish vote. However, Obama has actually remained consistent.
The convenient soundbites aren’t rabidly pro-Israel, it’s true. Instead, Obama has given thoughtful statements about the current state of leadership in the conflict, often attributing much of the problems to the hardline Palestinian leaders. On March 2, 2007, Obama spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Forum. He said there:
“The Israeli people, and Prime Minister Olmert, have made clear that they are more than willing to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states living side by side in peace and security. But the Israelis must trust that they have a true Palestinian partner for peace. That is why we must strengthen the hands of Palestinian moderates who seek peace and that is why we must maintain the isolation of Hamas and other extremists who are committed to Israel’s destruction.”
And the quote Brian Williams refers to comes from a longer statement in Iowa on March 12, 2007:
“Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people…If we could get some movement among Palestinian leadership, what I’d like to see is a loosening up of some of the restrictions on providing aid directly to the Palestinian people”
The strain of thought remains consistent throughout. Obama consistently attributes much of the suffering of the Palestinian people to the current hardline Palestinian leadership. Let’s hope he doesn’t give in to sloppy journalism. If there’s one thing we need now in American foreign policy, it’s nuance and thoughtfulness.