George S. Hishmeh
Gulf News
November 1, 2007 - 2:43pm

Although the Bush administration may be on the verge of taking a big leap forward in paving the way for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, brewing for nearly 60 years, none of the US presidential candidates have yet bothered to make any noteworthy comment about the upcoming Mideast peace meeting in Annapolis at the end of November.

The only step some of the leading candidates - there are more than a dozen running for the top position in each party - have taken on this key issue is not much different than what motivated the Democratic front-runner, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. The Jewish news agency, JTA, said the senator's action was "not only to praise the Jewish state but to bury doubts that she would be any less vigilant in its protection than the Bush administration". But it is surprising to see that Rudolph G. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and the Republican Party's front-runner, has outranked Clinton in scoring higher on a poll just published in Haaretz.

Top Republican Jewish activists are reportedly enamoured by his combativeness and this probably explains why he has "significantly outpaced" fellow Republican hopefuls, John McCain and Mitt Romney, in raising money from the 60 board members of the Republican Jewish Coalition "Victory 2008" Forum last week.

In the view of Haaretz's Shmuel Rosner, the Israeli paper's chief US correspondent, it is clear that "Israel is not on the top of the voters' agenda, and no one can seriously claim that the candidates' views on Israel are those which catapulted them to the top". Yet, on the other hand, neither frontrunner has had any negative remark about Israeli policies or actions undoubtedly for fear of losing much needed financial and political support from the Jewish community and other pro-Israeli supporters.


It seems that Israel is always faultless in the view of many American politicians. Most of the candidates of the two parties - Democratic and Republican - who in two months' time will be participating in the primary elections for their party's top position, feel they need to show their support of the Israeli state without any reservation and regardless of its shameless occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories for the past 40 years. This probably explains why Giuliani has just outranked Clinton in the Haaretz's poll of a so-called "Secret Factor" panel.

At the forum, Giuliani received the loudest applause and his triumph was attributed to his bad-mouthing of Arabs, especially the Palestinians, and Muslims. He bragged about the time he returned a $10 million cheque for 9/11 families from Saudi Prince Al Walid Bin Talal after he had urged America to "adopt a more balanced stance toward the Palestinian cause". And he went on to complain to the "Jewish hawks", as Maureen Dowd, the popular New York Times columnist described Giuliani's audience, that the candidates in the Democratic debates "never used the word 'Islamic terrorists.' Ever". Or the time he "yanked" the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat out of the Lincoln Centre in New York during a performance of classical music. "The thing that really bothered me was, he didn't have a ticket. He was a freeloader."

In her column titled "Rudy Roughs Up Arabs," Dowd described Giuliani's "bearhug" with Israel as being "so hearty that even (Bush's) embrace seemed tepid in comparison".

To top it all, the former New York mayor, whose knowledge of foreign policy is recognisably superficial, has assembled a coterie of hawkish Jewish advisers and neoconservatives such as Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes, the former had advocated the bombing of Iran and the latter had called for the profiling of Muslims. These Jewish hawks and neoconservatives are generally blamed in the US for whipping the Bush administration to invade Iraq, the country's notorious foreign policy quagmire.

Of all the candidates, Barack Obama, who is now barking louder at Hillary Clinton's feet and who has visited Israel for the first time in January 2006, surprisingly ranked lowest among the 13 candidates in the Haaretz poll. There was no explanation for this low score but a comment from Alan Dershowitz, a professor of law at Harvard University and an arch-supporter of Israel had this much to say: "It's a tremendous mistake for Barack Obama to select as a foreign policy adviser the one person in public life who has chosen to support a bigoted book." This was a reference to the endorsement Obama received from Zbigniew Brzezinski, former president Jimmy Carter's respected national security adviser, who also had defended Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the best-selling book, The Israeli Lobby and US Foreign Policy. As expected, Obama is now reported to have distanced himself from the book, calling its thesis "dead wrong".

Keeping Americans -candidates and the public - in darkness, or intimidated, about Israel's flagrant policies is much like Israel's decision to cut power and oil supplies to the Gaza Strip in order to bring the ruling Hamas party there to submission. Both will have the opposite effect, and as for Israel's collective punishment it is bound to backfire. Hamas will gain more support and sympathy for Palestinians in Gaza will increase throughout the world.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017