Obama Pandering Watch: We ‘Should Never Fear to Negotiate’ – Except With Hamas

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.


9649.jpg

One of the fundamentals of Barack Obama’s foreign policy pitch—and one of those rare areas of real disagreement between him and Hillary—is that he is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations. As his Web site puts it, “[Obama] will do the careful preparation necessary, but will signal that America is ready to come to the table, and that he is willing to lead.” On this position, which he applies to even such official boogeymen as Raul Castro and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Obama likes to quote JFK’s line that “We should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate.”

That Obama has vigorously defended his pro-negotiations posture, even in the face of criticism that will no doubt intensify if he is the nominee, makes the senator’s response to a question about whether he favors negotiations with Hamas particularly striking. From an event for Jewish leaders in Cleveland last week:

The answer is no and the distinction would be that Hamas is represented in the Palestinian legislature, or it was before the current rift, but they’re not the head of state. They are not a recognized government. So I think there is a distinction to be drawn there and a legitimate distinction to be drawn. …[A]nd the point is that with respect to Hamas, you can’t have a conversation with somebody who doesn’t think you should be on the other side of the table. At the point where they recognize Israel and its right to exist, at the point where they recognize that they are not going to be able to shove their worldview down the throats of others but are going to have to sit down and negotiate without resort to violence, then I think that will be a different circumstance.

Of course Obama’s answer disregards, among other things, the fact that Hamas is not a recognized government in part because of a boycott by the United States (despite Hamas’ clear majority in the 2006 parliamentary elections and current control of Gaza). There are also the repeated offers by Hamas for a cease-fire with Israel. The answer represents a clear departure from Obama’s credo of talking to anyone, friend or foe—Hamas is somehow beyond the pale, while an Ahmadinejad or a Castro is acceptable.

Tellingly, as Laura reported earlier, there is growing support in Israeli officialdom for some form of negotiation with Hamas. And then there’s this: Haaretz released a poll last week showing that 64 percent of Israelis favor direct negotiations with Hamas. So why is the most liberal presidential candidate in America taking a harder line than the Israeli citizenry? Nothing new here, just a continuation of Obama’s Israel shuffle.

—Justin Elliott

Photo by Flickr user BohPhoto used under a Creative Commons license.

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. It's our first time asking for an outpouring of support since screams of FAKE NEWS and so much of what Trump stood for made everything we do so visceral. Like most newsrooms, we face incredibly hard budget realities, and it's unnerving needing to raise big money when traffic is down.

So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

IT'S NOT THAT WE'RE SCREWED WITHOUT TRUMP:

"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate