Carter Praises Obama on Mitchell Pick

This is sure to get the AIPAC crowd’s panties in a twist.

“I have total confidence in him,” Carter said of Mitchell.

“What about Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state?” Blitzer asked.

“I think she’ll comply with the policies established by the president. As will George Mitchell,” Carter replied.

Carter also said he “spent a long time with President Obama” the evening before the five living presidents met at the White House January 7.

As Rosalynn Carter and David Axelrod took notes, they talked policy, he said.

“I would say he was most interested in the Middle East because I had been to that region twice in the previous year and had met with some people that others usually don’t meet with as you probably know, Carter said.

Friend’s of Israel should realize that there is more to promoting Israel’s interests than toeing the Israeli line. We have the ability to push the Israeli government to make political choices that they have agreed need to be taken, but their political system doesn’t have the ability to allow them to make. Putting pressure on Israel and the Palestinians simultaneously changes the incentives on both sides, and is an absolutely necessary precondition to peace in the region.

I should say that my belief that Obama would take a different line on Israel than the Clinton’s would have was an important part of my support for him in the primaries and I think everything he has done thus far has vindicated that belief. It’s good to see Jimmy Carter agrees with me.

People interested in the future of the conflict should check out Prospects for Peace, a fantastic blog on the situation that always has thoughtful, pragmatic takes.

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The Coalition of the Sensible

There is an emerging foreign policy consensus between all non-neoconservative factions that the US must reengage with the rest of the world and move towards relying more on soft power. This shift can be seen, ironically, in the appointments of Jim Jones as NSA, Hillary Clinton as SoS, and Robert Gates at DoD, as they all agree on the reinsertion of diplomacy and strategic political engagement in national secuirty policy. There is plenty to say (and others have already said much) about this emerging coalition, but I wonder what issues will cause disagreement between realists, Clinton era foreign policy hands, and the Obama team (to the extent they aren’t one of the previous two). The new national security team will face a real test in the ongoing Gaza situation, and no one quite knows how they will react.

Obamas National Security Team

Obama's National Security Team

If this article by Aaron David Miller is any indication, there is a tantalizing political opportunity for this coalition to pursue bold leadership on the Palestinian- Israeli conflict. From Newsweek:

The departure point for a viable peace deal—either with Syria or the Palestinians—must not be based purely on what the political traffic in Israel will bear, but on the requirements of all sides. The new president seems tougher and more focused than his predecessors; he’s unlikely to become enthralled by either of Israel’s two leading candidates for prime minister—centrist Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, or Likudnik Benjamin Netanyahu. Indeed, if it’s the latter, he may well find himself (like Clinton) privately frustrated with Netanyahu’s tough policies. Unlike Clinton, if Israeli behavior crosses the line, he should allow those frustrations to surface publicly in the service of American national interests.

The issue at hand is to find the right balance in America’s ties with Israel. Driven by shared values and based on America’s 60-year commitment to Israel’s security and well-being, the special relationship is rock solid. But for the past 16 years, the United States has allowed that special bond to become exclusive in ways that undermine America’s, and Israel’s, national interests.

The peace process faces several daunting political obstacles: domestic political opposition in the US, the complexities of the upcoming Israeli election and the byzantine politics of competing Palestinian factions. But for the first time in a long time it seems mainstream American officials are arguing for the benefits of political leadership that will create a lasting peace. Obama’s team has the domestic political capital to create real change by breaking with the tradition of allow Israel to unilaterally dictate the terms of peace. The emergence of pro-Israel, pro-peace groups like Jstreet.org, who have been very active in support of a new ceasefire in Gaza, and the realignment of moderate realists towards a more dovish stance could finally give the US space to act as an honest broker in the region. This coalition may of the sensible could, hypothetically, create the justification for a leader in Israel to make Olmert’s acknowledgement of the need for Israeli concessions while they still have some political power.

Yes we might.