Welcome to Israel! As an American living here in the Holy Land I am thrilled that you are coming to visit. Your statisticians surely could tell you this, but I have to say that this visit is quite exciting for people like me. I’d like to help you out though, because there are some tricky problems here. I’ve been here a few weeks longer than you and I have some advice you can use. First order of business: try the hummus, it’s excellent. The second point is a bit more complicated. Here goes:
If your campaign messages are to believed, Israelis need to get ready for a return to the halcyon times of strong American-Israeli relations. You’ve promised a rededication of American spirit (and money) to Israel and better military cooperation. On your website, you applaud Israel for being a “beacon of Democracy and freedom” and you promise to fight the worldwide “anti-semitic” campaign to delegitimize Israel. This is an honorable goal. There is a lot of anti-semitism in the world and it is a problem. What could be better than a strong relationship between two nations equally dedicated to the implicit social contract inherent in any good democracy? Short of a bucket of orange slices after a peewee football game in the fall or some cheesy grits, not much. Unfortunately, your website doesn’t stop there.
As you know, the final line on the Romney 2012 website’s “Israel” section reads, “Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is not up for debate”. My question, on behalf of the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel is, Why not? What’s wrong with a good debate between equal players who have a safe forum to express grievances in so doing they may together find some middle ground on their differences. And heck, you’re pretty good at them. A debate can also be a forum for ideas. Given the absence of a foreign policy focus in your campaign so far, it seems like you could use some new ideas.
How about this one? The “Prawer Plan”, an Israeli initiative to redistrict the Negev desert is going to cause a mass dislocation of its Arab Bedouin residents. Up to 70,000 people could lose their ancestral homes. By 1837, only 46,000 Native American Indians had lost their land in the Southeastern United States. This “Prawer Plan”, which American aid is implicitly sponsoring, represents a tragedy for almost twice as many people as the infamous “Trail of Tears”. That’s one thought.
Here’s another. I know how much your parents love each other; what if your mom wasn’t allowed to see your dad because he was born in Mexico? This is the case for many Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. These citizens of Israel can’t legally see their husbands and wives just because of their spouse’s nationality. Of course, to discuss these Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel and their lack of the basic human right to raise a family might bring the “debate over Israel’s existence as a Jewish state” to the forefront. Your advisors will tell you, and they are right, that bringing this up would not be popular with the American public. You will probably lose a bunch of percentage points against Obama in key swing states, just like they say. I know you said you wanted to do the opposite of everything Obama has done on this issue, but your advisors are right. It wouldn’t be a safe move to differentiate yourself here, if your top priority is winning the election at any cost.
But, it would be the right thing to do.
If this is going to be the “American Century” like you say, it is time to rededicate ourselves to the American values that made our country great; freedom, liberty, and justice for all. That is the American creed and it should be the foundation of any American incursion abroad. $3 billion of aid flows from the US to Israel every year on the grounds of our shared values and purports to defending the Israeli democracy in the Middle East. Maybe we could spend some of that political capital to start a conversation about human rights and the Palestinian Arab minority in Israel. That would be a great way to kick off your “American Century”.
Call the next hundred years whatever you want, when you are walking around the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City this weekend, you are going to want try some of that famous hummus. Mr. Romney, should campaign calculus determine the ethnicity or religion of the person who sells it to you? I’m telling you, it’s all delicious.