Washington Report on Middle East Affairs - The United States desperately needs to have a national dialogue on the nature of its foreign policy in the Middle East. For far too long—and through Democratic and Republican administrations alike—the same issues have plagued Washington and the region: The U.S. and Iran seem incapable of dialogue, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is stalled and illegal settlement building continues, and approval ratings of the U.S. remain paltry. Newer issues—such as the morality and effectiveness of U.S. drone attacks—must also be addressed.
Unfortunately, the third and final presidential debate did not serve as a platform for this national conversation. Instead, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney squabbled over details of the status quo. Those aware of the issues plaguing the region know that neither candidate painted a vision of the future that differs very much from the past or the present.
Below are statements made by the two candidates (Romney in red and Obama in blue) on the campaign trail regarding Israel, Palestine and Iran. It is important that voters know where the candidates stand on these issues. As the quotes, sadly, reveal, they stand side-by-side most of time—particularly when it comes to Israel.
Shared U.S.-Israeli Values:
“We [Israel and the U.S.] both believe in democracy, in the right of every people to select their leaders and choose their nation’s course. We both believe in the rule of law, knowing that in its absence, willful men may incline to oppress the weak. We both believe that our rights are universal, granted not by government but by our Creator.”
“As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values. Our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums.”
American Military Defense of Israel:
“And if Israel is attacked, we have their back, not just diplomatically, not just culturally, but militarily.”
“And if Israel is attacked, America will stand with Israel. I’ve made that clear throughout my presidency.”
Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process:
“I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.”
“Ultimately, the Palestinians and the Israelis are going to have to agree on how they're going to settle the differences between them.”
“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. Israel is the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East.”
“The ultimate goal is two states for two people: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people and the State of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people—each state in joined self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace.”
The Iranian Military Option:
"It’s worth putting in place crippling sanctions…And if all else fails, if after all of the work we've done, there's nothing else we can do beside take military action, then of course you take military action. It is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
“I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say. That includes all elements of American power: a political effort aimed at isolating Iran, a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored, an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”
How to Approach Iran:
“Something I would add today is I would tighten those sanctions. I would say that ships that carry Iranian oil can’t come into our ports. I imagine the EU would agree with us as well. Not only ships couldn’t, but I’d say companies that are moving their oil can’t, people who are trading in their oil can’t. I would tighten those sanctions further. Secondly, I’d take on diplomatic isolation efforts. I’d make sure that Ahmadinejad is indicted under the Genocide Convention. His words amount to genocide incitation. I would indict him for it. I would also make sure that their diplomats are treated like the pariah they are around the world. The same way we treated the apartheid diplomats of South Africa.”
“From my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime: a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t. In fact, our policy of engagement—quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime—allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.”