In his address to Israelis yesterday, President Obama spoke of Israel’s achievements, its history and its right to security. All the things an expat wants to hear from the President of her native land about her chosen one.
So, when Obama said that he was going ‘off script’ I expected some spontaneous and sincere observation or thought he’d had while traveling the country that he just had to share. But what I heard left me literally slackjawed and yelling at the computer in front of my children.
The President spoke of meeting young Palestinians and said, “I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with these kids, they’d say, ‘I want these kids to succeed, I want them to prosper, I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.”
Mr. President, Are you kidding me? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? That is your message to and about millions of Israelis who live this daily? You came here to give us the epiphany that we should “put ourselves in their shoes” and tell us that you truly believe that if only we could listen to them, we would want Palestinian kids to prosper and have the same opportunities as ours? Aside from wondering exactly which opportunities you are referring to -surely not air raid sirens, rockets and PTSD, army at 18, fear of being blown up by a terrorist- the implication that we do not already think of their children is horrifically offensive because frankly, nothing could be further from the truth.
As parents of children who are all drafted at age 18, no one wants peace and prosperity for all children of the region more than Israelis. No one wants all kids to have the advantages, options, and fun of youth without thinking of war more than us. The idea that it is our lack of identifying with these kids, our not feeling that they should have the same opportunities as our children, our not wanting them to prosper, that is holding up peace is not only ridiculous, but it is practically libelous.
It is also dangerous. It is dangerous because it places the blame and responsibility for lack of peace on our supposed lack of empathy. It is dangerous because it does not put the blame on those whose job it is to secure these kids’ future. It is dangerous because it is overly simplistic and pie in the sky- and that does not bring peace.
You, yourself spoke of all that Israel has done to secure peace, from actual deals with Sadat and Hussein to deals offered to -and rejected by- the Palestinians.
The answer to peace does not lie in Israeli parents wanting good things for Palestinian children. It lies with Palestinian leaders wanting them.