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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

February 09, 2003

Gephardt Details Plan For Helping Middle East

Doesn't this presidential hopeful realize that you can not bring democracy into an area where the rulers are dictators or hereditary and the religious schools and "authorities" preach a violent form of Islam, and the government takes little or not measures to change this? Job, yes; food, yes. a decent economy, yes. But there are political and theological changes that are needed too. After all, if Gephardt is to refer to the Marshall Plan he should note that it worked only after America required changes in how the German consitution was to be made democratic.
(...) [Gebhart's] "Marshall Plan" may be a hard sell among pro-Israel activists who have praised Bush's hard-line approach to the Iraq crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Gephardt stressed his pro-union economic populism and seemed to be playing to the liberal activists who make up the party's base in the primaries, his Middle East positions struck several pro-Israel activists who heard the speech as too conciliatory and, in the words of one, "wishy-washy." The 40-minute speech also did not contain the ringing pro-Israel language that Gephardt has used over many years, and that — candidates be warned — may be obligatory in New York.

"If we only address the symptoms of the problem we will never quell the problem," Gephardt said in his speech in reference to terrorism. "Israel is 6 million Jews surrounded by 100 million Arabs, 70% of which are under 25. Most live in abject poverty. Many are educated in radical thought, even by advocates of terrorism. This is a ticking time bomb. It's in our self-interest to lead the world... to change these circumstances so people are not convinced to become terrorists."

One pro-Israel activist, Daniel McCray, said he was not impressed by the foreign policy planks Gephardt offered, especially "his emphasis on a 'Marshall Plan' and a international financial commitment to the [Middle East] as a palliative for anti-Americanism, as if money was the problem, which it is not. Parts of the region are wealthy. Saudi Arabia gives away a lot of money — just to the wrong things. My feeling with him and the other Democrats is, you can be against the war or you can be serious about implementing 1441 and the other U.N. Security Council resolutions, but you can't be both. I think he's trying to be both."

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441 strengthened the weapons inspection regime for Iraq.

The reaction to the speech, in fact, illustrated what may be a hawkish mood afoot in the Jewish community. Polls of pro-Israel activists long have showed them to be more hawkish than other Jews, and a poll released to the Forward last week showed an across-the-board increase in feelings of insecurity among Jews related to terrorism. That mood could spell trouble for Democrats as they try to reach out to Jews, long a core constituency of the Democratic Party and the source of more than half the contributions to any Democratic presidential campaign.

As one Jewish organization official put it, "The Jewish community is mobilized and focused on security issues, while the Democratic Party is pulling left. It's building concern that there's a problem for the Democratic Party [in the Jewish community]. I wonder if they know it. It's like they're not awake." [more]