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13 Jul, 2009 06:17

American Jews beginning to favor two-state solution

Barack Obama’s message of change could have consequences for US-Israeli relations. Polls show that after years of unconditional support, Americans now think it is time to get tough with Israel over the peace process.

Barack Obama says he wants to bring peace to the Middle East, much like every other US president before him since Harry Truman.

Opinions have begun to differ over the issue and American Jews are no longer thinking Israel should have a blank check.

Rabbi Mark Gopin is the director of the Center on Conflict Resolution between Israelis and Palestinians at George Mason University. He says that the change in American Jews’ attitude toward Israel makes the prospect of peace more realistic now than ever before.

“Most American Jews agree with putting pressure equally on both Israelis and Palestinians. What is surprising is that now there is a simple majority that wants pressure just on Israel. It’s become more and more clear that a majority of American Jews want a two-state solution,” Rabbi Marc Gopin says.

Even Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s Chief of Staff and a man who has deep connections to Israel, does not unconditionally support the Middle Eastern state.

“What we had for many years in the White House and the Congress was a lobby that made it so difficult for anyone to say what they really thought. Rahm Emanuel, Hillary Clinton – all of these people who always said and did all the right things in Congress didn’t necessarily agree with what they were forced to commit to,” Rabbi Marc Gopin says.

Barack Obama claims to take a unique approach in dealing with this issue. Armed not with weapons, but with a congressional democratic majority and new US attitudes toward the Middle East, he may be able to go where no American president has gone before.

“I think this is the last shot we have at doing it. It’s going to be a difficult job, but I can’t imagine anyone better to do it than Barack Obama. He’s very careful and very cautious, but he is going to continue to ratchet up the pressure,” says James Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute.

The American Jewish population voted overwhelmingly to put Barack Obama in the White House, and 50% of Americans now think that the Israeli issue needs to be dealt with effectively.

With a new generation of American Jews striving to give peace a chance, the relationship between the US and Israel may be changing forever – but whether or not it will actually bring peace to the Middle East is an entirely different question.