The video of Beto O’Rourke in New Hampshire dancing around without answering an IfNotNow member’s question, “Would you commit to putting direct pressure on the Israeli government to end the occupation?” is now nearly two weeks old.
But it is worth watching/reading for how little O’Rourke says in four minutes– while making it a point to blame “both sides” for violence and bad leadership when the context was, atrocities experienced by Palestinians.
The question: Aviva of IfNotNow says that on a visit to Israel/Palestine she witnessed the “atrocities” of the Israeli military occupation as experienced by “millions of Palestinians,” including watching two soldiers choke a 15-year-old Palestinian boy, and feels responsible as an American taxpayer. “Would you commit to putting direct pressure on the Israeli government to end the occupation?”
Beto O’Rourke: “Thanks for the question. The answer is– yes, we’ll work directly with the government of Israel, directly with the Palestinian Authority, in pursuit of a two-state solution. It is the only way, as far I understand it, that we can guarantee the safety, the security, the human rights, and the dignity of everyone in the West Bank, of everyone in Israel and potentially everyone in Gaza as well. Though I understand that’s a much more challenging issue, given the disconnect between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas right now.
“I too have visited Israel and Tel Aviv, and I’ve too visited the West Bank, and I’m struck by the fear that so many live under. On both sides. In Tel Aviv I remember passing by the Dolphinarium, which was destroyed as were the lives of Israeli teenagers in a terrorist attack. Going not too far from Gaza where we saw the remains of tunnels that have been dug into communities to terrorize people there.
“But I was also in the West Bank and I met a young woman who said, ‘I really don’t care about a two-state solution or a one-state solution, Palestinian girl, she said, I just want to be treated like a human being. I want to go to school. I want to get married. I want to have a job and a career.’ She wants what my kids want, what all of us want, and is functionally denied the ability to do that today.
“I think this is especially complicated in the leadership that we see on both sides. In Mahmoud Abbas, someone who is not able to I think pursue that two-state solution and to reduce the inflammation and the calls to violence. Somebody in Prime Minister Netanyahu who has openly sided with racist political parties, who has warned about Arabs coming to the polls, and now threatens to annex the West Bank, which means that Israel going forward if he does this cannot both be the homeland of the Jewish people and a democracy– it’s going to have to pick one or the other. And you mentioned that uniquely We are the largest donor to the state of the Israel. We support Israel more than we support any other country on the face of the planet. We also are a large contributor to the Palestinian Authority.
“I think that we have to insure that that relationship is reciprocal and that everyone’s interests are served at the end of the day. So as president I will make sure that we vigorously pursue the two-state solution. Get there. But I just want to acknowledge that I understand the challenges we have with leadership on both sides now.”
Aviva persists. “I can’t help but feeling, we’re hiding behind the complication of it… How are you going to bring us into this change and how are you going to pressure the Israeli government?”
O’Rourke: “I think the tough but honest answer and one that hopefully includes some humility that has been missing from US foreign policy, is We cannot impose that solution on anyone. We can do our best. We can assist both sides in whatever way that we can make the difference. But ultimately that’s going to have to be the decision of the Israeli and the Palestinian people, which we will support to the nth degree Whatever way we can facilitate it or help to make it happen but understand that we cannot impose or force that to happen, I will do that. So I just want to be honest with you, I don’t know that any one person can make that happen. But we’ll do everything we can to be helpful so that it could. So thanks for asking, I appreciate it.”
O’Rourke gave his longwinded answer the same weekend that Cory Booker told IfNotNow, more directly: “If that’s your issue I would understand if you want to support somebody else.”