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Can President Obama Mobilize His Inner Rachel Corrie?

The anniversary of Rachel Corrie's death by an Israeli government bulldozer comes at a rare time when the U.S. appears to be putting effort into checking Israel's behavior towards Palestinians.
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Today is the seventh anniversary of the death of Rachel Corrie in Gaza by an Israeli government bulldozer, and the anniversary this year comes at an unusually bad time in US-Israel relations -- by which I mean, of course, that it comes at an unusually wonderful time in US-Israel relations, one of those rare times in which the US appears to put some real effort into establishing narrower boundaries for Israel's behavior towards the Palestinians.

It's easy for long-time observers to be cynical. We've seen it all before: strong words from the U.S. to Israel followed by abject retreats. And there's something in our collective consciousness that counts false hope a greater danger than false pessimism. The pessimist will be right more often; but the optimist will contribute more to positive social change. Each person has to ask herself which is more important: to be right more often, or to contribute more to positive social change?

It's not every day that the press carries reports that the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, the top military commander of all our armed forces, and the Vice President of the United States are telling Israel that its treatment of the Palestinians is endangering US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. As Mark Perry notes in the cover story at Foreign Policy, "There are important and powerful lobbies in America... But no lobby is as important, or as powerful, as the U.S. military."

When an important issue rises to the surface because powerful inside forces are contesting it, it's no time merely to play spectator. It's time to jump into the fray, to try to help the powerful interest that's on the right side of history -- in this case, the U.S. military -- prevail.

Today, Rachel Corrie's family -- in Israel for their wrongful death lawsuit against the Israeli military -- is urging Americans to contact the White House by phone or email and urge an end to the thousand day siege of Gaza.

The United States, of course, has tremendous leverage over the Israeli government. The trial of the Corrie family's lawsuit against the Israeli military would not even be taking place if not for U.S. government pressure. The question is always whether the US will use its leverage. But when top U.S. officials declare that what Israel is doing threatens American troops, that obligates the U.S. to take some action.

The Obama administration is demanding that Israel call off the building project in east Jerusalem, it announced during Biden's visit, AP reports. The U.S. has also demanded that Israel officially declare that talks with the Palestinians will deal with all the conflict's big issues, including final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

Will the Israeli government budge? Not if it believes that the future will be like the past, that it can wait the Obama administration out, that it will be rescued from the administration's ire by the Joe Liebermans in Congress. But by standing firm, the Obama administration has the ability to change the dynamic. In the confrontation between the Obama administration and the U.S. military on the one hand and the Netanyahu government on the other, most Americans are with the Obama administration. Now is the time for Americans to speak out.