Sag Harbor Platform for Obama

As Barack Obama prepared to tour the Middle East and again pledge support for Israel, a group of over twenty of the Senator's supporters met in Sag Harbor Monday evening to hammer out their version of the Democratic Party platform foreign policy plank on that part of the world.

The Sag Harbor group's meeting was one of many across the country held at the invitation of the Obama campaign. The groups were invited to share their views on the issues that will go into the platform. The Sag Harbor meeting chose to focus on the Middle East.

The discussion was moderated by Sag Harbor writer and activist Kathryn Levy. A final report will be issued to the campaign and participants by Ms. Levy. What follows is based on this reporter's notes.

On Iraq the consensus of the group was that

US forces should come home "as soon as possible".
The occupation should end.

Veterans with psychological problems should be considered as disabled.

As long as US forces remained in country, private contractors should be used only in support positions.

International cooperation should be enlisted to settle terms of withdrawal and provide security.

Iraq sovereignty should be recognized, including ownership of natural resources.

On Iran the group urged
a diplomatic solution to disputes which would involve all countries with an interest in Iran.

Control of nuclear weapons on a regional and international basis was advocated by some participants.

On the issues between Israel and Palestine the group advocated

a serious effort at negotiations between all parties - including the Hamas leadership - with no pre-conditions.

(they cite recent history including the Saudi Peace Plan of 2002 shows that the Arab countries will support a solution which recognizes Israel. )

Any plan must include a withdrawal of the illegal settlements on the West Bank.

Human rights should be the focus of a settlement including "Palestinian acceptance of negotiated limitations on the 'right of return' in exchange for financial compensation for refugees."
This last point was one of the "principles of peace" agreed upon in 2002 by a group of Israelis and Palestinians who met to adopt the Geneva Accords.

Meanwhile starting Wednesday Senator Obama spent slightly more than a day in Israel and about an hour in Ramallah on the Israeli-occupied West Bank (where he met with the Palestinian Authority's President and Prime Minister).

The Senator met with senior Israeli officials and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, visited a Holacoust memorial, prayed at the Western Wall and observed the scene of Palestinian rocket attacks on an Israeli town and spoke with locals there. He did not observe the destruction in Gaza and the desparate condition of Palestinians there and on the West Bank as far as we can tell.

More news and opinion on Senator Obama's visit are available from the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz , and also and from Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior Political Analyst