As supporters of Israel, we want to know what sorts of policies the next president will adopt regarding the Middle East. However, questions to the candidates about what approach they would take if elected invariably fail to yield answers that are useful to make such an assessment. Instead, the candidates tend to make anodyne responses to such questions such as, "We have to support Israel" or "We have to support peace." Such answers provide no indication of what how that candidate would evaluate an Israeli response to a Hamas rocket campaign if elected.
There is, however, something which would give a clue to such issues. Instead of asking the candidates what their perceptions of the issue are, ask them who they turn to in order to understand the issues. For instance, someone whose understanding of human rights comes from Paul Berman will likely have a different take on whether or not Israel's response to Hamas rockets is disproportionate than someone whose understanding comes from Ken Roth. Someone whose understanding of Middle East history comes from Bernard Lewis will have a different view of the boundary between Jewish and Arab rights than someone whose understanding comes from Rashid Khalidi. Someone whose ideas of Jewish and Arab interests come from Alan Dershowitz and Khaled Abu Toameh would have a different view of what the obstacles are to a peace agreement than someone whose views come from Jeremy Ben-Ami and Hanan Ashrawi.
The reality is that once someone decides which set of figures would provide the best understanding, the decision has been made as to the frame in which to understand the issue. Once the frame has been decided, the policy to adopt, should one gain the power to implement it, has been decided as well. Is there anyone asking the candidates who fills their understanding of the region?