After years of ginned-up conflict, Barack Obama has finally found a pretext to change the contours of the United States-Israel alliance. Israel’s policies might not be changing, but the administration will “reevaluate” the relationship, anyway.
POLITICO reports that Obama may, among other things, stop shielding Israel from international pressure at the United Nations. So Americans can look forward to joining Sudan or Yemen—feel free to pick any autocratic dump, really—in condemning Jews for living in their historic homeland and relying on democratic institutions rather than a consensus at the United Nation to decide their fate.
So our morally chaotic foreign policy is coming to a predictable climax. At least on this issue. Obama, with no more elections to run, will now use these threats to pressure Israel into compliance on an Iran deal that looks more dangerous every day. That’s not surprising. What is, though, is how self-proclaimed Zionists have co-opted some of the most absurd justifications for throwing Israel to the wolves.
These rationalizations come in familiar flavors. There’s the tough-love crowd. The notion here is that Democrats are the ones who truly have Israel’s “long-term” interests at heart. And because of a deep and abiding love for the Jewish State, Democrats are obliged to support policies that will set Israel straight. Without the stern guidance of lefty columnists, how can we expect one of the most technologically advanced market economies in the world to remain a vibrant democracy?
Others argue, and have been arguing for a long time, that the United States has a moral responsibility to distance itself from Israel right now, because the two nations no longer share ideals about freedom and liberalism.
Support Terror, Criticize Democracy
And if by “nation” they mean “this White House,” it’s probably true. Here’s a refresher on the administration’s moral calculus these days:
Out: Standing by the only democratic Middle East ally.
In: Entering into deals with theocratic terror-sponsoring regimes that will destabilize the entire region, without the consent of the American people.
Sure, Iran’s top ally may be dropping chlorine gas on civilians, but the real problem in the Middle East is the Israel electorate. “The Price Israel Must Pay: We no longer have a Netanyahu problem. We have an Israel problem”—not a Hamas problem, or Fatah problem, not a random-criminals-shooting-folks-in-markets problem, or a lack-of-a-civil-society-in-the-Middle-East problem, but an Israel problem—writes William Saltean over at Slate. If you turn on Obama—which is the only real “problem” here—there is always a steep price.
It is true, for many Democrats this is about Israel, not any one politician. But the irrational hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu sure does propel things. Take this piece that strings together an array of Obama-era mythologies about Israel by Jonathan Chait:
Netanyahu is expected to walk back his denunciation of the two-state solution, which he made in unequivocal terms. Here Netanyahu is reprising tactics employed for years by Yasser Arafat, who would issue maximal demands in Arabic and follow them with conciliatory remarks to the foreign press. Netanyahu may be best understood as Israel’s Arafat — a master of nationalist politics, yet also disastrously lacking any strategic vision, and able to survive only at the deep and possibly fatal cost to his own people’s long-term aspirations.
The above paragraph begins with an half-truth, transitions to a baseless claim, and then ends with preposterous comparison. Netanyahu’s statement about the Palestinian state came with a clear stipulation: there can be no two-state solution today because conditions in Palestinian society—a society rife with radicalism, bigotry, and corruption—will almost surely produce another radical Islamic state next door. This is an uncomfortable reality, but it is a reality for any prime minister.
Of course, the Arafat analogy is particularly pernicious, not only because it is untrue, but because it compares an elected prime minister of Israel, a man who represents a government that is formed with consent of the people (including many Arabs), with an autocrat and founding father of modern-day terrorism who, on many occasions, killed or targeted Americans. A person who believes this is a clever point of comparison might best be understood as a person who’s lost his sense of moral perspective about the situation.
But even if we take Chait’s comparison in the narrowest possible terms, it still doesn’t work. Arafat was offered a deal to create a Palestinian state. Arab intermediaries and the American delegation begged him to accept this offer because they knew there would likely never be one as conciliatory. But he refused. Netanyahu has never been offered any conceivable path towards a peace deal. Nor has he made any “maximal demands” in Hebrew that he hasn’t offered in English. Israel has an open and vigorous press, in both languages.
Obama Knows Best (?)
There is no arguing that Israel’s best future would feature a stable Palestinian state next door. But Gaza is already a semiautonomous mini-terror state that has no bearing on Israel’s democracy—other than perhaps insuring Likud victories with every missile barrage. Neither will the West Bank. Yet one of the most widely used fearmongery arguments we’ve heard lately is that Israel’s democratic makeup is bound to crumble if it doesn’t give the new PLO its own state before Obama’s term is up.
Time’s Joe Klein tells us: “When I was a little boy, my grandmother would sing me to sleep with the Israeli national anthem. It still brings tears to my eyes.” (When he was a little boy Arabs in Israel didn’t even have the right to vote.) Today, though, he writes deeply silly columns that blame Netanyahu for introducing bigotry into Middle Eastern politics. Bibi had the temerity to mention that Arab voters were being bussed to polls, another statement that happened to be true—he’s sort of like the mass murder who first dehumanizes his enemies.
Klein also says, that the “alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution.” And here’s Tom Friedman in the New York Times writing the same thing:
Having won the Israeli elections — in part by declaring that he will never permit a two state-solution between Israelis and Palestinians — it means Netanyahu will be the father of the one-state solution. And the one-state solution means that Israel will become, in time, either a non-Jewish democracy or Jewish non-democracy.
The idea that Israel is on the road to demographic collapse if it doesn’t make a deal right now is not substantiated with data. For decades Israelis have been hearing how they will be outnumbered as the Jewish democracy collapses. Numbers tells a different story. Last year, you might remember Secretary of State John Kerry also pulled the “apartheid” card. As others have pointed out before, Israel’s population stands at around 8 million people, with 6 million Jews, and nearly 400,000 non-Jews related to Jewish immigrants. There are around 1.7 million Israeli Arabs, which includes Christians and Druze. Israeli Arabs are not an existential threat to Israel.
You know what is? A bunch of apocalyptic mullahs with access to nuclear weapons. This reality, however, doesn’t seem to draw as much concern from columnists who tear up at sound of Hatikva.
In essence, the argument these American journalists are making is that Obama has a better grasp of the long-term needs of a Jewish homeland than the people who live there. Netanyahu survives only on the fatal cost to his own people’s long-term aspirations, but Obama, whose history is littered with anti-Israel activists, he’s got Israel back.
These pundits also seem to confuse Zionism with their own quixotic progressive idealism. It’s the kind of faux-Zionism that you’ve heard from Peter Beinart or J-Street—a progressive outfit with no popular support from the Jewish community but important enough for the White House to entertain—or Hamas-defending types at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, and so on. Zionism is a national movement to return the Jewish people to their historic homeland in Israel. Its most pressing moral obligation, like any other state’s, is to defend its own security and people, not to create more volatile neighbors or to help cement Barack Obama’s legacy.