Netanyahu’s ‘expectations’

I think the right’s reaction to President Obama’s speech on the Middle East officially went off the rails this morning when a prominent right-wing blogger blasted Jeffrey Goldberg as a “far-left Israel hater.”

The Atlantic‘s Goldberg is certainly capable of defending himself against such nonsense, but I’d note for context that he’s politically conservative, Jewish, and staunchly pro-Israel.

But Goldberg has drawn the ire of some on the far-right for responding to the president’s remarks with thoughtful and sensible pieces, noting among other things the reference to 1967 borders is neither new nor radical; media coverage has been misleading; and Republican reactions have been overheated for no reason.

Of particular interest, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004,” prompting an especially poignant response from Goldberg.

So Netanyahu “expects” to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?

I don’t like this word, “expect.” Even if there weren’t an imbalance between these two countries — Israel depends on the U.S. for its survival, while America, I imagine, would continue to exist even if Israel ceased to exist — I would find myself feeling resentful about the way Netanyahu speaks about our President. Netanyahu had an alternative, of course….

Instead he threw something of a hissy fit. It was not appropriate, and more to the point, it was not tactically wise… Netanyahu needs the support of President Obama in order to confront the greatest danger Israel has ever faced: the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran. And yet he seems to go out of his way to alienate the President. Why does he do this? It’s a mystery to me.

Putting aside the fact that I’m not accustomed to agreeing so much with Goldberg, the larger problem is that his sensible thinking on this is in too short a supply on the right. Over the last 24 hours, the response from Republicans and conservatives in general to Obama’s vision for the region has been reactionary and hysterical. The accusations against the U.S. leadership has been detached from reality in ways that suggest the right wasn’t even listening yesterday.

Indeed, for all the conservative apoplexy, it’s worth noting that the Anti-Defamation League had high praise for President Obama’s speech — and the ADL is led by Abe Foxman, a close Netanyahu ally.

We appear to have reached a point at which Republican attitudes on the Middle East peace process actual hinder the process itself by defending the status quo at all costs. The GOP’s unyielding position appears to be that U.S. officials must simply parrot the Israeli line — which in turn encourages Netanyahu to dictate his “expectations” in advance of his White House meeting.

And to feel differently is to be a “far-left Israel hater”? Please.