Let’s call this the statistic of the day.
Israel’s daily Maariv published a poll showing about 57 percent of voters believe Netanyahu should have supported Obama’s initiative, rather than opposing the president.
This is about the time Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) should explain to Israelis that they’re insufficiently pro-Israel.
On a related note, Adam Serwer had a good piece yesterday that I wanted to mention, encouraging a larger reevaluation of what it means to be “pro-Israel.” It’d be nice if guys like Walsh read it.
For too long, the term “pro-Israel” in the American political context been used to describe only those who minimize the suffering of Palestinians and actively enable the Israeli right’s attempt to bring the peace process to a halt, even as they offer rhetorical support for the idea of a two state solution. But political changes in the Middle East and demographic changes in the region have created a shrinking window of time for Israel to seek a resolution to the conflict on terms favorable to its long-term survival.
Any objective evaluation of what it means to be “pro-Israel” would mean applying the label to those who recognize the existential peril the country faces, both as a Jewish state and a democracy, as a result of the failure to successfully reach a two-state solution. Instead the term is used to describe those who enable Israel’s most regressive political actors, those whose actions endanger its continued existence. That’s deeply twisted — and tragic.
Jeffrey Goldberg, oddly enough, understands this, noting that President Obama, unlike Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, seems to understand the regional demographics that make a two-state solution a necessity. As Obama told AIPAC, “The number of Palestinians living west of the Jordan River is growing rapidly and fundamentally reshaping the demographic realities of both Israel and the Palestinian territories. This will make it harder and harder, without a peace deal, to maintain Israel as both a Jewish state and a democratic state.”
This isn’t proof of Obama being insufficiently supportive of Israel. It’s the exact opposite.
And as long as we’re on the subject, Kevin Drum had a thoughtful take that I found very persuasive.
I really don’t follow Middle East politics closely enough to say this with any confidence, but things feel very different to me today than they have in the past. The Israeli prime minister, for the first time ever, now feels free to publicly dress down an American president in the secure knowledge that Republicans consider him a firm partisan ally and Democrats will go along uncomplainingly. Then he goes in front of Congress and says he won’t negotiate the right of return, he won’t negotiate Jerusalem, he insists on a permanent military presence all the way to the Jordan River, and his only concession is that he won’t annex the entire West Bank. And he gets 20 standing ovations for it. Netanyahu’s visit has been practically a triumphal procession.
It’s hard to know what to think of this. My instinctive reaction is revulsion over being treated this way, and that’s despite the fact that I’ve always fundamentally blamed Arabs for the lack of a peace agreement. They’ve started and lost three wars against Israel, they’ve turned down every peace agreement offered to them, and they’ve adopted terrorist tactics against Israel that no country in the world would tolerate. Israel, obviously, bears a considerable share of blame for this state of affairs too, but it’s a distinctly minority share.
At least, that’s how I’ve always seen it. But now? After watching Netanyahu in action; after watching his orchestrated attack on an American president who quite plainly is on Israel’s side and proposed nothing new in the way of negotiating parameters; after watching the almost fawning reception he got from Congress; after watching him make it belligerently clear that he will concede nothing for peace; and after watching his almost smug recognition that he can singlehandedly direct American foreign policy — after watching all that, I just don’t know anymore. Rationally, I still think that Palestinians are the ones who need the bigger reality check, but in my gut it’s now a much closer call than it’s been in the past.
Congress, obviously, rejects this in its entirety, but I wonder how many other responsible, level-headed observers have been thinking along the same lines over the last week.