At this writing, Middle East watchers are, well, watching to see if Israel and Hamas can reach a cease-fire. Signs are good, but pessimists are rarely disproved in the Middle East.
There is little doubt that Jerusalem would like a genuine cease-fire. Even though the Israeli public strongly supports Operation Pillar of Defense, it is very wary of a ground assault on Gaza: only a small minority of Israelis support an immediate ground offensive, and such operations during Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War quickly became quagmires that upended Israeli governments. Few in Israel doubt that an actual cease-fire is in the national interest.
The caveat, though, is the phrase “in Israel.” Once again demonstrating that it could not possibly care less about the Jewish state, the right wing has concocted yet another preposterous anti-Obama narrative. Last night on the Hannity show, Oliver North claimed that Obama has threatened Israel with the cutoff of military supplies if it launches a ground invasion and refuses to accept a cease-fire on Hamas’ terms. This story has now become common in the fever swamps of the American right.
This obviously demonstrates the Right’s desperation to undermine President Obama’s clear support of Israel’s position. Throughout the 2012 campaign, conservatives insisted that Obama would betray Israel as soon if he was re-elected. Since Obama very clearly backed up Jerusalem’s position, the American Right’s Plan B was to unilaterally re-define Israel’s security interests, insisting that in fact it should move in with ground troops. What Israelis themselves want is irrelevant: the important thing is to convince American Jews and evangelicals that Obama is a closet anti-Semite.
The Right’s gambit, however, is more than pathetic: it is dangerous. Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Today is Israel’s largest circulating newspaper (not “best-selling” because it is given away for free), and it carries the explicit attempt to drive the Israeli conversation rightward. If it succeeds, we will face the grotesque spectacle of American conservatives seeking to make Israel more right-wing in order to justify its evidence-free conviction that Obama is anti-Israel. And if they succeed, they will accomplish the goal of making Israel more aggressive and rejectionist. That will lead to a further erosion of Israel’s international position, a magnification of settler violence, and putting even more Israeli soldiers and civilians at risk.
But none of this bothers the American Right. In order to serve its own political goals, it is willing to fight to the last Jew.
[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]