One of the most common expressions you hear from pundits (and for that matter, regular Americans) about the Israel-Palestinian conflict is one of sheer fatigue. Peace seems a perpetual mirage; apportioning blame for violence is painfully difficult; and identifying grounds for optimism looks more like folly each time hope arises on the wings of a diplomatic initiative, usually offered by the United States. Nor is it possible to just ignore the whole intractable mess, given heavy U.S. involvement in the region via aid and security commitments, not to mention historic and cultural ties.
But hard as it is for all us political writers to deal with the latest Mideast crisis, it’s especially hard for a certain type of liberal Jewish writer, who more often than not has spent enormous energy defending Israel from its detractors while battling with Israeli and U.S. Neocon advocates of policies that threaten Israel’s moral and strategic position.
Jonathan Chait wrote a candid piece yesterday expressing his own demoralization:
I don’t mean to overdramatize the change within my own thinking. While less sympathetic to Israel than before, I still find myself far more sympathetic to Israel than to Hamas. I still believe a two-state partition will happen eventually, though the odds are increasing that a catastrophe will be required to bring it about first. I also bitterly attribute the shriveling of the Israeli left to the Palestinian rejectionists who deliberately engineered this very outcome. The change in my thinking is gradational, not transformational. Like many liberal Jews — Roger Cohen today being one of the latest — I recognize that the facts change, and I have changed my mind.
Commenting on Chait’s confession, a similarly positioned writer, Ezra Klein, suggests that just looking away from the Mideast is becoming a regular temptation:
I used to write about Israel often. It felt, even a few years ago, that peace was a live possibility, that Israel had choices — and that some of them might even turn out well. But Israel seems to have made its choice, at least for now, and the results are painful to watch. I haven’t become less pro-Israel. But I’ve become much more pessimistic about its prospects, and more confused and occasionally horrified by its policies. My sense is that’s happened to Chait, too. I notice he writes about Israel less these days, also. My sense is it’s happened to a lot of us.
I hope Israelis solicitous of U.S. solidarity are noticing.