As Israelis prepare to go to the polls tomorrow, it’s dawning on a lot of American observers that a defeat for Benjamin Yetanyahu’s government–not exactly “likely,” but certainly a decent possibility–could represent a turning point in American as well as Israeli politics. That’s because one of our two major parties has made support for an aggressive right-wing Israeli polity the linchpin of its entire global worldview. And as Paul Waldman notes at the Plum Line this morning, that means GOPers could undergo some cognitive dissonance if Bibi goes down:
In recent years, the Republican Party has elevated “support for Israel” to a level of passion and consensus usually reserved for things such as tax cuts and opposition to abortion rights. But that happened during a string of conservative Israeli governments. If Israel is led by a Labor Party prime minister and begins to change some of its policies, will Republicans decide that “support” is more complicated than they used to think?
In other words, will a Republican posture of “Israel: My Country Right or Wrong” be maintained if Republicans think a new Israeli government is “wrong” in pursuing a two-state solution or in tolerating a regime in Tehran that has nuclear facilities of some sort? As Waldman puts it:
[T]omorrow, Republicans could learn that by the standard they’ve been using, most Israelis are insufficiently pro-Israel.
But again, the crisis a Netanyahu loss could produce for Republicans goes far beyond how they talk about Israel or the Middle East. If Israel’s no longer the measure of all good things in a “world on fire,” what becomes the organizing principle of U.S. foreign policy? Straight out Islamophobia? “U.S. leadership” as defined by the determination to remind the bad actors of the world that Americans have gotten over their “Iraq Syndrome” and are again prepared to fight a war, or maybe multiple wars? It has been pretty easy up until now for Republicans to point at Bibi and intone: “What he said!” I’m not sure they are ready for the possibility of losing their foreign policy spokesman.