There is no doubt, as Politico’s Laura Rozen writes today, that “an intense debate inside the Obama administration about how to proceed with Netanyahu to advance the Middle East peace process has grown more heated.” As her sources tell her, the internal debate revolves around Dennis Ross’s argument that the WH has to be sensitive to Benjamin Netanyahu’s domestic concerns, “while other officials including some aligned with Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell are arguing Washington needs to hold firm in pressing Netanyahu for written commitments to avoid provocations that imperil Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and to preserve the Obama administration’s credibility.”
Ross, it seems, is bravely putting forth an alternative view he wants the President to consider. Instead of listening to him, his opponents are arguing, as one unnamed person tells her, that “he [Ross] seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to U.S. interests and he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”
To put it bluntly, Ross’s opponents are painting him as anti-American, subject to the old canard about “dual loyalties” to Israel rather than to his own country. Ross’s goal, one that is hardly opposed to our own national interest, is to develop “an international and regional alliance including Arab nations and Israel to pressure and isolate Iran.” But it seems that the Obama administration is quickly backing away from taking any meaningful action to curb Iran, and instead is spending its energy in condemning the Israelis for seeking to build 1600 apartments in Jerusalem.
Joining those who want Obama to primarily keep up the pressure on Israel is the mainstream of American liberal journalists, most of them Jewish, who evidently see a need to reinforce Obama (not that he needs it) in his decision to get tough on America’s most loyal ally in the Middle East.
Writing in the March 29th New Yorker, its editor-in-chief David Remnick attributes Obama’s unpopularity in Israel only to “right-leaning Israelis,” ignoring all the polls that show our President’s unpopularity extends across the board and exists among all political tendencies in Israel. As for the recent housing crisis, Remnick sees Biden and Obama as the ones who were humiliated by the Israelis, which he attributes to “a deep Israeli misreading of the President and an ignorance of the diversity of opinion among American Jews and in the United States in general.”
Next, Remnick mentions the ploy I discussed yesterday — that Obama’s bona fides re Israel are proved by all the “Jewish mentors” and friends he has. Why, it turns out, Obama even served as a shabbos goy for Ira Silverstein, an Orthodox Jew with whom he shared an office suite at the Capitol. I guess turning lights on and off on Saturdays is proof definitive of what he thinks about the Arab-Israeli dispute.
As for the fact that he was friends with Rashid Khalidi, he argues, why shouldn’t he be? After all, one can be pro Israel while opposing “the platform of Likud and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.” Israel, of course, is no longer in Gaza, and their voluntary evacuation led not to peace, but to the renewal of Hamas and to rocket attacks against Israel on a daily basis.
Next comes the J-Street ploy. If we needed proof that J Street exists only as a cover for Obama to say “the Jews who represent most American Jews favor my policy,” Remnick provides it. As he writes, Likud and its supporters “overlook younger, more liberal constituencies, which for years have been more questioning of Israel policy.” Remnick does not stop to inform his readers that J Street opposed Israel’s retaliation against Hamas, condemned Israel for construction in Jerusalem, and regularly goes out of its way to oppose actual Israeli policies taken to defend the country’s interests. And the mainstream of American Jewry in fact does not support the positions J Street has taken.
Just this week, the lack of support for J Street was shown by what has taken place in Philadelphia, where Democratic congressional candidate Doug Pike, who previously took campaign contributions from J Street and accepted their endorsement, returned the $6000 he got from them and denounced their backing. Facing a primary challenger who argued that Pike was not sufficiently supportive of Israel, he found his poll numbers quickly falling.