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.
Pike then explained that he did not fully comprehend how differently he saw things from J Street. From the Jewish Exponent: “For instance, Pike said, he was ‘troubled’ by J Street’s recent stance supporting Obama in his latest diplomatic flare-up with the Jewish state over plans to build new housing in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood.” As the reporter for Philadelphia’s Jewish newsweekly explained, “the reversal [of Pike’s acceptance of J-Street’s support] raises questions about the influence of J Street and its ability to raise cash and support candidates who favor its more proactive approach to the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict.” So much for those “younger, more liberal constituencies” that Remnick is so sure represent America’s Jewry. As the Exponent story puts it, it casts doubt on whether J Street “should be considered a mainstream Jewish organization, under the pro-Israel tent.”
Whatever Remnick’s limitations as an observer, he appears absolutely moderate when compared to the vicious attack on critics of Obama’s Middle East policy emanating from Joe Klein in one of his most recent blogs appearing on the Time website. Klein, as we have seen before, tends to lose it in his blogs.
This time, Klein takes on a column penned by Elliot Abrams, now resident at the Council on Foreign Relations, that appears in the Weekly Standard. Fair enough. Klein is entitled to his own views on Abrams’ analysis. But then, instead of offering a serious critique, he brands Abrams’ views as “the foreign policy equivalent of Tea Partyism.” For those of you who support the tea party movement, this is not meant as a compliment.
What could upset Klein so much about Abrams’ views? Well, he leaves out what Klein thinks are major criticisms of Israel — such as restoring Jewish historic sites in Palestinian areas, humiliations suffered daily by West Bank Palestinians who are law-abiding, and as you expect, “the new housing blocks in East Jerusalem,” even though Klein acknowledges that “the new housing is in a neighborhood that will undoubtedly be Jewish once the maps are redrawn.”
Then Klein gets to the nitty-gritty. The real issue is what he calls “the Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands.” It almost appears similar to what the Arab League was arguing back in 1948 at the time of Israel’s creation — that the Jewish state was itself such an act of imperialist colonization. As for Klein’s other fabrications and ignorance about Hebron and the historic Jewish presence there, I refer you to Noah Pollak’s brilliant critique appearing today in Contentions.
Klein goes on to argue that while the Palestinians have fulfilled all the conditions necessary to achieve peace, the Israelis alone have not, since they continue to colonize. And those who have a different analysis — he specifically cites Abrams and Jennifer Rubin — they are condemned as perpetrators of the “Big Lie” and in Rubin’s case, of being “a pro-Likud fanatic.” Now Rubin — as any readers of her wonderful posts knows — can well take care of herself. But what Klein has done is to respond not to her argument that Obama is presiding over “the most anti-Israeli administration in history,” which many of us feel has been established as fact, but to deal with this claim by engaging in an outpouring of ad hominem remarks one does not expect to find on the site of a distinguished magazine.
Indeed, he then writes that Abrams, Rubin and AIPAC — the notorious “Jewish lobby” — are guilty of undermining American policy in such a manner that their views “teeter on the brink of treachery.” (my emphasis) They are, to put it another way, potential traitors to our country! This is as good an example of liberal McCarthyism as one can find. Klein, I think, is the first to make such an accusation since the right-wing crazy Taki argued a few years ago in the pages of the American Conservative that American Jews are a “fifth column,” and elsewhere that the Jewish neo-cons (he actually lists thirteen of them by name) are “as shameless and contemptible as most traitors are.”
And why should they and Israel “stand down”? The answer Klein gives is that “the U.S. is trying to build a regional, and international, coalition to contain and deter Iran — to prevent it from building nuclear weapons, if possible — that will work to Israel’s benefit, if it is successful.” Is Joe Klein serious? Has he not read the newspapers the past few days, in which the administration has made it clear it is backing off tough sanctions?
If anyone is trying to get the U.S. to in fact do precisely what Klein says it is already doing, it is those very people he is criticizing in his article, including Rubin, Abrams, the neo-cons Klein detests, and a dwindling group of liberal hawks who see clearly the Obama administration’s continuing backsliding.
Klein closes with the same old charge. AIPAC, the neo-cons, all of those whom Klein sees as wrong-headed are “extremists” who “stand well outside mainstream thinking on this issue.” If this is true, it is mainstream thinking that is wrong. But as Doug Pike has learned down in Philadelphia, is it the Joe Kleins and the J Street crowd that are the ones suffering from delusions. Klein, like J Street, ends by trying to paint himself as the real friend of Israel, while those who criticize our current administration’s policy are, he writes, encouraging “ right-wing American extremists who deny the legitimacy of our President.”
With a comment like that, Joe Klein reveals himself to be part of a conspiracy mongering group of liberal journalists who evidently see any criticism — no matter how ably it is developed and put forth — as extremist in content. In Klein’s world, this can only end by stopping our criticism. What happened to both free speech and the right to oppose a foreign policy when we think it is wrong?
With friends like Joe Klein and David Remnick, we have learned that Israel does not have to search far for its real enemies.
Addendum: 10:30 pm East Coast time
Since writing the above, Andrew Sullivan joins Remnick and Klein with his editorial column in the London Times. He begins by praising Obama for refusing “to listen to the latest excuses,arguments and prevarications” from Netanyahu. The Israeli PM, he claims, “is badly hurting America’s interests around the world.” As he sees it, the division between Israel and the United States is no longer “taboo;” indeed, it is necessary.
Or as Sullivan puts it, “Israel’s role as an ally has become muddled.” It stands in the way of the US making overtures to “moderate Arab regimes.” What regimes? Iran? Syria? Or does he mean the Saudis, who behind the scenes share with Israel a great antipathy towards Iran’s getting closer to gaining the bomb? Next, Sullivan repeats the false story about General David Petraeus supposedly attacking the US alliance with Israel. Jake Tapper of ABC News reported today on his ABC blog that the comments “attributed to him ‘were simply inaccurate.'” The statements that Sullivan also quotes, Petraeus says, “are flat wrong.”
Tapper’s blog continues:
Petraeus explained that he had submitted a document in which he described the “various factors that influence the strategic context in which” American troops operate in CENTCOM. And the Middle East peace process, he said, is one such factor that influences the environment—but is one of many, also including “a whole bunch of extremist organizations” as well as “a country that has a nuclear program”—meaning Iran. “We have all the factors in there,” he said, and the Middle East peace process “is just one.”
Petraeus added that “people inferred things” that were not said, and “bloggers picked it up and spun it.” And now, Sullivan joins those who further ignore facts and continue to spread a false story on behalf of his anti-Israeli animus. So, to quote Sullivan by adding the word “not” that he does not have in his own sentence, “This is all indisputably not true, which is why it is in America’s interest to resolve the matter.”
What clearly bugs Sullivan is that, as he puts it, “in America, Israel is still popular as the second real democracy in the Middle East.” Yet as he sees it, the support for Israel is coming only from Republicans and evangelical Christians who want Jews to convert, while more and more Democrats are jumping ship. Using Sarah Palin’s ignorance as an easy vehicle to brand all those who support Israel as doing so for bad reasons, he even attacks the entwined Israeli and American flag lapel she wears — seemingly not realizing that many Democrats and independents who support Israel wear the same lapel — which one can find for sale anywhere in Israel.
Finally, Sullivan — whom we already know cares not a fig leaf for Israel — cannot refrain from endorsing J Street as the true voice of reason, thereby following the others who conveniently use them as a fig leaf for advocacy of a new policy that would break the ties between the US and Israel. And of course, he attacks “the rigidly pro-Israel” journals of opinion- The Weekly Standard and The New Republic, the latter being the publication that made him a household name when he was its editor, and which he now argues is “balanced by many bloggers,” of which he obviously counts himself.
Obama, he concludes, “has a gift for getting his enemies to destroy themselves.” But this time, Andrew, the stakes are high — and Iran’s push towards a nuclear weapon is closer than ever, while if anything is likely to be destroyed, it is Obama’s disastrous and delusional foreign policy. Thankfully, there are still opinion leaders who do not listen to bloggers like the bitter Sullivan, including those at The Washington Post whom he so disdains.