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John B. Judis of The New Republic Joins the Israel-Bashers

Judis’ article is gathering great support in the usual quarters. Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan wrote  that a piece he never thought he’d “read in TNR” is “an elegant, factual, calm dismemberment of where the Obama administration has ended up on Israel-Palestine: on AIPAC's extendable leash, wagging its tail for a treat. On the pure principles of UN recognition of a Palestinian state, John shows exactly how American politics has been slowly but fatally corrupted by the Greater Israel lobby in recent years with respect to Middle East policy.” Echoing Walt and Mearsheimer, Sullivan of course waxes ecstatic about the power of the Israel lobby, which he too evidently thinks controls our Middle East policy. Does it not occur to him that if this was true, Obama would not have taken the positions he took until last week during the first two and a half years of his administration?

Sullivan continues with the dual loyalty canard, writing that “the Greater Israel lobby has actively damaged the interests of the United States on behalf of the illegal policies of a radical religious right government of a foreign country.”  To Sullivan, AIPAC lobbies not on behalf of changing American policy, which is its right as a group of American citizens. Rather, he thinks it exists only to support a foreign country and its extreme right-wing. This should come as news to those many AIPAC leaders who are proud liberal Democrats, as well as to someone like Harry Reid, who at their last national conference, gave a strong pro-Israel talk.

Sullivan likes Judis’ article, because he says it shows that it proves no progress towards peace has been made because of “Netanyahu's adamant resistance to any serious attempt at a two-state solution on 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, the only formula with any chance of success.” Again, Sullivan shows his Netanyahu derangement syndrome which is so common today; i.e., it all Bibi’s fault, just as America went down the tubes when George W. Bush was president, and all our failures were Bush’s fault -- the other BDS.

So to Sullivan and now Judis, Obama has “capitulated” to the power of the Israel lobby, putting all reason aside. There are no valid reasons to support Israel for Sullivan, except “Christianist support for Greater Israel on theological grounds.” He takes Judis one step further than even he has gone, making support of Israel a matter of irrational religious views alone.

So, as a remedy, I strongly suggest that John Judis and Andrew Sullivan take the time out to read Charles Krauthammer’s opinion piece today, which, without citing either Judis or Sullivan, manages to answer every spurious point they make. Referring to the view -- that by Judis and company -- that there is no peace in the Middle East because  it is “made impossible by a hard-line Likud-led Israel that refuses to accept a Palestinian state and continues to build settlements,” Krauthammer points out:

It is remarkable how this gross inversion of the truth has become conventional wisdom. In fact, Benjamin Netanyahu brought his Likud-led coalition to open recognition of a Palestinian state, thereby creating Israel’s first national consensus for a two-state solution. He is also the only prime minister to agree to a settlement freeze — 10 months — something no Labor or Kadima government has ever done.

Now, he notes, Abbas is demanding that Israel in advance not claim any territory beyond the 1967 lines, which means that the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem would become Palestinian territory, and which violates “every prior peace agreement.” And he understands, as Judis and Sullivan do not, that the “right of return” means only that it would “destroy Israel by swamping it with millions of Arabs, thereby turning the world’s only Jewish state into the world’s 23rd Arab state.” The point, as Krauthammer knows, is that Abbas, like his predecessors, from the Grand Mufti to Arafat, says  proudly: “We shall not recognize a Jewish state.”

Krauthammer also gets right what Olmert offered Abbas in 2008 -- 100 percent of the West Bank, with land swaps, Palestinian statehood, the Muslim parts of Jerusalem becoming the capital of the new Palestine, and giving the Jewish holy places including the Western Wall to an international body to control that includes Saudi Arabia and Jordan. And yet, Abbas refused to accept this deal and walked away from it! Clearly, John Judis does not even know the recent history of what has taken place in the Middle East.

What Abbas wants is land without peace, a Palestinian state without a Jewish one, which would disappear -- a continuing war with Israel that it will win. Krauthammer concludes: “Land without peace is nothing but an invitation to national suicide,” and that, of course, is something no Israeli government will or could accept.

As for the TNR editors who ran Judis’ article, I suspect they thought they could get away with it, because the same day, they ran an article by Alan Dershowitz and another by their Israeli correspondent, Yossi Klein Halevi. Dershowitz, as he always does, lays out the case for Israel, and although he is a secular Jew and a liberal Democrat, he acknowledges that Abbas “ wants the nations that attacked Israel to suffer no consequences for their attempt to destroy the Jewish State. He wants to get back The Western Wall, The Jewish Quarter, and the access road to Hebrew University. Only then will he begin negotiations from this position of strength. But why then negotiate if the UN gives him more than he can possibly get through negotiation? Will he be in a position to seek less from Israel than what the UN gave him? Will he survive if he is seen as less Palestinian than the UN? “

Abbas, he knows, “left little or no room for further compromise.” No supporter of Likud, Dershowitz still understands “the truth that was on full and open display” at the UN, that it is Abbas, and not Netanyahu, that stands in the way of peace.

And Yossi Klein Halevi also  understands, as he writes, that “Netanyahu also told the truth: Israel is ready to pay the price for real peace, the Palestinians want a state without peace, and the uncertainty in the Arab world means that Israel requires security measures which the Palestinians refuse to consider.” He is indeed critical of Netanyahu in some respects, but he writes that Netanyahu “needs to shift the onus for the absence of peace back to where it belongs—on the Palestinian leadership, which denies the legitimacy of a Jewish state and seeks its unraveling through the ‘right of return’ of the descendants of Palestinian refugees to Israel, rather than to a Palestinian state. Abbas has called the Palestinians’ UN bid ‘a moment of truth.’ By exposing Palestinian rejectionism, Netanyahu can make this a moment for truth.”

Neither Dershowitz nor Halevi is subject, then, to Netanyahu derangement syndrome, which seems to afflict so many left-liberal Jews, preventing them from comprehending which side is responsible for the failure of peace in the Middle East.

Yossi Klein Halevi and Dershowitz are right; John B. Judis is not. The truth is not  on the side of the Palestinian rejectionists and distorters. I suspect TNR’s staff and editors do know this. The question, then, is why they ran the Judis article. He was hired as a political reporter, and that is the general area in which he has excelled. Why, then, did TNR suddenly decide to run an ignorant, wrong-headed and historically incorrect opinion piece, which will be forever cited by the Israel bashers as evidence for their side, as Sullivan’s comments reveal?

TNR’s editors owe its readers an opportunity for someone to rebut his argument in its own pages, or to run a debate on the article with Judis and an opponent. TNR would well serve its readers by allowing a tough answer to  John Judis’ anti-Israel bashing article.


I would like to thank both Sol Stern and Prof. Robert J. Lieber of Georgetown University for their work in looking over my original draft and making suggestions for its improvement.