There’s been a strange phenomenon building in the past few weeks that’s been
puzzling me. But I’ve just figured it out. Various people – there are many
examples so you can insert your own – have been writing that Israel is making
some big mistake. It is losing support, especially liberal and American Jewish
support, they explain, because of the way it’s been behaving.
puzzling about this is that nothing has actually happened to imply that any
great opportunity is being missed that might justify this attitude. There has
been no recent turn toward peace by the Palestinian Authority; no great new idea
promising a breakthrough; no change in personalities that offers some shocking
The regional picture has been getting worse for reasons
having nothing to do with Israel, Hamas has been getting stronger and the PA
Equally, Israel hasn’t done anything new or
startling. The most important thing that can be said about Jewish settlements is
that Israel hasn’t created any new ones in almost 20 years. True, there has been
construction in existing settlements, but that’s been going on since 1993 on a
fairly regular basis. If anything, I think it has declined in pace and mostly in
Jerusalem rather than farther out in the West Bank. And, of course, all the
settlements in the Gaza Strip have been dismantled.
ONE FACTOR that might
be mentioned is that the critics are far out of date. They describe the
situation as it existed, say, in the 1980s, when many Israelis believed a
negotiated deal with the PLO was possible and claimed that rightists were
blocking this great opportunity because they were so suspicious of the
Palestinians and so fond of settlements.
Since then, that proposition was
tested and found wanting in the 1993-2000 peace process era. Yet many American
Jews and others simply haven’t noticed that things didn’t turn out the way the
doves had hoped. To their credit, many of them (and I might as well say “us”)
rethought their assumptions.
Yet that was a dozen years ago. The behavior
of the PA since then and the rise of revolutionary Islamism, among other
factors, have underlined the skepticism engendered by the terrible peace process
experience. If you claim the right to determine Israel’s fate and put its
people’s lives at risk, you might be expected to go to the trouble of doing a
little research and putting some serious thought into these matters.
what is the great urgency here, the dramatic change, the Palestinian moderation
that offers a real chance for peace, or the Israeli misbehavior that throws away
a great opportunity to achieve it? Other than pure perversity, ideological
nastiness, panic derived from mass-media antagonism toward Israel, or the sharp
Obama-era turn to the Left, the claim that Israel is doing something reckless
which is antagonizing would-be supporters doesn’t make sense.
And then it
THERE HAS just been yet another in a long series of polls about
what Americans think of Israel and the Palestinians. These polls have been
broadly consistent. In 2012, about 71 percent of Americans say they side with
Israel – as high as that number has ever been in all of history. And that’s
compared to only 20% who say they side with the Palestinians, a figure that has
been stable now for three years.
But here’s the point: apparently,
Democratic and liberal support for Israel has gone down. The idea of supporting
Israel’s control over Jerusalem was at first left out of the Democratic
platform, then booed and opposed by a majority of the delegates voting (though
undemocratically added anyway by the leadership). Of course, they did the same
regarding the mentioning of God, so Israel is, as has so often been the case
historically, in good company.
The point, however, is that this isn’t
really about Israel, it’s about the liberal Democratic intellectual (or
pseudo-intellectual) upper middle class milieu claiming Israel is wantonly
throwing away support by acting irrationally.
After all, these people
have a choice regarding how to respond to the situation:
Option 1: Israel is at
fault for losing the Obama cult crowd and a small but vocal increasingly
left-wing sector of Americans (many of whom aren’t that thrilled with the United
States either) because of something that it has done.
If only Israel
would show itself ready to take risks for peace, elect a prime minister who was
ready to recognize a Palestinian state and give up almost all of the territory
captured in 1967, show the Palestinians that Israelis aren’t horrible monsters,
let Palestinians rule the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, help them get billions
of dollars in aid and let them create the own armed force to stop the real
extremists, then peace is possible! Oh, wait a minute, that already
And there were three such prime ministers: Yitzhak Rabin,
Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak.
Option 2: Given an increasingly left-wing
ideology that’s based on faulty assumptions and neglects the dangerous
radicalism of Islamist forces and other enemies of America, it is the dominant
worldview in the mass media, academia and ruling circles in America that is to
blame for turning away from Israel.
Understand this well: Option 1
requires Israel to change; Option 2 requires the people voicing such complaints
about Israel to change.
Well, these people don’t want to examine their
assumptions and change their views.
They’d end up suffering for their
support of Israel, they’d be out of step with the mob, they might have to –
shudder! – step away from what’s popular and “in.” My goodness, they might even
have to question Obama’s brilliance and policies! No contest.
So it’s not
surprising that Option 1 wins out. And the exact same point would apply if you
substitute the word America for Israel and revised as required the
Hey, do what you have to do to avoid admitting you’re wrong and
paying some price for telling the truth. But don’t blame us.
is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center,
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and editor of The Middle East Review of
International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His latest book is The Truth About Syria