Rapture over a rupture in relations

Obama will not be taking up residence at the make-believe 1600 J Street.

thant 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
thant 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
When Ehud Olmert spoke before the Israel Policy Forum in 2005 he dared to speak for all Israelis when he declared, "We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning..." Clearly, he was not talking for most Israelis. Subsequently, the Israeli people fought two wars, proved that their mettle was beyond Olmert's comprehension, and then dispatched Olmert's Kadima Party from government. Prior to the meeting of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, two "progressive" American Jewish organizations, the Israel Policy Forum and J Street, attempted to present themselves as the true voice of American Jewry. They called on President Obama to enact "very, very strong involvement" [their euphemism for pressuring or "leaning" on Israel] in the peace process. They echoed the calls of columnists Roger Cohen and Nicholas Kristof for a policy of "tough love" toward Israel - another euphemism, perhaps best defined as "the rape of Israel," a repugnant term actually used by an Israeli editor in a presentation to Secretary of State Condi Rice. Will American Jewry permit this misrepresentation? Dismissing the surge of pro-Israel sentiment and activism displayed at the massive AIPAC Policy Conference in early May, the IPF's Director of Policy Analysis, M. J. Rosenberg, even refused to call AIPAC "pro-Israel." Claiming sole possession of the "pro-Israel" mantle and proclaiming a markedly pro-Palestinian agenda, Rosenberg declared, "We need to drown out the clamor produced by a minority within the pro-Israel community that tells our government not to press Israel to freeze settlements, ease the suffering in Gaza, or push hard to end the occupation that is destroying Israel's future and the Palestinians' present." Thus, in recent months the Israel Policy Forum "welcomed the shift [it perceived] in American policy toward Hamas," opposed "provocative" congressional bills directed at Iran, rushed to the defense of Chas Freeman when his very inappropriate appointment to the National Intelligence Council was challenged, lobbied against a "one-sided" congressional resolution supporting Israeli actions against the rocket-shooting Hamas terrorists in Gaza, and expressed opposition to a "loathsome" bi-partisan Congressional letter to the President encouraging support for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. This is pro-Israel? The J Street organization conveyed similar messages on Capitol Hill, charging that the Israeli operation against Hamas in Gaza was "disproportionate and escalatory." A recent J Street poll actually served to advocate sanctions against Israel by suggesting that reductions of diplomatic, economic and military aid were options to "convince" Israel to accept an imposed solution. BUT NOW Rosenberg and the IPF have gone too far on several issues. Earlier this month the Forum's policy director rewrote Middle East history in chilling Orwellian terms. Israel should return to the 1967 borders after securing peace treaties, he wrote, because "pre-1967 Israel was not terrible at all. In fact it was pretty wonderful." [Emphasis added.] "Wonderful" is barely the way to describe the murderous fedayeen raids of the 1950s, the total ban on Jewish visits to the Western Wall or Cave of the Patriarchs, the abrupt withdrawal of UN troops from Sinai in 1967, the genocidal intentions of Arab neighbors and expeditionary forces, the failure of the United States to uphold its commitments to Israel, and the preparation of mass graves in Israeli parks. "It is clear from our contacts with this administration," the IPF official continued, that "President Obama wants us to create consensus among all Americans, and particularly within the pro-Israel community, in support of White House efforts to encourage both sides to compromise in order to achieve peace." He longs for a "president [who] is free to lean (emphasis added) on both sides - without fear of being thwarted by the status quo lobby [AIPAC] or its friends in Congress and the media." ROSENBERG SINGS paeans to the God-less culture and politics of Tel Aviv, the "real Israel." "Tel Aviv, in all its rich color, is what Zionism is all about.... With its beaches, bars, art galleries, theaters, and high-fashion scene, T-A is often criticized as a 'bubble' because it provides the illusion that it is possible to escape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while in the heart of Israel. It is an illusion, but a good one - and the very opposite of the ugly and hopeless reality offered by extremists on both sides." Writing an obituary for Israel's capital last week, Rosenberg pronounced "the death of Jerusalem," a city "divided by walls of hate." "The secular areas [of Jerusalem] are charming but much of the rest is Jewish Taliban country... No humor, no aesthetics, just lunatics in black. Can't all these black-clad crazies - of all faith and delusions - just recognize their common inhumanity and move to one corner of Asia." Rosenberg called on liberal Jerusalemites "who can't stand Talibanization" to move to the liberal, "hedonistic" Tel Aviv. (Emphasis added.) In the 1990s a popular American Jewish leader was forced to resign as head of a major organization after remarking that ultra-Orthodox Jews' "image is smelly... Hassids and New York diamond dealers." Some Jewish leaders, he explained, did not like to fly on El Al because "those people" were on board. "TWA flies direct [to Israel], but it's low class, like the Orthodox." Obviously, Rosenberg's revulsion toward the Orthodox "Taliban, black-clad crazies" is at least as biased, but he spews his hatred on Jerusalem, as well. It may not be politically correct to label anyone an "anti-Semite" today. But what do you call someone who rejects the centrality of Jerusalem to the Jewish people or labels Orthodox Jews "fanatics, crazies, Taliban and lunatics?" WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMEN and sources close to Israel's prime minister prefaced the Obama-Netanyahu meeting by predicting that the two men were expected to have a productive and friendly meeting - "a continuation of a very close relationship between the US and Israel," said one US official. This article goes to press before the meeting, but I expect no fireworks, no train wreck, no blood on the rug. Yes, there are differences in the two leaders' approaches, but to the disappointment of the Israel Policy Forum, J Street, and various pundits, President Obama did not "lean" on Prime Minister Netanyahu. He has more Middle East leaders to meet and more Palestinian steps to be taken before the Obama administration can even consider pressing Israel. The Americans also know that for now and for the next few years, Binyamin Netanyahu will be their primary interlocutor. The Jewish Left has adopted the two-state solution as their mantra. But American analysts are now questioning whether the two-state solution is really the panacea prescribed by J Street, IPF, Jimmy Carter and friends. "Unlike Zionism, for whom statehood was the central objective," one pro-Arab advisor to the administration recently wrote, "the Palestinian fight was primarily about other matters. The absence of a state was not the cause of all their misfortune. Its creation would not be the full solution either." President Obama has shown that he "does Jewish" very well - hosting a seder in the White House, planning a visit to a concentration camp in Europe, and declaring May as "American Jewish Heritage Month." How well does Obama "do Israel?" How well does he understand Israel's fears of an Iranian bomb, its concerns over Hamas terrorism, its hopes for real peace, and its commitment to protecting the Jewish people's past and future? We'll know better after his speech in Cairo next month, but from the messages coming out of the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, it appears that he understands these issues well. At least for the near future, therefore, Obama will not be taking up residence at 1600 J Street, a make-believe street that doesn't really exist. The writer served as Israel's deputy chief of mission in the Washington Embassy. Today, he is an international consultant to corporations and foreign governments. www.lennybendavid.com