Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pro Israel

M J Rosenberg takes a look at what American presidential candidates have to do to avoid being "wrong" on Israel. He traces the origins of the phenomenon to the 1967 war and the resulting occupation of the West Bank.

...[I]t was only after the Six Day War of 1967, that both parties began exploiting the Israel issue with anything like the vigor – not to mention the nastiness – we see today.

There is a certain irony here. In the first two decades after the Holocaust and the establishment of Israel -- when there were millions of Holocaust survivors still among us and Israel was truly fighting for its life -- it did not occur to ideologues and partisans within the pro-Israel or Jewish communities to use either as wedge issues to score political gain.

That all changed after ’67. At the very moment when Israel was at its strongest, suddenly it became acceptable, even necessary, to defend Israel as never before. Of course, at this point, it was no longer Israel itself that was being defended but rather Israel’s right to the occupied territories.


Rosenberg notes that the hysteria associated with the issue has become an important barrier to American presidents actually doing anything to produce a solution to the fundamental conflicts.

Is it any wonder that candidates seem to go to great lengths to avoid saying anything remotely substantive on the Middle East. They simply utter platitudes about supporting Israel, despising terrorism, and believing in peace – in the abstract. Knowing that any substantive statement could be used against them, candidates just play it safe. And the most vocal segments of the pro-Israel community encourage them by criticizing constructive suggestions as anti-Israel, and by giving ovations and donations to candidates who tell them what they want to hear.


Rosenberg suggests a formula for candidates:

“If I am elected president, I will do everything in my power to bring about negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians with the goal of achieving peace and security for Israel and a secure state for the Palestinians.”

Fair enough, I think, but it won't deter those searching for "wedge" issues and it won't satisfy nuts like Charles Krauthammer.

He adds:

The status quo is bad for Israel and for Palestinians, and disastrous for America’s interests throughout the Middle East. Candidates should not listen to those who tell them that they must endorse it.