…or more accurately, Israel’s ‘self-appointed leadership of the American Jewish community’ problem. From Jeffrey Goldberg (italics mine):
I am not wishing that the next president be hostile to Israel, God forbid. But what Israel needs is an American president who not only helps defend it against the existential threat posed by Iran and Islamic fundamentalism, but helps it to come to grips with the existential threat from within. A pro-Israel president today would be one who prods the Jewish state–publicly, continuously and vociferously–to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state. Most American Jewish leaders are opposed, not without reason, to negotiations with Hamas, but if the moderates aren’t strengthened, Hamas will be the only party left.
And the best way to bring about the birth of a Palestinian state is to reverse–not merely halt, but reverse –the West Bank settlement project. The dismantling of settlements is the one step that would buttress the dwindling band of Palestinian moderates in their struggle against the fundamentalists of Hamas.
So why won’t American leaders push Israel publicly? Or, more to the point, why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question? The answer is obvious: The leadership of the organized American Jewish community has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, in their polemical work “The Israel Lobby,” have it wrong: They argue, unpersuasively, that American support for Israel hurts America. It doesn’t. But unthinking American support does hurt Israel.
The people of Aipac and the Conference of Presidents are well meaning, and their work in strengthening the overall relationship between America and Israel has ensured them a place in the world to come. But what’s needed now is a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel. Barack Obama and John McCain, the likely presidential nominees, are smart, analytical men who understand the manifold threats Israel faces 60 years after its founding. They should be able to talk, in blunt terms, about the full range of dangers faced by Israel, including the danger Israel has brought upon itself.
But this won’t happen until Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community allow it to happen.
As Goldberg notes, outside of the Israeli rightwing, there is nearly uniform recognition of the need for a two-state solution. There is disagreement about how we get there. But the U.S. political system, along with the thousands of serving Israeli soldiers and reservists, are being held captive, in part, by a recalcitrant conservative self-appointed Jewish ‘leadership.’ What is needed, and why I write about this, is for the silent majority of U.S. Jews to make it clear that being to the left of the rightwing of the Likud party is not politically costly. Here’s one way to do this.
Of course, as long as the theopolitical conservatives (in the U.S.) also want to fight to the last Jew, there are going to be other obstacles too…
Related post: Thomas Friedman…actually…makes…sense….