In my 2007 review of The Israel Lobby I noted that
Mearsheimer and Walt try to see Israel as a normal state capable of making rational decisions, but the extremists are in charge and have been so at least since the 1967 War. Any attempt to make a meaningful withdrawal from the West Bank and Jerusalem and to allow a viable Palestinian state would produce a civil war among Israelis and likely provoke a strong response by the lobby on the side of the nonaccommodationists. The fate of the Oslo peace process, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and the support by the lobby of the most radical elements within Israel certainly argue that there is little chance of a successful move in this direction.
As throughout Jewish history, it is the most committed members who determine the direction of the entire group. This is doubtless true of most groups, but it is especially the case with Jews where there is a long history of fanaticism. I am reminded of Christiane Amanpour’s depiction of Jewish fanatics in her excellent TV documentary, God’s Jewish Warriors. These West Bank settlers and Jewish activists are massively ethnocentric, and, unlike the propaganda put out by the lobby, they are not at all democratic. They live in a completely Jewish world where their every thought and perception is colored by their Jewish identity. Theirs is an apartheid world separated by high concrete walls from their Palestinian neighbors, where even tiny settlements are necessarily protected by the Israeli army. And at a time when Americans are constantly being encouraged by Jewish organizations like the ADL to be ever more tolerant of all kinds of diversity, these people are anything but tolerant. Calls for expropriation and expulsion of the Palestinians are commonplace among them. Israel has created a classic Middle Eastern segmented society in which different groups live in an ingroup/outgroup world, completely isolated from each other.
And since the fanatics are the ones having the children, this situation will become more extreme with time.
Which is why I was unsurprised by the results of the Israeli election. A Labor government would have been a sign that the most extreme elements were not in charge and would have been heartening news to the Obama administration eager to make a deal with Iran.
But this time Netanyahu may have gone too far. His speech to the U.S. Congress and open dispute with the Obama administration were incredibly aggressive moves, bound to further sour relations with the Obama administration. In this context, some pre-election rhetoric by Netanyahu has provided an opening for some real changes in policy. In the desperate lead up to the election, with polls indicating that he would lose, he pulled out all the stops, stating that there would never be a Palestinian state while he was prime minister.
Despite Netanyahu’s attempting to walk the statement back after his victory and continue the deception that Israel really wants a reasonable settlement with the Palestinians, Obama is using it as a reason to ratchet up the pressure on Israel.
“We take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership,” Obama told Huffington Post in an interview posted Saturday on the news sire. “That’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
He did not elaborate, but a number of media outlets have reported that the United States is considering no longer vetoing Israel-critical actions in international forums, including the U.N. Security Council. (JTA, March 21, 2015)
Refusing to veto UN Security Council resolutions critical of Israel would be a stunning development given that the U.S. has been the sole country to veto more than 40 such resolutions in the last 40 years, including a 2011 veto of a resolution condemning all the post-1967 settlements .
On the other hand, the military and security arrangements with the US will remain unchanged, so Israel may simply accept being even more isolated given the political realities that a meaningful peace settlement would produce a cataclysmic political upheaval in Israel. Again, at this point Israel is not a rational actor. We could be in for some very interesting times on this issue.
There can be little doubt that the Netanyahu government will continue to do all it can to torpedo any Iran nuclear deal, in defiance of the Obama administration and with the eager help of Senate Republicans. The main reason is not because any impending nuclear weapon, but because of Iran’s other activities opposed to Israeli interests.
But as usual, there is a lot of deception in the US media. Here’s Jonah Goldberg doing his best to give the impression that Iran is mainly a problem for the U.S.:
Iran, according to our State Department, has been the chief exporter of terrorism for the last three decades. It has worked closely with Al Qaeda, facilitating its attacks on America and our allies. Most of the Sept. 11 hijackers traveled through Iran with the help of the government. U.S. judges have ruled that Iran was an accomplice in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in East Africa and the Sept. 11 attacks. During the Iraq war, Iran was responsible for numerous American deaths.
And it’s not like any of this is ancient history. Indeed, in 2012, the Treasury Department designated the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security as a major promoter of terrorism and violator of human rights.
Right now, via its brutal proxies, Iran is manipulating events on the ground in four Arab capitals — Baghdad, Beirut, Damascus and Sana. The recent success against the militant group Islamic State in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit was a victory Iranian advisors operating in Iraq and the Shiite Muslim militias they control. On Sunday’s “Meet the Press,” former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said he fears Iran more than Islamic State.
No mention of the reality that the U.S. difficulties with Iran can’t be discussed apart from U.S. support for Israel. No mention of that the Iraq war so eagerly promoted by Netanyahu, the Israel Lobby, and the Jonah Goldbergs of the world which has destabilized the entire region and enabled the rise of the Islamic State. No mention of Iran’s support for Hezbollah’s anti-Israel campaign which is likely the main thing on Goldberg’s mind. No mention of an Iranian nuclear weapon because such a weapon would not threaten the U.S. in the foreseeable future. No mention of the Israeli position that an adequate deal from Netanyahu’s perspective involves, as phrased by U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, “Iran dismantling its entire nuclear structure [and]… changing the nature of its behavior in the region” — i.e., support for Hezbollah, Syria, etc. Which is not going to happen because it would be a death wish for the Khamenei regime:
Any move by Khamenei that would be perceived by this constituency as a capitulation to Western demands risked turning them against him. Mindful of the regime’s already weak support base, the loss of these last constituencies could be existential and prove a greater threat to the Islamic Republic’s survival than even a military confrontation with Washington. (“Why Iran Won’t Capitulate“)
What Netanyahu, Goldberg, et al. want is nothing less than a U.S. war with Iran made possible by insisting on a deal that Iran cannot accept—a war that is mainly about punishing Iran and lessening its ability to oppose Israeli interests in the region. Given the conflict with the Obama administration, such a war seems further away than ever.
It’s sad that the main opposition to the Netanyahu war program comes from the Obama administration — I think as an outgrowth of its fundamentally leftist sensibilities. In his recent interview Obama noted that he also complained to Netanyahu about his pre-election appeals to Jewish tribalism — always an attractive strategy in Israel. He appealed to the bunker mentality that is so central to Judaism by telling Likud voters that they must turn out in order to counter the “droves” of Arabs being bused to the polls by foreign NGOs.
Obama’s attitude is really the same sensibility behind his push to end White America as quickly as possible by failing to enforce immigration law and essentially granting amnesty to millions of illegals by executive fiat.
On the other hand, the Republican Congress gave Netanyahu 23 ecstatic standing ovations for his message of implacable hostility toward Iran. While there is very big pro-Israel money going to both parties and although the Obama administration never tires of listing all the things it has done for Israel (apart from war with Iran), there can be little doubt that the main pressure on Israel in the West is coming from the left. The BDS movement is a paradigm.
This is at least a little mysterious given that the respectable right is nearly as out of touch with the kind of ethno-nationalism on display in Israel as is the left. In the U.S., it’s at least partly because of partisan political advantage against an Obama administration which is an easy target given its high-profile dispute with Netanyahu. But it seems to be more than that.
I sometimes torture myself by listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show in the car while doing errands. It would be difficult indeed to convey the sense of adulation for Netanyahu on display lately. Recently, in fielding call-ins from Jews grateful for his support of Israel and “the Jewish people,” Hannity was quick to point out that his support for Israel was entirely a matter of moral principle—Israel was the good guy, a democratic state beset by Islamic terrorists.
But it’s a sense of morality that is likely to emphasize the Holocaust and the evils of Nazism, but never mentions Israeli ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and regular outbursts of incredible brutality in Gaza as central to understanding the dynamics of the region. Nor does Hannity ever make it clear exactly how the support of Netanyahu’s Israel is in U.S. interests.
I can’t prove it, but it seems to me that a main motive is to provide cover from the left that is dominant in the media. We see the same thing in Europe where nationalist, anti-Muslim politicians—most egregiously Geert Wilders—loudly proclaim their support for Israel in a largely futile attempt to gain respectability in the mainstream. Hannity has been quite good on issues like Trayvon Martin and Ferguson, so it doesn’t hurt to cover himself by loudly proclaiming allegiance to the Jewish state (and promote Black Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson).
It would be hard to exaggerate the sense of moral righteousness that allegiance to Israel elicits on the right. Hannity is just the tip of the iceberg. The left long ago realized the power of appeals to moral righteousness. The right has been slow to reciprocate, often grounding their arguments in abstract principles like states’ rights, economic liberalism, and Constitutional arguments. Libertarianism grounded on abstract notions of human liberty is a paradigm.
But there is a gut-level appeal to moral righteousness, especially for White people, that the political right is well-advised to cultivate. But basing this sense of righteousness on Israel is an increasingly threadbare strategy given Israel’s behavior and international isolation.
Mainstream conservatives are like the religious right. They often make a lot of noise, but the only time they really affect policy is when their interests align with Jewish interests. They have made no inroads against the dominance of the multicultural, pro-immigration left and are unlikely to even raise any objection at all against displacement-level legal immigration. But they are quite influential when it comes to being hawkish on Israel because it fits well with powerful Jewish interests. Political power and lucrative careers in the media at any price.
Granted that the moral righteousness of explicit appeals to White interests is still far beyond the mainstream political and media horizons in the West, we have to continue to frame our interests in moral terms. Appeals to implicit Whiteness over issues like Trayvon Martin and Ferguson are not enough to right the ship. Anti-racism is a code word for anti-White.