To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle.
--- George Orwell

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lede of the Day: On Netanyahu Speech To Congress, the Washington Post Says Dems Are “skittish about appearing to be out of sync with whatever Israel wants.”

Truly remarkable lede to Greg Sargent’s on-line Washington Post column this morning which ran under the headline “From Many Democrats, An Odd Silence On Netanyahu’s Speech”

The piece reported on the the consternation among Democrats about how to respond to the speech Netanyahu is planning to give to Congress next month to rebut President Obama on the need to continue negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. As per Sargent’s lede:    

To hear Congressional aides tell it, many House Democrats are angry at the prospect of Benjamin Netanyahu addressing Congress at a time when it could set back President Obama’s hopes for progress in nuclear negotiations with Iran. But relatively few of them are willing to say so publicly — the latest indication that Democrats remain deeply skittish about appearing to be out of sync with whatever Israel wants.

Has it really come to this? Whatever Israel wants?

Since diving into the discourse about the US-Israel “special relationship” two years ago after necons tried to crucify Chuck Hagel with totally baseless charges of anti Semitism, a recognition that this relationship is as “an alliance too far” has become as unavoidable as it is lamentable. The cravenness of the pro Israel deference is jarring, at least to anyone with a sense for the national honor (though the Israel Fisters defending the prospects of the speech would probably find a way to call that very patriotism anti Semitic too.)  It's as if there's been a silent coup of some sort, an almost Masonic-style conspiracy ready to punish those who point it out. Anyone checked that honker of a Scottish Rite Temple on 16th Street NW in DC lately to see who is going in and out---what kind of lapel pins or hats they're wearing?

Sargent goes on to note that Politico has a story reporting that dozens of House Democrats  are threatening to boycott the speech, although “virtually all of them are lodging this threat ‘privately.’”

As annoying as the idea of Netanyahu rebuking an American president before a joint session of Congress may be, the prospect is welcome at the level of clarifying just how much discomfort---fear, really---members of Congress feel about expressing that discomfort. The exigencies of the "special relationship" impose quite a burden, and one not terribly "American" I should add. 

"Because of the support they get from Jewish voters and donors, etc...," Jeffrey Goldberg said today on Twitter, in response to Sargent. Goldberg doesn't elaborate, but the money involved is formidable. Jewish-Americans represent barely 2% of the electorate but contribute roughly 50% to the two major parties in any presidential year. And that was before moguls like Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban (who is a dual US-Israeli citizen) recently pledged to make unlimited donations to the candidates of their respective choices. According to reports Saban said he would give "whatever it takes" to see Hillary Clinton become president. Of course when Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer cited Jewish votes and Jewish money in their analysis of American support for Israel, both in their 2006 London Review of Books article and The Israel Lobby which followed, ethnic defenders like Goldberg, a former IDF soldier who still retains Israeli citizenship despite declaring he was going to renounce it,  jumped all over the authors. The Israel lobby, said Goldberg was only a sign of the remarkable political “empowerment” of American Jews.

I’ll be expanding upon this idea of why Netanyahu’s speech is welcome on other fronts that disparage the "special relationship," at least in its current overreaching form. For now though it’s just so delicious to hear the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world echo the very same ideas that Walt and Mearsheimer were smeared for in Goldberg's goyim-baiting, demagogic TNR review back in 2007.  It was a very good career move back then, this kind of smearing, a critical step in Goldberg becoming the “official therapist of the “special relationship.” And let’s not forget that Goldberg got a very big assist on that career boost from former TNR literary editor Leon Wiseltier, recipient of the $1 million Dan Prize for lifelong service to Israel. It was Leon after all who assigned and edited the TNR smear; it's not beyond suspicion that this is one of the services that the Dan Prize people had in mind.  It's certainly helped put off for a significant period of time a reckoning with Walt and Mearsehimer's core arguments, leaving America with little leverage on Israel as it has gone about nullifying the Two State Solution, even as we pretend we still have an honest broker role in achieving it.

One of the core issues at the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is that of borders: establishing mutually agreed upon lines demarcating two independent, sovereign states. Meanwhile, as the Netanyahu speech undercores with a certain obviousness, the core issue at the center of the US-Israel special relationship seems to be one of boundaries---as in “boundary issues." Time to stop the projecting. We are not them; they are not the 51st state. We have a representative body called the US Congress; they have the Knsesset. This, no matter how much pro-Israel supporters insist on the trying to fuse together our two very different political cultures and how much these supporters drone on about the “shared values” that make us “brothers joined at the hip.” As the Yiddish would have it: narishkeit

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