AIPAC Barack Obama Israel Israel lobby Jerusalem Palestinians

Obama, AIPAC and why we need a Middle East peace lobby

Barack Obama had 7,000+ American Jews and non-Jewish friends of Israel eating out of his hand at the AIPAC Policy Conference yesterday morning. There was no political reason for him to disappoint Palestinians, the Arab world and the pro-Israel left by stating his commitment to an “undivided” Jerusalem. I have the highest hopes for this man, but his statement on Jerusalem was a major blunder that could easily have been avoided.

I have been coming to these AIPAC conferences over the years as an observer and as the Jewish peace camp’s equivalent of a Log Cabin Republican, believing that if you can’t get a seat at the power table with these people, at least you should be in the room and take their measure.

This one, like all the others, was a masterpiece of political theater. It was a combination of agit-prop worthy of Mao, a Veterans of Foreign Wars conclave and shmaltzy Yiddish theater.

One plenary session after another conveyed that it is 1938, it has always been 1938, the darkness is upon us, with footage of the Holocaust on giant screens, interspersed with scary stills of the Iranian president, scenes of terrorist bombings, Hamas rockets in mid-flight. The argument that Israel’s security was intertwined with America’s, that Israel is on the front line of our battle, was hammered home in seminars with military experts, in speeches from Members of Congress. It was conveyed in icons and totems, like the ubiquitous logo with an American and Israeli flag, and the tag line: “The American-Israel relationship: Built to Last.” And, amidst all the flagwaving and policy discussions, there were tear-jerkers, like the obligatory but deeply moving stories of Israelis who had built lives from the ashes.

But the most important political theater focused on the candidates. Before the conference, AIPAC sent emails and letters urging attendees to be respectful of all speakers. Throughout the proceedings, for three days, its stage managers did a masterful job of putting a damper on grumpy right wing protest, knowing that, in the past, strident hawks and settler supporters had booed Nancy Pelosi and Colin Powell (when he defended the Road Map) and a string of reasonable people stretching back to Secretary of State Jim Baker.

A staffer who led a small seminar on lobbying techniques told us that every speaker is a “guest in our house,” that any friend of Israel should be greeted as a friend of ours.

The worst thing, the very worst thing, that could happen to AIPAC would be a war between a presumptive presidential nominee and the self-appointed “pro-Israel” community. That is something the cabal-watchers who are obsessed with the attention paid by politicians to the American Jewish community fail to understand: AIPAC needs the candidates as much as they need AIPAC. The group needs access to every administration, lines of communication, friendly relations with mid- and upper-level staffers. It needs access not only to try to influence and monitor policy; it needs access because its high-level donors expect to be rewarded and honored with the chance to be in small rooms where administration officials listen –or pretend to listen—to them. So it would have been very foolish to annoy Barack Obama.

Before the session in which Obama and Hillary Clinton (and Congressional leaders from both parties) were to speak, screens in the center of the grand ballroom of the DC Convention Center displayed telling quotes from, fittingly enough, American icons, not rabbis:

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins” –Benjamin Franklin


“Friendship is precious.” –Thomas Jefferson.

McCain, of course, had been the star of Act 1, laying down the gauntlet for his opponent by insulting Iran, challenging Obama’s security bona fides and weak-kneed willingness to talk to enemies. He got applause for every bit of red-meat rhetoric, more than a dozen ovations. More than half of the people who roared and got to their feet were Democrats and a large percentage are not going to vote for him. Some of them had been fans of the Oslo process. (American Jews, according to the old saw, live like Episcopalians but vote like Puerto Ricans. Some Americans Jews think like Shimon Peres but cheer like Likudniks).

But in Act 2, Obama did what he had to do, and for the most part he did it very well. Even as he walked on eggshells, differentiated himself from McCain and outlined a reasonable approach to foreign policy, he gave them everything they needed and more: a sincere and heartfelt admiration and empathy for Israel, an assurance that his toughminded diplomacy did not mean placating Iran, a commitment to Israel’s “qualitative military edge.”

At one point, he even rushed, breathlessly, through a sentence about Israel’s obligations, one that was left out of the NY Times report on the speech and has gone almost unmentioned in the blogosphere. He bravely said that Israel could “advance the cause of peace” by taking steps to “ease the freedom of Palestinians, improve economic conditions” and “refrain from building settlements.”

That got no applause, but it didn’t matter, he already owned the crowd. They wanted to come away feeling, deep in their kishkes, that this man would protect Israel. He gave them what they wanted. And that is why all the Republicans in the room joined in the standing ovations. And why the stage managers breathed sighs of relief.

So there was no need to call for a Jewish state with Jerusalem as its “undivided” capital. If he had left out any reference to Jerusalem, no one would have noticed. He and his advisors cannot possibly believe that this should be a red line for Israel. Ehud Olmert doesn’t believe it. No Israeli or Palestinian who sincerely wants a two state solution believes it.

It will have no bearing on what happens if he is elected, because if the parties to the conflict want to divide Jerusalem, of course he will express delight.

But the foolish words escaped from his lips, in a scene broadcast throughout the world, and now he won’t be able to take them back. It is yet another discouraging signal to the Palestinian people, most of whom have understandably lost faith in the possibility of a negotiated settlement, even though they continue to endorse the idea.

It is yet another reason why alternative voices in the American Jewish community need to be heard. And it is another reason why there is an urgent need to change the political calculus that prompted Obama to believe that maximalist rhetoric about Jerusalem was necessary.

44 thoughts on “Obama, AIPAC and why we need a Middle East peace lobby

  1. Democratic presidential candidates are the opposite of Israeli voters. Whereas Israeli voters talk like doves to pollsters and then vote for the hawks, Democratic presidential candidates talk like hawks on Israel and then behave realistically in office. Remember candidate Carter saying that “If I were the Israeli prime minister I would never give up the Golan.” And candidate Bill Clinton promising that if elected he would move the embassy to Jerusalem. Never happened.

    Both parties throw the American Jewish activists their red-meat rhetoric. But the Democrats have now become adults on Mideast diplomacy as the Republicans were in the 1970s.

    It is doubtful if much movement will be made on the Palestinian track whomever is elected president in November. There is some small hope for progress on the Syrian track if a new administration can find time to deal with it after Iraq, if Assad is serious about a deal, and if a stable new post-Olmert government can be formed by Kadima and Labor. Those are three big ifs.

  2. Doesn’t your alternative “pro-Israel” lobby support unconditional aid to Israel,want Israel to have a “qualitative military edge,” and want to keep all the major settlement blocs now protected by the security barrier? If that is the case, what possible difference can they make? They seem like AIPAC-lite, to me.

    Also, the title of the post was encouraging, about a “Middle East peace lobby.” That implies that Jews or non-Jews who are not necessarily “pro-Israel” but don’t want to see it harmed might join. But then you mention the “pro-Israel” left and all you talk about is American Jews. Like I said, AIPAC-lite…

    Oh, I should have mentioned: that was an entertaining summary of the AIPAC conference.

  3. “””But then you mention the “pro-Israel” left and all you talk about is American Jews.”””

    Why shouldn’t he?”

    Because sometimes he acts like he wants everyone to join his merry little band, and sometimes fighting AIPAC seems to be the business of the Jews and no one else. I don’t think tribalism works in current circumstances, not when tribalism forces the kind of pandering Obama displayed.

  4. It was a blunder, but at least the Obama people realized it and issued a clarification within 48 hours.

  5. “””Because sometimes he acts like he wants everyone to join his merry little band, and sometimes fighting AIPAC seems to be the business of the Jews and no one else.”””

    Perhaps he sometimes writes for a predominantly Jewish audience.

    “””I don’t think tribalism”””

    What about Jewish newspapers, such as the Forward? Do you object to those also?

  6. No, of course not. Ethnic affinities are fine and dandy with me. Feeling affection for Israel is also OK, although I don’t share that affection.

    I do have a problem when those affinities result in the kind of chorus that are heard at the AIPAC conferences, where any statement of support for virtually anything Israel does –or might do-is cheered. And when tribalism translates into $30 billion of military aid to Israel in the next ten years, and Obama feels compelled to endorse that, well, then I have a problem with it. $30 billion!!! Don’t you think America and the rest of the world could use that money for more pressing needs? It may be that the Pentagon and State Department can make reasonable justifications that all of that aid is in America’s interests, but I have never heard any…

  7. Just so you understand Marco, the 30 billion is spent on American military contractors. It’s gift to our military industrial complex not Israel.

  8. “””do have a problem when those affinities result in the kind of chorus that are heard at the AIPAC conferences,”””

    Your initial complaint was that Dan sometimes writes for a Jewish audience. Surely realize that some who feel affinity with the Jews and Judaism join AIPAC, some do not.

    Some might join J Street, which is one point that Dan is making. Some might join both or neither.

    Dan presumably hopes in a small way to influence their decisions.

    Therefore it is appropriate for Dan to sometimes aim his remarks at a Jewish audience.

  9. The hyperwealthy Zionists that fund AIPAC are much more important and interesting than AIPAC itself.

    Until J-Street has a $70 million budget, it cannot possibly make a dent in AIPAC influence.

    At present the J-Street budget is about $1.5-2.0 million.

    I am not arguing that J-Street could never get traction from hyperwealthy donors, but the existing system is so beneficial to the top 400-500 contributors to Zionist causes that there is no reason for them to support a sort of AIPAC-lite.

    In any case, AIPAC and associated organizations are only the public face of the Zionist Virtual Colonial Mother, which I call Judonia and which I describe in The Israel Lobby and American Society.

    J-Street only fights a symptom but not the disease.

    Please not how fast AIPAC’s budget is growing.
    It increased from $16 to $60 million between 1999 and 2006. It’s budget was $40 million in 2005.

    J-Street would have to meet or exceed this rate of growth to be effective.

  10. “””the Zionist Virtual Colonial Mother, which I call Judonia and which I describe in The Israel Lobby and American Society.

    J-Street only fights a symptom but not the disease.”””

    The above is an example of what J Street will need to ruthlessly keep itself separate from. If it adopts a big-tent philosophy about such drivel then J Street will die, and deservedly so.

  11. I meant Zionist Virtual Colonial Motherland, and my document describes in detail how the virtual state structure was created and came into being

    The organizational consciousness of states does not arise all at once, and sometimes only arises very late in development. If I am not mistaken Roman intellectuals do not refer to the concept of Romania until the fourth or fifth century CE.

    It is quite clear that some Zionist intellectuals are thinking in these terms because some like Pipes are projecting such a consciousness onto salafists.

    See Jewish Extremism at Harvard.

    The Kristols like to talk about the Political Stupidity of Jews, but really what could be stupider than for 60-80% of Jews to indentify with the State of Israel and thereby incur the hatred of billions when the primary beneficiaries of Zionism are 400-500 hyperwealthy Zionists, who constitute the political economic leadership of Judonia?

  12. “””400-500 hyperwealthy Zionists, who constitute the political economic leadership of Judonia?”””

    My late mother Elizabeth Wyner Mark was on the Board of Directors of Americans For Peace Now.

    She once said APN sought to avoid support from groups with which it did not wish to be associated.

    J Street is not alone in facing this difficulty. What, if anything, should moderate Jewish groups do about someone who claims to support them and is frothing about “Judonia”?

  13. Joachim,

    Re: comment #12.

    1) One of the hopes of J Street is the Netroots community. Obama showed the power of many small contributions.

    2) Still, you’re right. None of these Jewish “alternative” efforts will match the budget and impact of AIPAC. But I am not sure it is necessary to match it. It is necessary to make just enough noise and spend just enough money to muffle and mitigate it. How much noise? How much money? What is the political tipping point when a president feels like he has wiggleroom and leeway to tell Israel what it needs to hear? None of that can be quantified. But it is not inconceivable.

  14. “”””the Zionist Virtual Colonial Mother, which I call Judonia”””

    We disagree on what constitutes lucidity. I would say that the above is far from lucid.

  15. I am curious to know what exactly informs your notions about the Palestinian people, because polls of their opinions paint a very different picture.

    84 percent of Palestinians supported the March 6 attack on the Mercaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem that killed eight boys and maimed a dozen or so(The New York Times, March 19, p. A-10: “Poll Shows Most Palestinians Favor Violence Over Talks”).

    63 percent of Palestinians oppose Hamas recognizing the legitimacy of Israel as a state(Angus Reid, May 2008).

    Less than half (47.1%) of Palestinians support a two state solution (Jerusalem Media & Communications Centre, April 2008).

    77% supported the suicide bombing in Dimona that killed a 73-year-old Israeli woman and wounded 38 others (Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, March 2008).

    Apparently no poll has yet been taken to ascertain Palestinian support for the Arab who stabbed a rabbi in the neck (undivided Jerusalem, March 18, 2008).

    64% support the continued launching of rockets from the Gaza strip into Israeli towns (Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah, March 2008).

    A majority of Palestinians favor Iran having nuclear weapons (Pew Research Center June 2007).

    Oh, and P.S., only 9 percent of Americans consider themselves “supporters of the Palestinians” (Public Opinion Strategies and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, December 2007). But Steny Hoyer should keep meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned even in Egypt.

  16. “What Most Palestinians Believe,” from the New York Sun, Nov. 12, 2007

    “These [Palestinian] polls portray a clearer picture of the alleged “moderate center” and “Palestinian reformers” than the one Ms. Rice pitched to the Israelis. Her assurance about what “most Palestinians believe” is an undocumented article of faith, repeatedly contradicted by the experience of the last seven years, and by the latest polls. . . .

    “[The Palestinians] adhere to their vision of a “right of return,” refusing to recognize the validity of a Jewish state, demanding an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank beyond the defensible borders America has formally assured Israel, and seek to remove all Jews from Judea and Samaria to create an apartheid state. Multiple Palestinian public opinion polls confirm that most Palestinians still have that vision.

    Moreover, their vision is not simply an “obstacle to peace.” It is the cause of the war. But for peace processors peace is always only a few brave steps by Israel away.”

  17. Yael.
    There is no doubt that Palestinian support for violence against Israelis has surged, and there is utter despair about the possibility of achieving a two state solution. But you are very selective in your use of poll data. Here are other excerpts from the March poll by the Truman Institute and the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (

    Current support for violence and a great deal of abject despair does not mean that a majority of Palestinian (which is admittedly shrinking) are against a negotiated 2-state solution.

    Also note the percentage of Israelis who favor violence.

    (A) Peace Process:
    • 57% of the Israelis oppose and 40% support the Saudi initiative which calls for Arab recognition of and normalization of relations with Israel after it ends its occupation of Arab territories occupied in 1967 and after the establishment of a Palestinian state.

    Among Palestinians, 66% support the plan and 32% oppose it

    • 67% of the Israelis support and 29% oppose mutual recognition of Israel as the state for the Jewish people and Palestine as the state for the Palestinian people as part of a permanent status agreement.

    Among Palestinians, 55% support and 44% oppose this step.

    • 53% of the Israelis believe that the meetings between Mahmud Abbas and Ehud Olmert are not beneficial and should be stopped while 39% believe they should continue.

    Palestinians show greater disappointment with these talks. Among Palestinians a sizeable majority of 75% believe the talks should come to a halt while only 21% believe they are beneficial and should be continued.

    • 66% among Israelis and 68% of the Palestinians believe that the chances for the establishment of a Palestinian state during the next five years are non-existent or weak.

    Only 31% of Israelis and 30% of Palestinians believe chances are fair or high.

    (B) Threat perceptions and support of violence

    “Consistent with the gloomy expectations from the peace process and the heightened threat feelings, Palestinians support of violent acts against Israel is staggering while Israeli support for military action in Gaza remains stable.”:

    • An overwhelming majority of 84% support and 13% oppose the shooting attack that took place in a religious school in West Jerusalem. Support for this attack is greater in the Gaza Strip (91%) compared to the West Bank (79%).

    • 64% support and 33% oppose launching rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli towns and cities such as Sderot and Ashkelon.

    • Among Israelis only 27% believe that if the shelling of Israeli communities from the Gaza Strip continues, Israel should use primarily diplomatic rather than military steps, 29% of the Israelis suggest that Israel should reoccupy the Gaza Strip and stay there and 41% think that Israel should carry out ad-hoc operations against the shelling and get out. Surprisingly these figures did not change from three months ago.

    * This joint survey was conducted with the support of the Ford Foundation Cairo office and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Ramallah

  18. “””“[The Palestinians] adhere to their vision of a “right of return,” “”””

    That is why a negotiated peace agreement will fail. Palestinians will insist on rights to immigrate to areas inside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

    Israel will refuse.

    The wall is better than nothing. True, a wall doesn’t stop shelling. But it lays the groundwork for an eventual unilateral withdrawal from 88 percent of the West Bank.

    People who oppose the wall should say what the alternative is. A negotiated peace agreement is impossible because of Palestinian insistance on an alleged right to immigrate to Israel.

    The wall is possible.

    The best is the enemy of the good. The wall is better than no wall.

  19. Daniel, I hear you on that business of “abject despair” among poorpalestinians. I remember the suicide bomber (Jan. 07) whose “relatives said he was despondent because he was unemployed and his baby daughter died recently of an illness”

    And I remember the poorpalestinian granny bomb (No. 06), an “embittered matriarch” who the AP said “vented her frustration … by strapping an explosive charge to herself and going on a Hamas-sponsored operation to below herself up amid a group of Israeli soldiers…”

    And I remember the poorpalestinian who stabbed young Yosef Lepon in the back (Feb. 1998). He was “depressed because he owed so much money” so he “decided to go out and kill a Jew.”

    What I can’t figure out is why the poorpalestinians had so much abject despair back in the 1950s, when Jordan was in control of the so-called “West Bank” and Egypt ruled Gaza. Amazingly, even without the excuse of any “Israeli occupation,” Arab terrorists managed to kill nearly a thousand Israelis in the years 1951-1955.

    I’m thinking it might be really helpful if left-wing American Jews would share some their Prozac with the poorpalestinians whose emotional wellbeing is of such great concern.

  20. Yael, have you met Bill Pearlman? You two are meant for each other…

    It is possible to comprehend the level of Palestinian hostility to Israel, and to sympathize with what they are going through under an occupation that can only be described as brutal, and also to sympathize with Israelis in Sderot, and to care about Israel, and to want the Jewish state to survive and to realize how unlikely it is that the conflict will ever be settled…and to still support partitioning the land.

    Fitzgerald said the mark of an intelligent man was the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in his head at the same time…We need to hold more than two in order to make sense of this conflict and deal with it. You don’t seem to be interested in trying, or in bothering with ambiguity and complexity. But maybe I’ve got you wrong. Surprise me by proving me otherwise: Do you think the Palestinians have any justification to be angry at the Israelis? Or is their anger just based on an implacable hatred of Jews? Are the Israelis blameless?

  21. Teddy, your argument is not an example of Fitzgeraldian intelligence but an application of moral equivalence between multiple Arab wars against Israel and unspecified Israeli acts which you seek to weigh as equivalent. Can you make moral distinctions? Surprise me by answering whether you think the Palestinians have any justification to be angry at themselves for passing up a two-state solution in 1937 (the Peel Commission), 1947 (UN Resolution 181), 1968 (the three “noes”), 1978 (rejecting the Palestinian autonomy appendix to the Israel-Egypt peace treaty), 2000 (Camp David), 2001 (the Clinton Parameters), 2003 (the Roadmap), 2005 (the Gaza disengagement), 2006 (the election of Hamas) and 2007 (the Gaza coup)? Or is their anger just based on an implacable hatred of Jews?

  22. “””Are the Israelis blameless?”””

    It is unclear to me what this (rhetorical) question means.

    Do you mean collectively, as in collective guilt and collective innocence?

    What does it mean to be collectively blameless? If there is no collective blamelessness, does that imply collective guilt?

    And if the Israelis are collectively guilty, then are the Palestinians collectively guilty also?

    And if the Palestinians are collectively guilty, does that mean that it is proper for Yael to complain about some actions by Palestinians?

  23. Jpundit,

    You are barking up the wrong tree, here. Isn’t it possible to see the conflict from the point of view of the Other and still be concerned with Israel’s safety? If you don’t think that is possible, then I pity you.

    I am proud to be the first owner of a “Fleshie,” an award Dan bestowed for the best response to antisemitism on the web. If you check out or follow some of the other threads on this blog, you will realize that I –and Tom Mitchell, and Richard Witty, and Dan, and a few others– are very much pro-Israel, and defend the Jewish state all the time against the bile of the far left in the blogosphere. So yes, of course the Palestinians blew it, never lost an opportunity to lose an opportunity, destroyed Israel’s peace camp with the second intifadeh, etc. etc. And no, I don’t think there is any “moral equivalence” making innocent people wait at checkpoints for hours because of security needs and blowing up innocent people with suicide boms. The latter is an atrocity.

    Here is something I wrote in a rejoinder to “MM,” who blamed everything on the Israelis. I presume you’ll be happy with it:

    “1. In your opinion, is there anything the Palestinians have done since the Zionists arrived or since the State was founded that was not justifiable in your mind? For example, the Mufti of Jerusalem openly collaborated with Hitler. There were all the bus bombings and other terrorist acts in 1996 and ‘97 at a time when at least some people thought there was still a chance for the Oslo process to succeed. Were they justified?

    “Is there any action they could take in the future that would not be justifable?

    “2) Given current realities, in the absence of productive negotiations or a peace process that offers much hope, is there anything the Israelis could do to protect themselves against suicide bombers that would be justifiable and reasonable to you? That is, are there any security measures, as opposed to diplomatic acts?”

    That was for MM. But guess what, chaver pundit? I don’t have much more patience for your canned hasbara than I have for him/her. The Israelis share much of the blame for how we got into this situation. And, unless I’ve read you and Yael wrong, you can’t let yourself admit that.

  24. “””The Israelis share much of the blame for how we got into this situation.”””

    That doesn’t solve the problem. Even if the Israelis accept land-for-peace, Fatah and Hamas don’t. Fatah at best supports right-of-return-plus-land-for-peace.

    Hamas doesn’t even support that.

    If Israel withdraws, it gets shelled. If it doesn’t withdraw it gets blamed.

  25. Dan, as a Jew by choice I have a very hard time understanding why the “pro-Israel left” behaves as if Jewish interests are anathema. I have never seen any group so anxious to empower and embolden their enemies at their own expense.

    For instance, you state that the “pro-Israel left” would (obviously?) be disappointed by an Obama “commitment to an ‘undivided’ Jerusalem.” I truly can’t understand why anyone, especially a Jew, would want to see Jerusalem divided and parts given over to the Arabs, as was the case from 1948 to 1967. Do left-wingers not understand that under Arab control, the most important Jewish cemetery in the world (Mount of Olives) was bulldozed and desecrated to build a Jordanian hotel? That the Arabs demolished 58 synagogues in Jerusalem’s Old City? That Jews were forbidden any access whatsoever to the Kotel (Western Wall)? I would think that all people of good conscience would automatically abhor such a situation and wouldn’t want to see it repeated.

    Perhaps there is some reason that leftists -specifically the Jews among them – believe the poorpalestinians would behave differently today. I find that hard to believe, though, especially because we all saw them torch the synagogues in Gush Katif immediately after gaining control of the (Jew-free) Gaza strip. Did you know about that? Was your reaction not utter revulsion? Please tell me why anyone anywhere would seek another such opportunity for these same people.

    Another question nags at my mind as well. At what point -if any- would you, as representative, oppose further Israeli concessions? Is there anything that the “pro-Israel left” would balk at relinquishing? Tel Aviv, perhaps? Anything else? Believe me, my question is quite sincere. I’ve never heard anyone on the left project any limits whatsoever to what Israel might desirably concede.

    Second, I understand why you state that you’ve been going to AIPAC conferences over the years; that gives you a certain credibility in this instance. But why do you hasten to point out that you’ve done so “as an observer”? Is membership in AIPAC considered a political liablity among the “pro-Israel left” and if so, can you please explain.

  26. Yael,
    This is an old, tired conversation and there is no sense in dragging it out. But I’ll add just one more comment to this thread so you won’t be able to claim that I dodged your questions (as you have repeatedly dodged Teddy’s):

    You wrote: “You state that the “pro-Israel left” would (obviously?) be disappointed by an Obama “commitment to an ‘undivided’ Jerusalem.” I truly can’t understand why anyone, especially a Jew, would want to see Jerusalem divided and parts given over to the Arabs, as was the case from 1948 to 1967… I would think that all people of good conscience…”

    If you can’t understand, then argue with Jews named Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livne. They are not “left-wingers.” They are Zionists. They understand, although they waffle a bit on the particulars,that Jerusalem must serve as the capitol of two states if there is to be any hope for ending this ongoing nightmare. They understand that without some formal division of Jerusalem, there can be no negotiated settlement. And they understand that unless the land is partitioned in a negotiated settlement, the Jewish democratic state will disappear. I don’t want that to happen. Do you?

    Yes, precedents from 25-30 years ago, are not promising. But the fundamental question is, which poses the greater risk: a deeply flawed, risky peace between two peoples who don’t trust each other, or letting the status quo continue. It’s a tough call, but you and the Israeli right have no answer to the question of how to preserve a Jewish state, given the demographic realities, other than “transfer” or apartheid (which does not exist now, but is just around the corner). If you want either of those, then come out and say it.

    Like it or not, a crucial part of the solution is to give Palestinians their own capitol, in that part of Jerusalem where they already live, and where most Jews never go. The “undivided Jerusalem” you want to promote is a fiction. It is already divided.

    See ya.

  27. Yael, most Jews do not keep their heads stuck in the sand or other dark places.

    What Dan metaphorizes as AIPAC is simply the considered opinion of most Jews and a plurality of all Americans.

    Dan writes:

    “””a crucial part of the solution”””

    That assumes a solution exists. Math majors know that some differential equations cannot be solved. Ever. By anyone, no matter how smart they are.

    “””is to give Palestinians their own capitol.”””

    And if Israel does so, and agrees to leave almost all of the West Bank, will there be peace? Who says so?

    Because Israel agreed to all of that and more at Taba in 2000 and 2001, and there was no peace agreement. In fact, the PA did not accept the Clinton peace plan and instead demanded to settle 500,000 Palestinians inside of Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

    The best is the enemy of the good. The best, a solution, may not be possible.

    The good is to keep building a wall and then unilaterally cleave the other side of the wall from Israel. The leftist Noam Chomsky predicted in Counterpunch the other day that would remain Israel’s policy.

  28. “Perhaps he sometimes writes for a predominantly Jewish audience.”

    Good you remind me. Gone.

  29. The difference between Barak’s policies on Israel (confident and flexible) and McCain’s (excessive and inflexible) are important.

    Obama’s combination (that amounts to skill rather than stubborness) is actually likely to result in stability and even a prospect of peace, whereas the stubborn approach is likely to result in either war or oppression.

  30. Yael,
    You mentioned the 58 synagogues destroyed by the Jordanians. While I don’t condone the desecration of religious sites, I consider them less important than villages. Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed in the wake of the 1948 Israeli victory. The Israeli government didn’t want the Arabs to return to Israel. The desecration of the synagogues was probably seen by the Jordanian authorities as a safe way of letting the Arabs vent and no doubt was intended to deliver the same message to Jews that Israel had delivered to the Arabs–no return. These actions jointly established a new reality in the former mandate area.

  31. Tom writes: “””Hundreds of Palestinian villages were destroyed in the wake of the 1948 Israeli victory…These actions jointly established a new reality in the former mandate area.”””

    Unfortunately there are those today who still, after 60 years, do not accept that new reality. They still reject land-for-peace and demand right-of-refugees-to-return-plus-land-for-peace.

  32. 2) Still, you’re right. None of these Jewish ‘alternative’ efforts will match the budget and impact of AIPAC. But I am not sure it is necessary to match it. It is necessary to make just enough noise and spend just enough money to muffle and mitigate it. How much noise? How much money? What is the political tipping point when a president feels like he has wiggleroom and leeway to tell Israel what it needs to hear? None of that can be quantified. But it is not inconceivable.

    I have in the past developed mathematical models that apply to this sort of problem, but your target is not merely AIPAC. My congressman is probably lobbied more by the AJCongress, the AJCommittee, the JCRC, the David Project and a number of fake groups set up by the David Project than by AIPAC.

    [Capuano is not particulary friendly to AIPAC, and none of the above named groups were involved in the censorship activity I describe in Lobby activities: It’s just a fr*ggin’ novel!.]

    I have not done the numbers, but I doubt that any sort of head-to-head campaign could have any probable effect without expenditure of less than $8 million per year and without the use of some of that money to develop independent revenue streams.

    With less than $2 million dollars of funding, J-Street would probably have to content with a campaign to interfere with its opponents command and control.

  33. Better to find areas of focus, either around particular issue statements (or decision trees and criteria), or geographically to build up constituencies.

    If one’s position is reasonable, and consistent with the core principles of Judaism and Zionism (not the confused oppressive forms of its application), then J Street should expect to become the dominant perspective re: US/Israel relations.

    My sense is that the humanist perspective that firmly recognizes that Palestinians are human beings, and that Palestine is a nation (a people), is a far more secure approach than the odd amalgam of perspectives that are applied in Israeli policy currently.

  34. In a 1964 interview she told that the terror in the streets surrounding the Nazi elections could only be forgotten by the much worse terror that was to follow.

    Arendt’s comment is important, but one has too look at the issue of election violence horizontally in time as well as vertically. 1930s elections were characterized by violence throughout Europe and N. America.

    Arendt is also editing her memories. The German Nazis were on their best behavior in the 1932 elections and used violence during the 1933 campaign.

  35. “While insistence on territorial compromise in response to terrorist attacks may seem like ‘moral strength’ to post-national sophisticates in Europe and the U.S., it is read in the less-evolved parts of the world as an invitation to pounce on weakened prey.”

    –David Samuels, “The Silence of the Lambs,” in The Jewish Press, November 21, 2007.

    See also

  36. Unfortunate, but usually true. Israel withdrew from all of Lebanon in 2000 and the UN verified it.

    Israel released all prisoners captured in Lebanon in 2004.

    Hezbollah attacked Israel on 7/6/2006.

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