This op-ed in today’s NYT by a Princeton academic draws an analogy between US-Israel relations today and France-Israel relations 1967.
Generally speaking, people seem to take the rift between Obama and Netanyahu (or between the US and Israel, if one wants to depersonalize things) more seriously than I would have expected them to do. The real problem, as I see it, is that, supposing that Obama were prepared to oppose Israel in the UN and to vote against her, for example, a lot of US Jews who have been reliable Democratic donors and voters, perhaps the majority of such people, switch to the Republicans, putting New York and New Jersey into play, probably ceding Florida, it’s a hugely risky move in terms of domestic national politics. Instead of altering US-Israel relations, one ends up altering the balance of power in US domestic politics. It is almost as though one has to convince neocons that things have to change, that Israel is sailing the US down the river in strategic terms, where “strategic” is just a euphemism for energy supplies. I do not think that David Frum or Charles Krauthammer can be convinced, not ever.
Robert Kagan left a small opening the other day when speaking to Robert Wright about US-Israel relations on bloggingheadstv, but he probably can’t be convinced either.
My sense is that this NYT piece is a fantasy, written because it could be written and published.
My own view is that the US Jewish community is putting world Jewry in a terrible position by virtue of its unflagging support for Israel. It is creating conditions for virulent world-wide anti-Semitism from which Israel will not be able to save the Jews. Jews in France, and there are a lot of us, would be particularly vulnerable. Essentially, the US Jews have bought into the macho Israeli mentality of peace through strength, but it’s a losing long-term strategy, it simply can’t work in the end, given where all the fossil fuels happen to be. It might have worked in a unipolar world completely dominated by the US, but we are not in that world. And it could well be the case that if more US Jews had actually had to fight in a war, instead of just talking about fighting in wars, things would be different.
I can barely imagine Obama confronting his problem with the US Jews in a second term, but it’s not likely. Staunch supporters of Israel will complain about double standards and terrible political conditions in the Arab world. Such complaints are both valid and largely irrelevant. Things are as they are in the world, and are unlikely to change in Israel’s favor. To the contrary, there is every likelihood that the world will turn against Israel before it addresses more important and intractable problems, like climate change. No one forced Israel to embark upon occupation, but she will be forced to end it eventually, one way or the other. It would be better for all concerned if the occupation were ended in a way that had the support of the industrialized world.