A synergy of evil motives

A lot has been written about the apparent paradox expressed in the recent American Jewish Committee (AJC) poll of American Jews. The poll was taken on March 23, a week after the blowup during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel.

55% answered that they approve of the Obama Administration’s handling of US-Israel relations, while only 37% disapprove. At the same time 57% approve of PM Netanyahu’s handling  of the Israel-US relationship, while only 30% disapprove. And 61% think that Israel should not “be willing to compromise on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,” with only 35% saying that it should.

Huh? Netanyahu and Obama are clearly at odds over the status of Jerusalem. The administration wants to divide the city, and the flap over Ramat Shlomo indicates that it may even favor a return to 1949 lines, which is far more than any Israeli government would be prepared to accept.

On the Iranian nukes,  a whopping 68% thought that there was “little chance” or “no chance” that sanctions and diplomacy would prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons (only 5% said there was a “good chance” and 27% picked “some chance”). 53% would support American military action  to stop Iran and 62% would support Israel doing it.

But at the same time, 47% said they approved and 42% disapproved of the Obama administration’s ‘handling’ of the issue!

So what can this 47% be thinking? They don’t think sanctions would work, but the administration can’t even apply sanctions. A series of empty threats, missed deadlines and wishful thinking on its part has brought us to the point that Iran could have a weapon within months.

And the 62% that would support an Israeli attack on Iran — do they understand that administration spokespersons have said on several occasions that such an action would be a disaster from the US point of view, and that the US would do its best to prevent it? Do they remember that Zbig Brzezinski, one of the architects of Obama’s nascent plan to impose a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians, once suggested in the crudest terms that the US should use force to stop an Israeli attack, if necessary?

There is only one interpretation of these results that makes sense, and that is that most of the poll respondents do not understand the actual attitudes and policies of the Obama Administration.

Left-wing commentator Rachel Maddow refers to “Obama derangement syndrome,” by which she means unreasonable hatred of the president by the Right (conservatives made a similar point about ‘Bush derangement syndrome’ during his administration). I think, however, that the derangement actually works in the opposite direction — a ‘reality distortion field‘ in which many Democrats (50% of the survey respondents identified as Democrats, with only 15% Republicans and 32% Independents) simply cannot accept the true nature of the administration that they elected — that in 2008 they replaced a corrupt, incompetent center-right regime with an equally corrupt and incompetent one — but one whose ideology is far more skewed to the Left than they expected or are comfortable with.

Actually, I think the Republicans are in part responsible. When they call every Democratic opponent, even centrists like the Clintons, “radical leftists” then nobody believes them when a real radical leftist comes along.

Of course the Obamists’ extreme ideology is mitigated in some areas, like health care, by their corruption. So they came up with a health care plan which will actually change very little for consumers, since it is designed not to hurt — even to help — the corporate interests that own them no less than the Republicans (it will also be bad for the deficit — that’s the competence part).

Unfortunately, where Israel policy is concerned there is a synergy of evil motives. Obama and his people, as is the fashion in academia, strongly favor the ‘oppressed’, ‘third-world’ Palestinian Arabs. But add to this the fact that they can be bought by Saudi oil money, and you have a bad situation indeed. The Bushes were quite close to the Saudis, but (at least in the case of G. W. Bush himself) there was an understanding and sympathy for Israel as a democracy.

While I’m at it, let me throw another dart at the Republicans. If they want to replace Obama in the hearts of American Jews — and others that voted for him — they will have to provide an alternative to incompetence and corruption, not just ideology. In particular, the know-nothing wing of the party, as examplified by Sarah Palin, does not engender confidence in its ability to produce a competent administration.

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19 Responses to “A synergy of evil motives”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    It is probably correct to say that a good share of American Jews do not know the Obama positions on Israel. But that is in itself bad news and it indicates the degree to which they are involved and truly care about the security of Israel. On the other hand I do have a sense that the feeling is filtering down within the Jewish community that Obama’s heart is really not with Israel. Incident after incident confirms his apparent distate for the Israeli Prime Minister, and perhaps Israel as a whole. So too the policy of in effect doing nothing to stop Iran cannot I think indefinitely be sold as positive.

  2. Grandma says:

    Yes, the Republicans deserve some of the blame, too. We must be aware of the Rhinos. I’ve been a registered Republican since Reagan, but consider myself an Independent, now. This is why the Tea Party movement is so important. The Tea Partiers (who are hard-working, tax paying, middle class, VERY pro-Israel, non-violent citizens), are looking at “individuals” instead of voting “the party line”. The Left is terrified of the Tea Partiers (40% Democrats). Bill Clinton is running around the country (probably bankrolled by George Soros), warning they are encouraging violence. Shame on Bill. Perhaps we should try to start a “Sister” Tea Party Movement in Israel!

  3. Robman says:

    By the way, there is a “sister” Tea Party movement in Britain, Grandma.

    Vic, a few points:

    One, I don’t know that pollsters are getting honest answers from Jews. And I don’t even know that many Jewish Americans are being honest with themselves.

    People don’t like to admit that they were made fools of. Moreover, American Jews – like many Diaspora Jews elsewhere – are scared to death of the “dual loyalty” charge. This is beaten into them by various shrunken heads dangled before them by the U.S. establishment in the form of Jonathon Pollard, and the bogus AIPAC scandal of 2004 (the central figure in which, one U.S. Air Force colonel named Franklin, was just cleared of all charges). Recently, I read that a Jewish FBI agent was fired for a perfectly innocent, above-board meeting with AIPAC officials. He is suing for discrimination; I hope he wins, but I am not optimistic.

    So, Jewish Americans are often simply afraid to admit to a pollster that Israel carries weight in their view of a sitting president. I can tell you from my interactions with the Jewish community where I live – and this has been reinforced by reports of similar experiences on the part of Sarah Stern of EMET and former Israeli ambassador Yoram Ettinger (both of whom I’m in direct communication with) – that Jews here are deserting Obama in droves, and they are particularly upset about his treatment of Israel.

    Finally, I wouldn’t be so contemptuous of Sarah Palin. I saw her at a campaign stop near my hometown not long before the election. She was phenomenal. I have never seen such powerful charisma on the part of a political leader, ever.

    Contrary to media hype, I submit to you that she is no dummy. Remember, this is a person who started out as a small-town Alaska housewife, who just got up and decided to ‘do something’. She went from the PTA to governor of the state of Alaska, by about the age of 42, and she did this even in the face of opposition from whithin her own party. She did not come from money or from a politically connected family, and she went on to become among the most popular and effective governors in Alaska history. That’s more than you or I did for lunch today.

    Her weakness is that she does not know how to handle the national-level media, and in particular, one-on-one interviews with powerful media personalities. My sense is that she gets overwhelmed and ‘freezes up’. She needs to get over this, and learn how to handle such types as Barbara Walters, etc., or indeed she will have trouble getting farther than she has on the national stage.

    What Sarah is not is an intellectual. That’s OK by me. A national leader does not need that capability, only the good judgement to sift out the advice given by the same. Harry Truman was no intellectual either, nor was Ronald Reagan, and I don’t think they are generally rated as “bad” presidents. Given the performance of the current Harvard grad intellectual we have occupying the Oval Office today, I actually would consider Sarah’s lack of such “credentials” (i.e., pollution at the hands of the Saudi academia propaganda machine) to be a plus.

    Anyway, I hope she can overcome her problems with respect to the media. I think she has great potential. Don’t count her out.

  4. Letsgetreal says:

    I think the 55% supporting Obama’s policy on Israel have got it right, Vic. For example more Israeli houses in Jerusalem are not vital to Israel’s security. A peace settlement is. The more such houses and Israeli settlements are built the more the Arab extremists will use them to provoke confrontation (with the support of the international community).

    Obama can see this. Hence he is right to try to draw Netanyahu back from going down this path. A true friend tells you where you have got it wrong.

    I agree with your criticism of that Bradley Burston article though.

  5. Vic Rosenthal says:

    It’s not a question of how many Jewish houses there are in E. Jerusalem. It’s a question of whether Israel is sovereign in Jerusalem. It’s also a question of the US living up to its commitments to Israel or reneging on them. Finally — it’s a question of the message that this sends to the Palestinians, which is that they can get what they want without giving anything in return.

    A peace settlement with today’s Palestinian leadership that is anything more than a stepping stone to more fighting is not in the cards. Forcing Israel to make such an agreement is not pro-peace, it’s pro-war.

    It’s a hard, painful fact that the Palestinians must change before there can be peace — not Israel. The worst thing Obama can do is encourage them to continue on the path they are on now.

  6. Robman says:


    Vic is dead on.

    More to the point, though, what is vital for Israeli security is for the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The Palestinian National Charter – which I just recently looked at on the official PA website associated with their UN office – still explicitly declares the very idea of a Jewish state on even one square meter of the Levant to be “illegitimatel”.

    This is absurd. This would be like Russia not recognizing Poland as a Polish state, or Turkey not recognizing Greece as a Greek state (which were both contentious issues in their respective times).

    Mahmoud Abbas says that it is not his “job” to define the character of Israel, but if that were so, why does the very founding document of his political movement make it very much his business to define Israel in the negative with respect to the Jews?

    Until this changes, any agreement reached with the PA will be worthless. When the PA reneges – as they always have – they will be able to logically claim that they cannot be held to the terms of an agreement with an “illegitimate” entity.

    That is the core obstacle to peace, “Letsgetreal”, not settlements. By itself, even recognition would not necessarily bring peace – after all, I’m sure Germany recognized Poland’s “right to exist” right up until September 1st 1939 – but it is the most fundamental requirement for even the beginning of peace.

    In light of the above, what does Israel’s “friend” Obama do? Yes, the administration is on record as supporting Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state (how could they not be?), but there is no pressure applied to them towards this end. None at all. Instead, the Obama administration completely adopts the Palestinian line that “settlements” are the main problem. In fact, the administration has pretty much adopted the Palestinian line on every issue, except ROR, and I’d bet that in the hypothetical instance that Israel caved on all of Obama’s demands up to now, that would come next (Just like apartments in a predominantly Jewish section of Jerusalem suddenly became a big deal after Netanyahu agreed to a settlement freeze elsewhere in the West Bank).

    There is going to be a war, probably fairly soon. The Palestinians and their various allies, cheerleaders, etc., can now conclude that they can provoke a war with Israel, and Israel will not have the backing of the U.S. Even if they are wrong about this – and I don’t think they are – they have certainly been given every reason to expect that this will be the case.

  7. Letsgetreal says:

    Sorry Vic, I think it IS a matter of how many houses at this stage. The bigger questions can be addressed at the peace talks when they begin.by building settlements. Getting to these talks is vital to a peaceful solution and more houses in East Jerusalem just gets in the way of this.

    While the internatonal community can understand Israel’s need for secure borders, there is no sympathy at all for Israel EXTENDING its borders by building more settlements.

    If stopping more settlements is the price to be paid for the viability of the Israeli state and the security of its people I think many Jews both in Israel and outside would be prepared to pay it.

    Of course hotheads on both sides can think of any reason to stand by their extremist demands even if the price for refusing concessions is the annihilation of their own peoples. Robman may be sanguine about that. I am not.

  8. Letsgetreal says:

    Just to correct the second sentence of the above which should read

    “The bigger questions can be addressed at the peace talks when they begin.”

  9. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Please speak precisely. Israel is not extending its borders, nor is it building new settlements. It is building apartments in a Jewish neighborhood of 20,000 residents, a few blocks from the green line, which would become part of Israel in any reasonable peace agreement.

    Also, what the do you mean by “stopping more settlements?” There are no new settlements and Israel hasn’t built one in years, unless you count the illegal outposts which Israel dismantles at great social cost.

    The no-building demand is a brand-new Palestinian demand made to make their point that Jerusalem does not belong to Israel. But there are plenty of good arguments that can be made in the opposite direction.
    Unfortunately, President Obama allowed the Palestinians to make this demand a precondition for talks; keep in mind that the Palestinians negotiated for 16 years while Israel was building in Jerusalem with no problems.

    Isn’t it obvious that the Palestinians are using the American interest in getting talks started — talks, by the way, which cannot possibly bring peace because of the nature of the PA and the existence of Hamas — to simply extract concessions from Israel without giving anything themselves? If Israel gives in on this the Palestinians will find something else that they absolutely must have before they will cone to the table!

    There’s no doubt that Israel and the Jewish people are in great danger, but Israel agreeing to vacate all the territories and Jerusalem today is not a solution. It won’t bring “viability” and “security”, it will create another Gaza next door to the most populated part of Israel.

    The real problem is the US administration’s attitude, which is that they want a Palestinian state at all costs — to Israel. I do not believe Obama’s protestations that he cares about Israel’s security. The administration sees its true interests as making the Arab world happy, and what they are asking for is a hostile Palestinian state that can be a base to attack Israel.

  10. Letsgetreal says:

    Vic, building settlements on disputed territories DOES amount to extending your borders – by establishing “facts on the ground”.

    And this is not about “Israel [having to agree] to vacate all the territories and Jerusalem”. These things are up for negotiation and it’s possible to reach a workable compromise given goodwill on both sides (which is never possible with extremists in charge who put their own ideologies before all other considerations).

  11. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Sorry, you can’t be Humpty-Dumpty and use words to mean whatever you like. ‘Building settlements’ and ‘extending borders’ are both different from building inside existing neighborhoods.
    One can go all the way back to the Balfour Declaration to establish that Jews have a right to build in the land of Israel — as do Arabs. But the presumption that any land that was occupied by Jordan in 48-67 is forever ‘Palestinian Land’ where Jews are forbidden to live is no less racist than the ethnic cleansing of those areas of Jews in 1948.
    The question of starting negotiations is a red herring, because Netanyahu has said over and over that he will start talking without preconditions at any time and it is the Palestinians who refuse to do so.
    Finally, Netanyahu accepts the principle of a Palestinian state, but Mahmoud Abbas refuses to admit that Israel is a Jewish one, and refuses to give up the idea that Arab ‘refugees’ may ‘return’ to it. Who’s the extremist?

  12. Letsgetreal says:

    I think Humpty- Dumpty is exactly what you are, Vic, sitting on your West Bank wall heading for a fall from which you will be unable to put your beliefs together again.

    The land encompassing Jerusalem and the West Bank IS disputed territory, unless you are a fundamentalist who believes Israel has a biblical right to it regardless of all other considerations.

    As such the matter can only be resolved peacefully by negotiation on the basis of a two-state solution, which I think Abbas (as opposed to Hamas) has essentially agreed to, despite semantic formulations designed to carry his people with him through the peace process.

  13. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Sure the territory is ‘disputed’. UN Resolution 242 called for establishing secure and recognized boundaries in the framework of a peace agreement, and the Arabs have never agreed. Anyway, the Arabs dispute everything, including Tel Aviv.

    Abbas’ refusal to recognize a Jewish state, etc. are not just semantic formulations. They represent the position of Fatah, which is really quite hard-line. Anyway, Abbas doesn’t represent the Palestinians in any real sense — he’s seen as a corrupt puppet of the US.

    And then there’s the small matter of Hamas. If an agreement were made with Abbas, it would not be accepted by the rulers of 40% of the Palestinian population — unless Hamas and Fatah somehow reconciled, which would be even worse. Or maybe Hamas would overthrow Abbas and there would be another Gaza, only it would be next door to Ben Gurion airport.

    Please don’t say “yes, but Israel needs to take risks for peace.” It’s been tried. It’s time for the Arab leadership to take the non-risk of honestly admitting that Israel is here to stay. Until that happens there won’t be peace.

  14. Letsgetreal says:

    Vic, I’m not saying Israel should take risks, only that they should play their hand more cannily.

    Of course there are all these problems with the Arabs but don’t give them the opportunity of appearing to be the good guys by digging in on matters that have a dubious moral basis and are not vital to Israel’s security.

    Better to hold back in these areas, get the peace talks going and if the Palestinians screw them up in the way you describe at least the international community will know where the blame lies and we will have reclaimed the moral high ground.

  15. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Interestingly, although Israel has been saying “let’s talk” and the Arabs have been refusing, Israel still doesn’t look like the ‘good guy’. Why do you think that is?

    Jews living in Jerusalem is not something that has a dubious moral basis. Jews lived in East Jerusalem until 1948 when they were kicked out by the Jordanians. Now all of a sudden they have new restrictions placed on them.

    Do you really think the UN and most of the media will ever let Israel have the moral high ground, no matter what it does?

    It evacuated Gaza for the moral high ground, and look what happened.

    It hobbled itself fighting a war to avoid hurting civilians and look what happened.

    It agreed to a building freeze in Judea and Samaria — and enforced it — and look what happened.

    This isn’t a question of moral high ground, it’s a question of how much the Arabs can get out of Israel while giving nothing in return — with the help of our President.

  16. Letsgetreal says:

    I agree with much of what you say, Vic, about Israel’s moral gestures being thrown in its face. But the answer isn’t to switch to an approach that is morally questionable. That way lies the possibility of complete isolation which can only favour Israel’s enemies. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

    The real issue here, as I’ve said before, is about not giving propaganda ammunition to Israel’s enemies by insisting on things that are not clearly right and are not vital to Israel’s security.

  17. Vic Rosenthal says:

    I honestly think that construction in Ramat Shlomo is not in the slightest bit morally questionable. I do not think that the occupation of Judea and Samaria or settlements are ‘illegal’ although I do agree that building a new settlement today would be unwise. But I don’t accept the view that anything outside pre-1967 boundaries is illegitimate. 242 called for a peace agreement and secure borders. It didn’t call for pre-67 borders! And there hasn’t been a peace agreement.

    Jews lived in East Jerusalem prior to 1948. What happened since then to change the legal status of Jewish neighborhoods?

    In fact, to surrender on these issues, especially on Israel’s right to build in Jerusalem, validates the false premises of Israel’s enemies.

    The problem is that even some of Israel’s friends have come to believe Arab propaganda!

  18. Letsgetreal says:

    There you go again, Vic, any kind of concession is regarded as “surrender”. No doubt that’s how Muslim fundamentalists see things.

    Holding back on certain claims, prior to a peace settlement is not giving in on those claims but reserving them for serious negotiations. Negotiations are about trading one thing for another, in the interests of the greater good. You can’t do that by building facts on the ground in disputed areas.

    East Jerusalem (i.e. mainly the Arab part of Jerusalem) IS a disputed territory. Palestinians see it as the capital of their state in a two-state solution. Barak actually offered it to them in 2001. Creating and spreading facts on the ground in that territory is hardly conducive to peace negotiations (regardless of how the Arabs responded to this offer before).

    The problem is that even some of Israel’s friends have come to believe the propaganda of Israeli fundamentalists.

  19. Vic Rosenthal says:

    Splitting Jerusalem according to the 1949 armistice lines is not on the table — regardless of what the Palestinians say. Any compromise would be some kind of division based on Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.

    East Jerusalem is not “the Arab part of Jerusalem.” There are Jewish and Arab areas, and there is the Temple Mount which presents its own problems.

    Having said that, remember what the situation was between 1948-67? In 1948, Jordan illegally annexed the “west bank” and Jerusalem. Jews were expelled from all of East Jerusalem, including places they had lived for hundreds of years, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, etc. And Jews were forbidden from visiting any part of the Temple Mount area, including the Western Wall. There’s no reason to think anything will be different in areas that Israel gives up.