Tom Friedman joins “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theorists

As we get closer and closer to the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, as relations between Israel and Turkey and Egypt deteriorate, the usual suspects are responding in the usual way — and even more so.

The NY Times’ Tom Friedman has gone over to “Israel lobby” conspiracy theories:

The crumbling of key pillars of Israel’s security — the peace with Egypt, the stability of Syria and the friendship of Turkey and Jordan — coupled with the most diplomatically inept and strategically incompetent [I would put ‘U.S.’ here — ed] government in Israel’s history have put Israel in a very dangerous situation.

This has also left the U.S. government fed up with Israel’s leadership but a hostage to its ineptitude, because the powerful pro-Israel lobby in an election season can force the administration to defend Israel at the U.N., even when it knows Israel is pursuing policies not in its own interest or America’s.

Oh, really? Please explain how the “powerful pro-Israel lobby” can swing a presidential election. The problem for President Obama here is that many Americans understand the Middle East too well. They get it that Israel is struggling against the combined forces of Islamism and Arab rejectionism. They get it that the US was attacked by Islamists, not Israelis, on 9/11 (while Palestinians cheered). And they get it that appeasement doesn’t work.

These Americans, 98% of whom are not Jewish and not members of Congress, are not influenced by “the Lobby.” Many of them are independents who will simply be morally outraged if the administration screws Israel.

Friedman says that it’s Netanyahu’s fault for not ‘responding’ to the challenges facing Israel:

Mr. Netanyahu has a strategy: Do nothing vis-à-vis the Palestinians or Turkey that will require him to go against his base, compromise his ideology or antagonize his key coalition partner, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, an extreme right-winger. Then, call on the U.S. to stop Iran’s nuclear program and help Israel out of every pickle, but make sure that President Obama can’t ask for anything in return — like halting Israeli settlements — by mobilizing Republicans in Congress to box in Obama and by encouraging Jewish leaders to suggest that Obama is hostile to Israel and is losing the Jewish vote. And meanwhile, get the Israel lobby to hammer anyone in the administration or Congress who says aloud that maybe Bibi has made some mistakes, not just Barack.

A few minor points:

First, Jews in the US are a small proportion — 1.7% in 2007 — and at least half of them will vote for Obama regardless of his position on Israel. Some of them are in swing states (Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania) but many are in states which are unlikely to go Republican, like California. The “Jewish vote” is not a big deal.

Second, could we leave the settlements alone? Israel is not building new settlements or expanding the boundaries of old ones. The most it is doing is allowing construction within existing settlements, and it tried a 10-month freeze on that without results. This issue never was a barrier to negotiations, until the “inept and strategically incompetent” Barack Obama made it so. The media have been exceptionally dishonest about this, always referring to “settlement construction,” which any reasonable person would understand as building new settlements.

Third, Israel offered to express regret for the deaths of several Turkish IHH terrorists, but would not agree that it was at fault when its soldiers defended themselves, and would not agree to open the gates to unlimited transit of weapons into Gaza by ending the blockade. Turkey would not accept less.

Fourth, the US has done little to stop Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, by not supplying Israel with refueling aircraft and “bunker buster” weapons, it reduced Israel’s power of deterrence, which encouraged Iran.

Fifth, is Friedman really blaming Bibi for “mobilizing Republicans?” Can’t they mobilize themselves? What else is it possible to blame him for?

And one major point: the failure of bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is not due to Netanyahu’s concern for his ‘base’, but rather due to the Palestinians’ refusal to negotiate without preconditions that amount to giving up the store. To a great extent, this situation is Obama’s fault, for allowing the Palestinians to think that they could get more from American pressure than they could from negotiations.

Friedman must be getting tired if the best he can do is trot out the Israel Lobby, along with pathological Israel-haters Stephen Walt,  Glenn Greenwald and Philip Weiss.

Friedman’s suggestion for a solution is that Israel (preferably with a new, more pliant, government) should make a “peace overture that fair-minded people would recognize as serious, and thereby reduce its isolation.” So after Israel

  1. returned the Sinai to Egypt (and now the treaty is in question),
  2. allowed the murderous PLO to return from exile and set up a government,
  3. transferred weapons to the PA ‘police’,
  4. withdrew its troops from southern Lebanon (and got a war in return),
  5. evacuated all the Jews, living and dead, from Gaza (and got a war in return),
  6. adopted the idea of a Palestinian state in the territories,
  7. withdrew from much of Judea and Samaria,
  8. released Palestinian prisoners to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas,
  9. removed many checkpoints and roadblocks from Judea/Samaria,
  10. provided humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip while Hamas bombarded it with rockets,
  11. made offers of up to 97% of the disputed territories plus swaps and major concessions on Jerusalem in 2000 and 2008 —

after all of this, and while the PA still has not changed those parts of its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, still insists on a “right of return” for refugees, still broadcasts anti-Israel and antisemitic incitement in its media, mosques and educational system, and adamantly refuses to recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people — now Tom Friedman thinks Israel should make yet another ‘peace overture’!

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5 Responses to “Tom Friedman joins “Israel Lobby” conspiracy theorists”

  1. Robman says:

    Thomas Friedman is the ultimate “Judenrat”.

    He ought to be tarred and feathered.

    I wonder how big a stack of petrodollars is stuffed in his Swiss bank account? Or is he honestly as stupid as he sounds?

    I can’t fathom his level of stupidity or intellectual/moral bankruptcy and shallowness.

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    This as usual outstanding analysis shows the total bankruptcy of Tom Friedman’s ‘opinionizing’ on the Middle East. What outrages is his arrogance in presenting his so – mistaken views. They by the way fit perfectly into the general view of the NYTimes Editorial Page. The paper is as big as disgrace as Tom Friedman is.

  3. Good post, so I would argue (of course) with one statement only: “The problem for President Obama here is that many Americans understand the Middle East too well. ”

    I am not an American, but spent a good few years in this great place. What I learned is that very few Americans give a damn about Middle East in general. Those who sympathize Israel frequently do so out of Biblical learning, having not a lot to do with modern Israel as we know it.

  4. Robman says:


    Well, I am an American, and I can tell you that you are pretty much right.

    Americans do support Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians. Polls consistently show this, and the most recent put general U.S. public support of Israel at a 20-year high. But the depth of the support among many is not there. Mostly, Americans care about the economy. If the economy were going great, Obama would be forgiven his treatment of Israel, even though many would scratch their heads wondering why he treats our ally so shabbily.

    The mood in America today is very isolationist, and this does not bode well for support of Israel. There is a large segment of the American public that is sympathetic to Israel…but is nonetheless concerned that our relationship with Israel can drag us into another war, and they don’t want that.

    On the other hand, I’ve noticed that more and more Americans are waking up to the fact that our war against Islamist terrorism is not ending any time soon, and in this context, they see Israel as a valuable ally. The upheavals in places like Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere highlight the exceptional nature of Israel in the region.

    A recent poll I saw just yesterday was particularly encouraging. It indicated that two-thirds of Americans perceived Obama as anti-Israel, and most of these indentified Israel as an important factor in determiing whom they may vote for in a presidential election.

    The biggest problem we have is the media, as highlighted by this most recent FresnoZionism posting. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, Snoopy, but the media here is incredibly corrupt, and mostly skewed enormously against Israel. It is amazing that public support for Israel holds up as it does, in the face of the constant beating she takes in the press.

    I strongly suspect that press treatment of Israel is a major factor contributing to the loss of credibility of the media among the general U.S. public. Other polls taken in recent years indicate historic levels of mistrust of the media among the American public. Thomas Friedman just serves to remind most Americans of why they usually don’t bother to read the paper anyway.

    This is a dangerous situation in a free society. We need a credible media that informs. We don’t have that today. I don’t know when we will, or if we ever will again at all.

  5. NormanF says:

    For Israel, two points are clear. Western intellectuals know nothing about the Middle East and Western promises are not for Israel to rely upon. The Palestinians don’t want peace. They want to be able to preserve the option of destroying Israel later. It is too bad Israel’s government still refuses to this very day to face up to that fundamental fact about the enemy. All the Tom Friedmans in the world can’t put the Middle East back together again.