Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Can You Support Israel Without Supporting Netanyahu?" – Jeffrey Goldberg gives the obviously correct answer

One advantage of blog posts, in contrast to most articles and opinion pieces in newspapers and newsmagazines, is that the titles or headlines are composed by the writer and not by an editor or sub-editor (who may or may not fully grasp the point).

A discussion posted today by Jeffrey Goldberg is titled, straightforwardly, "Can You Support Israel Without Supporting Netanyahu?". For some time now, John Rentoul has been running a nice series of "Questions to Which the Answer is No". Goldberg's heading makes me wonder whether there shouldn't also be a series of "Questions to Which the Answer is Obviously Yes".

And is there any truth to the charge, made by some people both in the US and in Israel, that Obama and his administration have shown themselves to be hostile towards Israel? Here we are back in the territory of Questions to Which the Answer is No.

Goldberg, who is usually right about most things, is right on both these matters in his postand some others as well. So just read the whole thing (below).

Jeff Weintraub

Jeffrey Goldberg
November 16, 2011
Can You Support Israel Without Supporting Netanyahu?

In response to my Bloomberg View column on the potential consequences of the brittle relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, Jennifer Rubin writes in The Washington Post:
It's time for pro-Israel liberals to be honest: This president's animus toward the Jewish state is so evident that only a foolish prime minister would trust him with the survival of the Jewish state. And Netanyahu is no fool. Surely Goldberg could concede both these points?
Surely Goldberg will not concede both these points. Rubin, like many of her colleagues to my right, believes that Netanyahu is the living embodiment of the State of Israel. Her formula: If you dislike Netanyahu, you dislike Israel. This is absurd. Barack Obama has shown zero animus to the state of Israel or to the idea of Israel. In word and in deed, he has been in Israel's corner; he has spoken eloquently in defense of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and he has provided it with unparalleled defense support.

Obama obviously disagrees with some of the polices of the current Israeli government [JW: and so should any intelligent supporter of Israel, in my humble opinion], and he doesn't seem to like the prime minister on a personal level. But this hasn't seemed to matter, so far. He and his administration have risen to Israel's defense repeatedly, most recently at the United Nations (just ask Susan Rice, his ambassador to the UN, how much time she spends batting back viciously anti-Israel resolutions). And there is no proof at all to suggest that he would not aid Israel in its national defense because he finds its current leader tendentious.

Obama, like the majority of Americans, is broadly sympathetic to Israel. On the question of Iran, I believe that Obama is trying to stop the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons, and I believe he would contemplate the use of force if he believes this to be in America's national interest -- and America's national interest in this case includes the defense of its Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, most notably. [JW: On this point, I am less sure than Goldberg ... who is pretty conflicted himself on the whole issue.] Do I think this is probable? No. But it is certainly plausible. Obama has made it clear that he wants to stop Iran, and there is nothing in his record to suggest that these are empty words.

I also believe, however, that the lack of trust between Obama and Netanyahu is potentially harmful to both countries (particularly on an issue as dicey as Iran) but unlike Rubin, I believe it is mainly up to the junior partner (defense aid flows in only one direction here) to work harder to repair the relationship.

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