I don’t think that Bret Stephens or perhaps his editors/headline-writers at the Wall Street Journal realize what they’re doing when they label Barack Obama “an Anti-Israel President.”
The initial reaction of the majority of Obama supporters will likely be to reject this characterization of the President and his views, but every attempt to describe those views as anti-Israel encourages those who support the President to adopt that description for their own stance. In other words, the attempt to separate the President from elements of his coalition threatens instead to separate that coalition from Israel.
It is not yet true that America is anti-Israel, or even neutral in the dispute between Israel and its enemies, but every time a consensus position is labeled “anti-Israel,” “anti-Israel” becomes a little bit more, or more nearly, consensual. Every time I’m asked to choose between the President and the leadership of another country, it becomes a little easier to make the choice rather than merely reject it. I begin to think a little bit more of myself as the citizen of a country hostile to Israel.
Stephens and his less restrained allies may hope to move Obama or, failing that, move the country, but what if they were to succeed in the latter, and actually to defeat this or any other president on the basis of insufficient affection for Likud-led Israel? It’s at that point that the national consensus on which they seek to stand may finally crack beneath their feet. In short, they seem to be wishing what they most fear into existence. It’s a familiar pattern, of course, of self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stephens responds to the specifics of the President’s AIPAC speech with a series of rhetorical questions:
Mr. Obama got some applause Sunday by calling for a “non-militarized” Palestinian state. But how does that square with his comment, presumably applicable to a future Palestine, that “every state has a right to self-defense”?
This seeming contradiction actually expresses just how much of a surrender is being demanded of the Palestinians, the logical implication under a rule of consistency being that a non-militarized Palestinian state would have no enemies against whom it would require a military defense. It’s a just barely tenable perspective. The circle is, indeed, the one that everyone is seeking to square – everyone who does not believe in eternal occupation and subjugation. Everyone in this instance especially includes those who, like Roger Cohen, find apartheid Israel at least as “indefensible,” if in a different way, as the supposedly indefensible, though historically quite effectively defended, 1967 borders.
Mr. Obama was also cheered for his references to Israel as a “Jewish state.” But why then obfuscate on the question of Palestinian refugees, whose political purpose over 63 years has been to destroy Israel as a Jewish state?
Perhaps because unambiguous affirmation of the legitimacy of the Jewish state, as Stephens’ own casuistry demonstrates, necessarily implies cancellation of the full “right of return,” for the same reason that the full right of return implies the destruction of “Israel as a Jewish state.”
Why ask questions when you clearly already know the answers?
And then there was that line that “we will hold the Palestinians accountable for their actions and their rhetoric.” Applause! But can Mr. Obama offer a single example of having done that as president, except perhaps at the level of a State Department press release?
Perhaps remaining for all intents and purposes silent while Israel punished Hamas and its rocketeers, then increasing military assistance and cooperation would qualify. I’m not sure exactly what Stephens expects the Obama Administration to do. Send in some Marines to beef up the Gaza blockade? Require Hillary or one of her aides to help search Palestinians at a crossing of the West Bank “barrier”?
What, then, would a pro-Israel president do? He would tell Palestinians that there is no right of return.
Which he just did.
He would make the reform of the Arab mindset toward Israel the centerpiece of his peace efforts.
Is there anything that Israel might do to aid or encourage him in such efforts?
He would outline hard and specific consequences should Hamas join the government.
Would that be before or after he outlined hard and specific consequences for expansion of illegal settlements or for the inclusion of neo-Revisionists in the Israeli government?
Such a vision could lay the groundwork for peace. What Mr. Obama offered is a formula for war, one that he will pursue in a second term. Assuming, of course, that he gets one.
What vision? All I see are empty questions, along with the encouragement of escalating intransigence, and the notion that Mr. Obama might somehow bludgeon the Arabs into liking the Israelis more.