Thursday, 8 July 2010

Israel is waiting for Palin

Israel’s worldwide “loyal opposition” is asking: Where is this country going? Where is Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu going? Where is this government’s policy headed? Do they think they can go on with the occupation forever, do they plan to fight the whole world forever? What is their goal and how do they expect to get there? When these gung-ho Israelis try to plot the future, what do they have in mind for a happy ending?

Simple: The Republican Party’s return to power. The happy ending they envision is this: The Republicans retake the White House and Congress so Bibi, the settlers and the whole Israeli Right can do whatever the hell they want and America will back them up, no questions asked.

This strategy came into focus clearly enough with Netanyahu’s victorious visit to the White House this week. Everyone knows President Barack Obama and his administration can’t stand Netanyahu or his policies, but Obama had to smile and pretend because he’s scared stiff of giving the Republicans more ammunition for the November elections.

Look at what’s happening: The prime minister of Israel is holding the president of the United States at bay, bending him to his will, because he’s got the Republicans behind him.

Not a bad strategy, I’d say. For the time being.

In the long run, I don’t think it’s going to work. It’ll take Israel through the midterm elections, and maybe beyond; after November, Obama may be too weak to pressure Israel into making peace. And two years later, with the way the US economy’s going, the Israeli Right may have its prayers answered by a Republican presidential candidate defeating Obama.

But if Netanyahu and the gang think a President Sarah Palin or a President Newt Gingrich and all their yahoos in Congress can make the world safe for West Bank settlements, or for the blockade of Gaza, or for Israeli militarism in general, they’re wrong. The Republicans are the American equivalent of the Likud, and vice versa.

They both see the world in terms of us vs. them, they both hate Muslims and liberals, they both see war with one Muslim enemy after another as the only way to solve their problems, they’re both clueless about how to make peace or stability and, thus, the only friends they have in the world are each other.

SORRY, IT’S not enough. The American Right and the Israeli Right against the world – how far can they get? The Likud thinks the Republicans will prop them up? Instead, they’ll drag each other down. They’ll be like Thelma and Louise, holding hands as they drive over the cliff.

But that’s at least a few years away. In the meantime, Israel is becoming an ever more powerful “wedge issue” for the Republicans. It goes like this: Either you’re for Israel or you’re for the Democrats, you can’t be both. Put another way: Either you’re for the Republicans or you’re for the terrorists, you have to choose one.

The message is working well and it’s cost Obama a lot of support – mainly among Jews but also among middle-of-the-road gentiles. And it is, indeed, forcing Americans who love Israel – including those who don’t hate Muslims and liberals – to choose sides. For this wing of the pro-Israel community, the choice goes like this: Either you’re against Palin, Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, Pastor John Hagee and all the other Republicans who just love the direction Israel’s going in, or you’re for the Netanyahu government’s policies – you can’t be both.

Put another way: Either you want Israel to remain a part of the democratic world, or you want to change the Likud-led, Republican-backed, belligerent, separatist direction it’s going in – you can’t have both.

American, Israeli, whoever’s interested – you have to choose.

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