–updated–

President Barack Obama’s point-man for his latest approach to the Muslim world is John Brennan, the White House’s counterterrorism czar, recently described by the Washington Post as one of the president’s most trusted advisers. Two weeks ago Brennan explained to a Washington audience that “we need to try to build up the more moderate elements” within Hezbollah, Lebanon’s Shia militia. The State Department rushed in to explain that there was no change in U.S. policy toward a group it has designated a terrorist organization-however, this was the second time Brennan had spoken of reaching out to Hezbollah “moderates” (and the second time he was corrected by the State Department), which means he has the president’s approval. […] – Extreme Makeover – Tablet Magazine

If you haven’t noticed, Israel’s international status is crumbling. “We are getting on the nerves of every government,” Laura Rozen reports one Israeli journalist as saying, commenting on the continued fallout five months later from the suspected Mossad hit in Dubai. To add another development that happened after I originally posted this essay, Alan Dershowitz is fundraising against Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky, backing the Tea Partier Joel Pollak.

The caterwauling from Tablet Magazine seems to be moored in one outrageous point of reality: (Pres. Obama) takes a much more pessimistic-and more realistic-view of the region’s political culture than the Bush Administration did. One would only hope; after all, Bush gave us Hamas leadership in Gaza.

Because of this realist view born from regional intractability, Tablet next jumps (the shark) to the main page of the Obama haters pamphlet by utilizing talking points straight from Sean Hannity. Seriously, this next bit of regurgitated right-wing rhetoric could just as easily be a transcript from Hannity’s radio show:

President Obama has keyed in on Muslim extremists because his own history shows that it’s the strategically sound choice. The lesson that extremism is the foundation of political legitimacy in politically charismatic communities was driven home to the president, Sunday after Sunday, as he sat in Jeremiah Wright’s church for 20 years. Obama, a half-white community organizer from Hawaii by way of Harvard Law School, did not seek to establish his bona fides in Chicago’s black community by attending the church of some middle-class black pastor who would speak about the glories of mowing the lawn every Sunday. The politically ambitious Obama chose to sit in the church of a man who spouted lunatic conspiracy theories about how the CIA was killing black babies not because he believed it, but because he knew back then that extremists confer legitimacy-especially when you are an outsider hoping to curry favor with the locals, as he is now with the Muslim world.

Sean Hannity will return after this next commercial break.

For those in the reality based community, here’s the backdrop of what’s swirling, which was posted Monday from FP:

“We stand by Israel and we’ll voice our strong views against any action that is one-sided or biased by any international organization,” Crowley said. “I’m not aware that the secretary general has yet made any decisions on steps the UN might take. We’ll listen to what the secretary general has in mind and make a judgment then.”

That type of hedging is exactly what many Israel supporters, such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), are concerned about. “AIPAC calls on the Obama administration to act decisively at the United Nations and other international forums to block any action — including alternative investigations supported by the Secretary General — which would isolate Israel,” the group said in a statement. […]

Going forward, there is still a lot of concern among Israelis about the prominent role Jones is playing in the shaping of the administration’s Israel policy. The conventional wisdom is that Jones, along with U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, are the ones inside the administration pushing for a harder line vis-à-vis Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, while Biden, the NSC’s Dennis Ross, and to an extent Special Envoy George Mitchell are said to advocate a position more sensitive to Netanyahu’s own political situation.

J-Street is openly confronting a letter writing campaign by AIPAC, which everyone is couching as the first war between the new guys on the lobby block and the old hands, AIPAC. The right-wing campaign has already gained a lot of congressional support. It’s a very interesting confrontation, with progressive J-Street challenging not only the goals of the letters, domestic politics as elections gear up, but also the effectiveness given the seriousness of Israel’s flotilla raid fiasco, which has real ramifications for any efforts taking two-state talks forward. From J-Street:

J Street – the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby – is not supporting sign-on letters to the President now circulating in the House regarding the Gaza flotilla. As is far too often the case, these letters have been drafted primarily for domestic political consumption rather than to advance the U.S. interest in peace and security in the Middle East.

With tensions in the region already high and vital American and Israeli interests at stake, J Street urges members of Congress to seek changes to the letters currently circulating before signing – or to write their own.

The window of opportunity for a two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is closing rapidly, and statements like those now circulating in Congress only push the window down harder. J Street fears that, in the years ahead, lawmakers will come to regret the failure of the United States to exercise real leadership toward ending the conflict. Failure now to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict dooms the region to further violence and puts at risk the very Jewish and democratic home in the state of Israel that lawmakers are purporting to support so deeply.

We would ask lawmakers to demonstrate real courage and leadership at this critical moment to call on the President to turn crisis into opportunity and to make ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a central priority of his foreign policy. The test for Congressional statements should not be their acceptability to any one lobby group (including J Street) but whether they advance the American, Israeli and regional interest in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and achieving a two-state solution before it is too late.

PM Netanyahu has already stiff-armed the idea of a U.N. sponsored investigation. However, that reality is moving forward regardless of Israel’s nod, which the international community does not see as relevant.

From Ben Smith:

A diplomat with one Security Council member country said that 14 of 15 nations had expressed support for some form of panel established by the secretary general – rather than by a Security Council vote, which the United States could block – to investigate the deaths on a Turkish ship bound for Gaza. The U.S. was the sole nation not to support the measure in the closed session, the source said.

Earlier Tuesday, Palestinian U.N. representative Riyad Mansour expressed his support for “the secretary general’s decision to proceed with his idea of having an international investigation under his auspices.”

The U.S. position on the panel – amid intense support for it among U.N. members – has been to wait and see what Ban proposes. “As we always do, we will work hard to make sure that Israel is not treated unfairly at the U.N.,” a U.S. official said.

The usual suspects will no doubt balk at what’s being reported coming from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, because the U.N. is seen as notoriously hostile to Israel. All of this happening as Amnesty International blasted Israel’s own investigative committee makeup, which everyone finds biased and stacked.

One wonders if Sen. Chuck Schumer will trip over this latest development in order to get to the podium and further complicate Israel’s already untenable position.

What J-Street gets right is that Israel has to find a way to end the blockade. That does not mean, however, that Israel doesn’t have the right to search ships coming into Gaza for weapons, which makes sense to anyone knowing the history.

What AIPAC and the usual suspects continue to get wrong is that Netanyahu has to find a way to deal with Hamas, who regardless of the terrorist history, remains the elected body in charge of Gaza. Don’t blame me for stating the obvious, see George W. Bush who basically handed Hamas the keys to Gaza.

Now a little reality. Dealing with thugs and enemies is what diplomacy is about. The U.S. has been engaging our enemies for over two-hundred years. It’s just bizarre that Israel doesn’t understand the basic tenet of negotiation, which includes coming to terms with your enemies first and foremost, especially when you’re sandwiched amidst them.

If John F. Kennedy had treated the Cuban Missile Crisis like Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders treat their relationship with Hamas and the Palestinians, add on the Israeli enablers in the American body politic, Florida and the eastern coast would likely still be a wasteland.

Israel is no longer a fledgling democracy. It’s a strong nation with allies, a vast military intelligence system, not to mention a conventional and nuclear military that dwarfs her enemies and neighbors. That Mr. Netanyahu and the Israeli government continue to act like an immature state instead of the great state it is not only stokes a cycle of violence and humanitarian tragedy, while creating more enemies out of the next generation, but makes Israel look like they aren’t capable of seeing themselves in any role other than victim. This chosen stance is as outdated as it is dangerous to Israeli’s future and Middle East stability as a whole.

Mr. Netanyahu buying time in the hopes that Republicans take over in Washington come November is not an effective diplomatic policy, but it seems to be the fallback position of the current Israeli government, which they and their right-wing allies seem determined to take forward into 2012.

Our special relationship will never be broken, but it’s long past time the United States started treating Israel like a grown-up instead of a protectorate. Our independence from Israel is crucial to U.S. Middle East interests and the stability to the region. This is especially true since the Netanyahu government has proven they are not serious about any talks that give Palestinians what they deserve, which is a state of their own.