When it comes to issues involving Israel, politicians in Washington can become quite hysterical, making the dumbest remarks or doing the most illogical things. Evidence of such bizarre behavior abounds, and this week provided several examples.
Taking top prize would be newly-elected Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois. Kirk wants the U.S. to use military assets to stop the humanitarian flotilla on its way to Gaza. He wrote that the United States should “make available all necessary special operations and naval support to the Israeli Navy to effectively disable flotilla vessels before they can pose a threat to Israeli coastal security or put Israeli lives at risk”.
[...] … All this might just be dismissed as “political pandering” or more “harmless hot air” from politicians who specialize in both. But it is dangerous and has consequences. In the first place, actions and statements like these send absolutely horrible messages overseas about the inability of American politics to deal fairly with any Middle East issue that involves Israel. And so these behaviors end up undercutting U.S. diplomacy. Secondly, these actions, and the bizarrely skewed, one-sided politics they reflect, tie the hands (or, at times, force the hands) of Administrations, negatively impacting the ability of policymakers to act. And finally, in the end, these comments and actions embolden hardliners in Israel and the Arab World, who both come to believe that there are no restraints on Israeli behavior and no way that Arab concerns will be heard or respected in U.S. policy debates.
However, it’s just not on the radar of the American media. Too dangerous. Controversial. Inflammatory. It makes network heads uncomfortable.
Instead it’s all about Who’s more pro Israel?, one of the most dangerous political games we play in this country. But at every presidential election, play it we do. Stacy has an “In the News” diary up about Sec. Clinton announcing administration talks with the Muslim Brotherhood, which on cue is freaking out the Right.
There’s nothing more serious than Middle East politics and it shouldn’t be treated as a political parlor game, but that’s exactly what Politico did this week. In a long, gossipy piece, Ben Smith traded on 2008 canard that Obama is an iffy friend of Israel by mining staunchly pro Clinton Jewish quarters to stir the currents of discontent. It’s a continuation of the conservative campaign to discredit Pres. Obama and portray him as soft on Israel, which is a falsehood, but some media outlets just can’t resist.
Smith has written about this before. Here’s an example of the well from which Smith drew his alleged proof:
“I’m hearing a tremendous amount of skittishness from pro-Israel voters who voted for Obama and now are questioning whether they did the right thing or not,” said Betsy Sheerr, the former head of an abortion-rights-supporting, pro-Israel PAC in Philadelphia, who said she continues to support Obama, with only mild reservations. “I’m hearing a lot of ‘Oh, if we’d only elected Hillary instead.’”
Even Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who spoke to POLITICO to combat the story line of Jewish defections, said she’d detected a level of anxiety in a recent visit to a senior center in her South Florida district.
[...] The qualms that many Jewish Democrats express about Obama date back to his emergence onto the national scene in 2007. Though he had warm relations with Chicago’s Jewish community, he had also been friends with leading Palestinian activists, unusual in the Democratic establishment. And though he seemed to be trying to take a conventionally pro-Israel stand, he was a novice at the complicated politics of the America-Israel relationship, and his sheer inexperience showed at times.
Why does being “friends with leading Palestinian activists” make Obama less pro-Israel?
It takes a friend to tell you the truth sometimes, with Obama’s stance on Israeli settlements something that most experts agree must be dealt with by PM Netanyahu, though on the denial goes.
All of this precipitated by anxieties from a very small but vocal minority, with all hell breaking loose again when Pres. Obama stated, then defended, that Israelis and Palestinians should begin with the 1967 borders, with land swaps.
Now it appears Obama’s supporters are readying to hit back at this continuing media meme. From Greg Sargent:
A group of well-known figures in the Jewish community has been in discussions with senior Obama adviser David Axelrod about how to respond to the criticism, which is expected to intensify as the campaign heats up. Among them: Alan Solow, the former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; former Congressmen Mel Levine and Robert Wexler; and executive Penny Pritzker.
“We will have highly credible spokespeople and surrogates speak out in a general manner in support of what this administration has done, and articulate it in a way that we think will resonate with voters who care about this issue,” Solow said in an interview. “We will meet with supporters who have expressed concerns or want to be briefed on these issues on a one-on-one basis.”
“We got close to 80 percent of the vote among Jewish Americans in 2008, but we had to aggressively bat down efforts to divide the community and to inflame,” David Axelrod told me. “Plainly we have to be at least as assiduous about it this time. If we’re passive in response it would be a mistake.”
Politico’s Smith got in the usual comments, with divisions quickly revealed or satisfied when the name of Dennis Ross is invoked:
The qualms that many Jewish Democrats express about Obama date back to his emergence onto the national scene in 2007. Though he had warm relations with Chicago’s Jewish community, he had also been friends with leading Palestinian activists, unusual in the Democratic establishment. And though he seemed to be trying to take a conventionally pro-Israel stand, he was a novice at the complicated politics of the America-Israel relationship, and his sheer inexperience showed at times.
A Philadelphia Democrat and pro-Israel activist, Joe Wolfson, recalled a similar progression.
“What got me past Obama in the recent election was Dennis Ross — I heard him speak in Philadelphia and I had many of my concerns allayed,” Wolfson said. “Now, I think I’m like many pro-Israel Democrats now who are looking to see whether we can vote Republican.”
Pres. Obama has deep challenges for 2012, but “pro-Israel Democrats” voting Republican isn’t a main one.
Our media is incredibly juvenile when it comes to covering the Middle East. Intramural political gossip substituting for serious mining of the challenges in the region continue to be the norm.
James Zogby noted what’s said around here a lot.
And so, far from being harmless hysteria or just plain dumb, all this posturing can be damaging and dangerous. It is a good part of the reason why we are in the mess we are in the Middle East and why a just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict appears to be so intractable.
Every time the media chooses gossip over big stories like what’s happening surrounding the Gaza flotilla, solving problems in the Middle East gets a little further away, which doesn’t help anyone, especially Israel.
That President Barack Obama would have popularized the phrase “audacity of hope,” after which we named our boat, now seems a cruel hoax, particularly as many of us recalled the high hopes we had once harbored for Obama the candidate. Instead of an “audacity of hope,” Obama the president has often displayed a “paucity of courage.” – Ray McGovern
The politics of “Israel versus the Palestinians,” which is the way the U.S. media reports on this region, as well as how our politicians play it, puts Pres. Obama in an untenable position.