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Goldberg’s Folly By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, May 20, 2008

In the New York Times on Sunday, Jeffrey Goldberg, author and national correspondent for The Atlantic, had an oped stressing the need for what he would consider a truly pro-Israel president—“one who prods the Jewish state—publicly, continuously and vociferously—to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state.”


Goldberg says he has sounded out Barack Obama on Israel and found his views too soft. Obama told Goldberg “with seemingly genuine feeling about the post-Holocaust necessity of Israel; about his cultural affinity with Jews…and about his adamant opposition to…Hamas. He offered some mild criticism of the settlement movement (‘not helpful’)….”


It was this that got Goldberg worried that Obama as president might be too gentle with Israel and prompted Goldberg to give his description of what a really “pro-Israel” president would be like.


It’s interesting that for Goldberg, George W. Bush—whom he almost doesn’t mention in the article except to criticize Bush’s failure to criticize Israel while addressing the Knesset last week—clearly falls short of the mark. Bush is the first U.S. president to call for a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, and in 2002 he endorsed—over Israeli objections that he essentially ignored—the “Road Map for Peace,” intended to lead to that result, and has tried to convert it into Israeli policy ever since.


And even if not Bush himself, I would have thought his direct representative Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fit the description of “prod[ing] the Jewish state—publicly, continuously and vociferously—to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state.”


Rice has been here sixteen times in three years to pursue that end, implicitly compared Israelis to whites in the South during Jim Crow and Palestinians to the blacks there, strong-armed Israel into accepting a ruinous agreement on the Gaza-Sinai border, repeatedly pressured Israel to remove checkpoints that Israel’s defense establishment deems essential to preventing suicide bombings, and so on.


Indeed, the U.S. under Bush has trained Palestinian forces to take over security control from the Israeli army in West Bank towns like Nablus and Jenin—over objections of the Israeli defense establishment and even though Palestinian security personnel have repeatedly perpetrated terror attacks on Israelis. And all this—and a lot more—is clearly for Goldberg a hopelessly wimpy U.S. policy that doesn’t begin to approach the real toughness he sees as necessary.


And what is responsible for that alleged lack of assertiveness? In Goldberg’s telling, it’s American Jewish organizations like the Conference of Presidents and AIPAC, which have “allowed the partisans of [Israeli] settlement [of the territories] to conflate support for the colonization of the West Bank with support for Israel itself.” As Goldberg sees it, these organizations prevent presidential candidates like Obama and John McCain from talking bluntly about the “existential” threat that Israel creates to itself with these settlements.


Compared to these American Jewish outfits, Goldberg gives somewhat higher marks to Israeli leaders like Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and former prime minister Ehud Barak. Although they, too, clearly don’t go far enough for him—otherwise he wouldn’t be calling for a steep spike in U.S. pressure—he approvingly quotes Olmert’s recent statement that “Israel is finished” unless it creates a Palestinian state and Barak’s 1999 statement that “Every attempt to keep hold of [Israel and the territories] as one political entity leads, necessarily, to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state.”  


Goldberg also favorably compares the willingness of Israeli leaders like Olmert (and, he could have mentioned, Barak, at least back in 2000) to divide Jerusalem to the staunch opposition to doing so among American Jewish leaders, suggesting that this is a “cosmological” and “axiomatic” position taken by those “who live in Chicago and New York and behind the gates of Boca Raton country clubs.”


To begin with, polls repeatedly show that large majorities of Israelis—those who live on the ground, here—oppose, unlike some of their leaders, dividing Jerusalem. One just last month by Bar-Ilan University found 71 percent of them opposing a deal that would hand Jerusalem’s Old City and Temple Mount to the Palestinians, and 62 percent against discussing Jerusalem’s status in negotiations at all. So much for Goldberg’s metaphysical Jews in their American country clubs.


And while quoting Olmert’s death warrant for Israel, Goldberg leaves out the fact that Olmert—even before the recent escalation in his legal troubles—is the most unpopular Israeli prime minister ever with sometimes single-digit approval ratings, and that polls consistently show him losing a prime ministerial contest to the more security-minded Binyamin Netanyahu. As for Barak, Goldberg could have added some interesting context to his 1999 statement—namely that Barak’s then-concerns for Israel’s political viability, and general eagerness to capitulate, led him to pursue disastrous policies that unleashed the atrocities of the Second Intifada, and later also the devastation of the Second Lebanon War.


But Goldberg—having learned nothing from the blood-drenched  outcomes of Israel’s rash attempts to unload territories up to the current rain of lethal rockets from Gaza—trots out the same hoary “demographic argument” that was one of the key factors in precipitating those attempts. Goldberg, stating that the remaining settlements in the West Bank entail “the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy,” writes in apparent blissful ignorance of the study by the American-Israel Demographic Research Group that has discredited those stock assumptions about demography and the scare stories about it that some Israeli leaders used with such harmful effect.  

That leaves Goldberg’s “moderate Palestinian state” or, as he elsewhere puts it, “The dismantling of settlements is the one step that would buttress the dwindling band of Palestinian moderates in their struggle against the fundamentalists of Hamas.” Since he doesn’t say, one wonders which “moderates” he means—maybe the ones who went to Thursday’s Nakba (Catastrophe) Day celebration in Ramallah on the West Bank, sponsored by the official, Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, while Israelis and visiting dignitaries including President Bush were marking Israel’s Independence Day?

As Jerusalem Post reporter Khaled Abu Toameh describes it,

Chanting “We will return!” thousands of Palestinian school children marched here Thursday…. The rally here was not different from other anti-Israel protests that take place almost…daily…in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.… Many [of the children] were carrying placards with the names of former Arab villages inside Israel.

Both the demonstrators and the speakers took parts in launching scathing attacks on Israel, using almost every available term, including Apartheid State,” “State of Terror” and “State of Nazism.”

There was no mention at all of the peace process, coexistence or even the two-state solution….

“Palestine is all ours,” a group of high school students shouted. “We were here before the Jews who came from Europe, Russia and Ethiopia….”

Yes, those are the “moderates” whom Goldberg wants the next U.S. president to harry Israelis into setting up as their sovereign neighbors, and in whose name Goldberg wants Israelis to destroy towns and villages some of which are decades old. So much for Goldberg’s hypocrisy in accusing other American Jews of being detached from Israeli reality.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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