Well, not really, but maybe this will contain some food for thought. I consider myself both roughly paleo and pro-Israel and don’t see any contradiction. Israel is a friendly, Western country that had some common interests with the United States during the Cold War and continues to have common interests today. I do not think there are any negotiating partners on the Palestinian side who can deliver anything approaching lasting peace because they either have no real clout among the Palestinian people or they ultimately have bad intentions toward the Israelis (wanting to drive Israel into the sea is not exactly a fringe position among Palestinians today, I’m afraid). Palestinian leaders have fostered a climate of hatred that has frustrated their people’s legitimate ambitions at key moments of the peace process. Israel has the right to defend itself and the United States should not encourage Israelis to endanger their own security.
But I don’t deny that the Palestinians have some real historical grievances and present suffering, not all of their own making. I also acknowledge that the Palestinians’ plight both fuels and helps people try to justify hatred of Jews and pro-Israel Americans throughout the world, especially among Muslims. If the conditions were right and there was responsible Palestinian leadership, I would favor the creation of a Palestinian state. I had high hopes that as leadership transitioned from Yasser Arafat to Mahmoud Abbas that such conditions might begin to develop and we could move forward to creating such a state. Instead Abbas has proved ineffectual at best and Hamas — whose victories were secured after the United States pushed for their inclusion in the Palestinian elections — has gained power.
My point? There are many people whose views are similar to those I sketched above who might disagree on questions like the settlements, the Oslo accords, Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan, the level of foreign aid to Israel, and any number of other specific areas concerning the Middle East. Many of the people who supported the peace process in the 1990s, of which I was deeply and in my view rightly skeptical, considered themselves friends of Israel. That doesn’t mean that all these viewpoints are equally valid or likely to work out in the real world. But it does mean there is a much wider and varied debate about Israel than a debate between Israel’s defenders on side and Hamas and its anti-Semitic amen corner on the other side. Some people favor policies toward Israel that Phil or even I would oppose because they are sincerely convinced such policies are in Israel’s interest.
The Israel-Palestine question is emerging as a permanent partisan dividing line in American politics after years of bipartisan pro-Israel consensus. The Republican Party is likely to identify more with Israeli security interests, the Democrats with Palestinian aspirations. We’re going to have to find a way to debate these issues that recognizes the real breadth of views and motivations that exist.
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