Commentary Magazine


Who’s Anti-Israel Now?

Robert Wright has a very inventive blog item at the New York Times website in which he very audaciously if not very convincingly tries to turn the “anti-Israel” moniker back on those of us who don’t think the Obama administration should be bullying Israel into agreeing to a freeze on all building in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a precondition for negotiating with the Palestinians. Normally you would think it’s pretty simple: if you generally support the policies of the state of Israel, you’re pro-Israel. Not so, says Wright, suggesting a higher sort of support — which would involve opposing the policies not only of the Netanyahu government but also of all its predecessors since 1967 that have treated Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel and have allowed construction of housing for both Jews and Arabs within both east and west Jerusalem. He writes:

[T]he more settlements get built — especially in East Jerusalem — the harder it will be to find a two-state deal that leaves Palestinians with much of their dignity intact. And the less dignity intact, the less stable any two-state deal will be. … So, by my lights, being “pro-Israel” in the sense embraced by [Gary] Bauer, [Max] Boot and [Abraham] Foxman — backing Israel’s current policies, including its settlement policies — is actually anti-Israel.

The condescension — and ignorance — implicit in this argument is staggering. Wright suggests that Israel’s elected leaders from all the major parties — all of them united in supporting the construction of housing for Jews at least in traditionally Jewish parts of East Jerusalem — don’t know what’s good for their country. But he does. And anyone who disagrees with him is objectively “anti-Israel.”

Perhaps he could explain why the greatest progress toward a two-state solution was made in the 1990s, when construction continued in the West Bank, and why talks are at a standstill now even though Netanyahu agreed in November to halt all construction in the West Bank (though not in Jerusalem) for 10 months. Perhaps he could explain why Palestinian leaders have repeatedly refused to embrace Israeli offers to turn over almost all the West Bank and even part of Jerusalem in return for a lasting settlement. Or why Israeli concessions such as evacuating the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon have been met with more attacks rather than any lasting peace. But no. The honest answers to those questions might shake his certitude that he knows better than those whose lives are actually on the line about what’s good for them.