Commentary Magazine


Topic: Danny Ayalon

Wahhabi Intolerance in the 21st Century

In early 2011, along with a handful of other American journalists, I interviewed Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Jerusalem. Ayalon pressed the need for recognition of Israel on the part of the Palestinian leadership–but not in English or Hebrew. “Say it in Arabic, to your own children and to your own people,” Ayalon had said. The habit of Arab leaders to say one thing in English and another in Arabic has been a hallmark of Palestinian politics perfected by Yasir Arafat, and it’s long been a sticking point in Israel’s objection to Palestinian media manipulation.

“Say it in Arabic” encompasses more than just the Palestinian Authority. American intelligence agencies have been unusually public about their need for Arabic speakers. The language barrier gives Arab leaders unrestrained leeway to say whatever they want, and tracking what these leaders say in Arabic to their home audiences has been an essential part of attempting to hold these leaders accountable. So it’s encouraging to see a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies spearheaded by FDD’s vice president for research (and COMMENTARY contributor) Jonathan Schanzer.

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In early 2011, along with a handful of other American journalists, I interviewed Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in Jerusalem. Ayalon pressed the need for recognition of Israel on the part of the Palestinian leadership–but not in English or Hebrew. “Say it in Arabic, to your own children and to your own people,” Ayalon had said. The habit of Arab leaders to say one thing in English and another in Arabic has been a hallmark of Palestinian politics perfected by Yasir Arafat, and it’s long been a sticking point in Israel’s objection to Palestinian media manipulation.

“Say it in Arabic” encompasses more than just the Palestinian Authority. American intelligence agencies have been unusually public about their need for Arabic speakers. The language barrier gives Arab leaders unrestrained leeway to say whatever they want, and tracking what these leaders say in Arabic to their home audiences has been an essential part of attempting to hold these leaders accountable. So it’s encouraging to see a new report from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies spearheaded by FDD’s vice president for research (and COMMENTARY contributor) Jonathan Schanzer.

With the understanding that in the age of social media it’s no longer sufficient just to analyze Arab leaders’ public speeches and sermons in mind, FDD contracted with the Washington-based technology firm ConStrat to analyze six months worth of Twitter, Facebook, and other social media messages from Saudi clerics in English and Arabic. The result is contained in the in-depth report, written by Schanzer and FDD research associate Steven Miller, “Facebook Fatwa: Saudi Clerics, Wahhabi Islam and Social Media.” The whole report is worth reading, as is this interview the Jerusalem Post conducted with Schanzer, but the report makes clear there have been both promising and troubling trends:

The tone and tenor of the conversations ConStrat coded was mixed, but was generally marked by an absence of overt militancy. This does not, however, indicate an absence of intolerant or xenophobic positions. According to the data scored with ConStrat’s proprietary VX software, views that were hostile to America, the West, and non-Muslim or secular cultures represented nearly 52 percent of the English data, while in Arabic they represented 75 percent….

Saudi Arabia’s success in reducing militant online content is a positive sign that the Saudi government can, when sufficiently motivated, temper the radicalism that percolates in the kingdom. This is also a sign that when the U.S. properly applies pressure, it can have a noticeable impact.

However, the kingdom’s recent attempts to convince the West that it is promoting “religious tolerance” and embracing change do not resonate with the content mined during this study.

As Schanzer told the Post, that’s not a lot of violence, but it’s an overwhelming amount of intolerance and misogyny. And it explains why Ayalon’s appeal to “say it in Arabic” remains good advice for proponents of true peace and reform in the Arab world.

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Israel to Consider Law Allowing Deportation of Foreign Activists

Get ready for more hyperventilating over Israel’s alleged slide toward totalitarianism. Likud members are expected to introduce a bill before the Knesset that will allow the Israeli government to deport foreign activists or groups that are actively working against Israeli interests:

The bill would authorize the interior minister “to forbid entrance to Israel or to expel from Israel people defined as enemy agents who harm Israel’s security or image,” the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said.

It details specific types of activities defined as harming Israel’s security, including denying the existence of the Holocaust, boycotting Israel or Israeli products, and working to hold international court proceedings against Israeli citizens because of activities carried out while serving in Israel’s security organizations.

This bill comes on the heels of another piece of controversial legislation recently passed by the Knesset that will allow lawmakers to investigate whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization campaign are funded by foreign governments. It’s unclear how much support this new proposal will garner, but the NGO bill passed with overwhelming support.

It sounds like this new legislation would go hand-in-hand with the NGO investigations. If the Knesset finds that some anti-Israel organizations are supported by foreign governments, the new bill could give Israel the power to bar these groups from operating within the country, or even to deport their members.

Israel has been struggling to combat the growing problem of “lawfare” and pro-divestment groups in the past few years, and these attempts to solve the crisis are understandable. But considering the amount of hysteria the recent NGO bill generated, it doesn’t seem like the most opportune time for this proposal. Not to mention, this new piece of legislation goes far beyond the concept of a Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was how Danny Ayalon defended the necessity of the NGO bill.

The idea of deporting foreign agents actively involved in seeking the destruction of Israel isn’t particularly offensive in itself — but the big question is how would these agents be defined? And where is the line between the legitimate defense of national security and a crackdown on speech rights and genuine democratic debate? Unless the Knesset comes up with clear answers to those questions, it’s hard to see this proposal as a step in the right direction.

Get ready for more hyperventilating over Israel’s alleged slide toward totalitarianism. Likud members are expected to introduce a bill before the Knesset that will allow the Israeli government to deport foreign activists or groups that are actively working against Israeli interests:

The bill would authorize the interior minister “to forbid entrance to Israel or to expel from Israel people defined as enemy agents who harm Israel’s security or image,” the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel said.

It details specific types of activities defined as harming Israel’s security, including denying the existence of the Holocaust, boycotting Israel or Israeli products, and working to hold international court proceedings against Israeli citizens because of activities carried out while serving in Israel’s security organizations.

This bill comes on the heels of another piece of controversial legislation recently passed by the Knesset that will allow lawmakers to investigate whether NGOs involved in the delegitimization campaign are funded by foreign governments. It’s unclear how much support this new proposal will garner, but the NGO bill passed with overwhelming support.

It sounds like this new legislation would go hand-in-hand with the NGO investigations. If the Knesset finds that some anti-Israel organizations are supported by foreign governments, the new bill could give Israel the power to bar these groups from operating within the country, or even to deport their members.

Israel has been struggling to combat the growing problem of “lawfare” and pro-divestment groups in the past few years, and these attempts to solve the crisis are understandable. But considering the amount of hysteria the recent NGO bill generated, it doesn’t seem like the most opportune time for this proposal. Not to mention, this new piece of legislation goes far beyond the concept of a Foreign Agents Registration Act, which was how Danny Ayalon defended the necessity of the NGO bill.

The idea of deporting foreign agents actively involved in seeking the destruction of Israel isn’t particularly offensive in itself — but the big question is how would these agents be defined? And where is the line between the legitimate defense of national security and a crackdown on speech rights and genuine democratic debate? Unless the Knesset comes up with clear answers to those questions, it’s hard to see this proposal as a step in the right direction.

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Is Israel’s Controversial NGO Law Simply a ‘Foreign Agent Registration Act’?

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs, Danny Ayalon, has written a persuasive defense of the Knesset’s new inquiry panel that will investigate whether Israeli NGOs involved in the anti-Israel delegitimization movement are funded by foreign governments. Critics of the initiative have compared it to McCarthyism and say that it unfairly targets groups for their political beliefs. But Ayalon argues that the law is no different from the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act:

The Knesset panel of inquiry is simply about transparency. If there are groups who receive funds from foreign nations then the Israeli public deserves the right to know. Some voices have mistakenly declared that this type of inquiry is reminiscent of undemocratic regimes. Perhaps they should take a look at America’s Foreign Agents Registration Act which is, according to the U.S. Department of Justice website, a “disclosure statute that requires persons acting as agents of foreign principals in a political or quasi-political capacity to make periodic public disclosure of their relationship with the foreign principal, as well as activities, receipts and disbursements in support of those activities.”

But while FARA laws apply equally to all individuals and organizations, regardless of political affiliation, it’s unclear whether Israel’s new law will apply only to groups involved in the delegitimization movement. Plus, FARA rules put the onus on foreign agents to register and disclose their own affiliations, while the whole concept of an investigative government panel is much more proactive. The American Jewish Committee, which normally doesn’t comment on Israeli domestic policy, issued a harsh criticism of the new initiative yesterday.

“The selective targeting of groups critical of the IDF runs counter to Israel’s legal and political tradition, and does no service to the one state that is a beacon of democracy in the Middle East,” said AJC executive director David Harris in a press release. “If there is a concern that foreign, and possibly malign, forces are funding civic or political groups in Israel, then let there be a debate on the advisability of requiring full disclosure of the revenues, and their sources, of all such groups across the political spectrum.”

I definitely applaud the idea of a FARA law for Israel, but I agree with the AJC that the policy shouldn’t be based on the politics of the organization. News reports have indicated that the law singles out left-wing delegitimization groups; but from Ayalon’s defense, I get the sense that it applies to all NGOs. Of course, the Knesset obviously doesn’t have time to investigate every NGO in Israel, and I’m sure politics will play a sizable role in which organizations ultimately get scrutinized.

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A Two-State Solution but Not Two Peoples?

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has long been the poster child for Palestinian moderation toward Israel, but his transparent attempts to manufacture a domestic constituency (as opposed to his considerable cheering section in the United States) are rapidly undermining the notion that he is a stalwart advocate of peace. Earlier this year, he staged a photo opportunity in which he led the burning of Israeli goods that he wished Palestinians to boycott. Now he is refusing to pay even lip service to the idea that a two-state solution to the conflict would allow one of those states to be the home of the Jews.

According to the Jerusalem Post, Fayyad stormed out of a United Nations committee meeting in New York and canceled a scheduled joint press conference with Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister, because Ayalon refused to sign off on a summary of the encounter that mentioned the goal of the negotiation as being “two states” but that also did not include the phrase “two states for two peoples.”

Some peace processors have viewed Ayalon as a troublemaker, but he does not deserve to be blamed for upsetting the Americans’ favorite Palestinian. During the course of this round of peace talks — and every previous one — the Palestinians have always refused to accept the idea that a final resolution of the conflict will recognize Israel as a Jewish state, even as they demand that the other half of the two-state solution be recognized not only as a Palestinian state but one in which no Jews or Jewish community will be permitted to dwell. The “moderate” Fayyad has now apparently extended this lack of recognition to not even acknowledging that another people has a right to live there either. As Ayalon put it, “If the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about and … if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

The point here is more than mere sophistry. If the peace talks do not result in recognition of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, then the conflict will not be over. While some groups are putting pressure on Israel to concede its right to build in disputed territories prior to even the start of negotiations (such as the left-wing lobby J Street, which published a full page ad in the New York Times today demanding that Israel freeze settlements without mentioning any corresponding concessions from the Palestinians), the PA won’t even admit that a two-state solution will allow for one of the two to be Jewish. One needn’t be a peace-process cynic to understand that what is going on now is a charade, not a genuine negotiation.

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Obama Boxed In

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems. Read More

Obama has been postponing the inevitable — the eventual realization that there is no Middle East peace agreement to be had at this stage (or any time soon). For reasons that not even the PA can fathom, the Obami chirped optimistically about the prospects for success. Somehow, the Obama team expected to keep everyone in the room to at least continue talking and mask the failure of his Middle East policy. Obama would publicly pressure Bibi on the settlement moratorium. He would plead with Abbas. And if the talks ended, the blame could be placed (after all, the groundwork has already been laid) on Bibi.

Unfortunately for Obama, Bibi and Israel’s supporters wised up this time around. As I noted yesterday, Bibi has already made clear that the basic issue is not settlements but Abbas’s refusal to recognize the Jewish state and give up the dream of a one-state solution. Bibi is laying some groundwork of his own, it seems.

Deputy Prime Minister Danny Ayalon got into the act, too:

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad angrily left a UN Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee  meeting and canceled a scheduled subsequent press conference with Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon in New York on Tuesday, after Ayalon refused to approve a summary of the meeting which said “two states” but did not include the words “two states for two peoples.”

“What I say is that if the Palestinians are not willing to talk about two states for two peoples, let alone a Jewish state for Israel, then there’s nothing to talk about,” Ayalon told the Post in a telephone interview. “And also, I said if the Palestinians mean, at the end of the process, to have one Palestinian state and one bi-national state, this will not happen.”

But that wasn’t all. As this report makes clear, Israel’s American supporters have been busy — and clever:

A bipartisan group of senators are circulating a new letter urging President Obama to speak out publicly to pressure the Palestinian leadership not to abandon the Middle East peace talks.

The new initiative comes ahead of the Sept. 26 deadline expiration of Israel’s 10-month settlement construction moratorium, which presents the first obstacle to the direct peace talks being spearheaded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly stated that he will withdraw from the negotiations if settlement construction resumes, but Israeli leaders have been equally adamant that they will not extend the moratorium.

President Obama has told Jewish leaders to ignore negative public statements by Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas, calling it all part of the diplomatic game. But the administration has publicly called on Israel to extend the freeze, at least in part.

Lawmakers, who have also bristled at the administration’s public pressure on Netanyahu, are now calling on Obama to make it clear to Abbas that even if the freeze isn’t extended, he should stay at the table.

It is a not-so-subtle message from lawmakers (Barbara Boxer, Robert Casey, Johnny Isakson, and Richard Burr are the initial sponsors, more signatories are expected) that there will be little patience with finger-pointing at Bibi should/when the talks collapse:

“Obviously this is a direct message to President Abbas, and President Obama, that many in Congress … want the Palestinian leadership to stop making what they see as threats and to put public pressure on the Palestinian Authority to move their position,” said one Capitol Hill insider who had seen the letter.

“Many Capitol Hill office see Abbas quitting the talks over the settlements as him using the same issue he was clinging to when trying to set preconditions for the talks in the first place.”

No, these letters don’t just appear on their own, so credit goes not only to the clear-minded senators but also to pro-Israel advocates who decided it would be much more productive to box in Obama than to gloss over his anti-Israel moves (e.g., opening the door to a UN investigation of the flotilla incident). This is, I would suggest, one more sign that Obama’s prestige and authority are slipping fast. Lawmakers and Jewish groups aren’t about to put up with Obama’s Israel-bashing any longer and have decided that they’ve carried enough water for him when it comes to the Middle East.

For more than 18 months, Obama and his hapless envoy, George Mitchell, have made zero progress in promoting peace in the Middle East. Rather, they have strained relations with Israel, raised and then dashed the Palestinians’ hopes, annoyed American Jews, and emphasized the growing alienation of Obama from his own party. If friends of Israel thought it would help, they might suggest that Mitchell join Larry Summers in the “retired in failure” club. But so long as Obama is in the Oval office, there is little possibility that our Middle East diplomacy will get any smarter. Let’s pray it doesn’t get worse.

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Obami’s Latest Israel Gambit Flops

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

Once again, the Obami’s bullying has come to naught. Bibi Netanyahu and his government are not amused nor persuaded by the Obami onslaught over Jerusalem housing permits or the suggestion that an imposed peace deal might be in the offing. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government said it would reject any moves by the Obama administration to set its own timeline and benchmarks for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, potentially establishing a new fault line between the U.S. and Israel. … Senior White House officials, such as National Security Adviser James Jones, have also discussed recently the prospects of Washington proposing its own Mideast plan, though U.S. diplomats stressed this past week that such a move wasn’t imminent or agreed upon.

These developments have rankled Mr. Netanyahu’s government, which is already at odds with Mr. Obama over the issue of Jewish building in disputed East Jerusalem.

“I don’t believe this will be accepted by the administration because it will be a grave mistake. … The solution has to be homegrown,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal late Sunday. …

“The longstanding Israeli position, not of this government only, but of successive Israeli governments, is that the Israelis and the Palestinians have to live together in peace and that an agreement has to be negotiated between them directly,” said a senior Netanyahu administration official.

Of course this was entirely foreseeable. So once again one must ask of the Obami Israel policy: what is the point? Rather than absorb the lessons of 2009 — that the Israeli government cannot be strong-armed and that Bibi’s government can’t be toppled by the likes of Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, and Obama — the Obami have repeated and intensified their efforts to squeeze our ally. Yes, maybe this time we can use Jerusalem to pry them loose! Ah, the threat of an imposed peace — that’ll do it! But alas, all we’ve done, apparently is create a wedge between the U.S. and our ally, communicated to the Palestinians that they should just hold firm, and telegraphed to Israel’s neighbors that we are flaky friends.

The Obami now have two options. First, as they did with the settlement gambit, they can simply fold up their tents and go back to endless, fruitless rounds of shuttle diplomacy. Alternatively, they can try out their latest, already rejected brainstorm and see if maybe, just maybe, the Israelis will finally cave. In all of this, the Obami have set themselves apart from every prior administration, both in the degree to which they would willingly damage the U.S.-Israel relationship and in the inanity of their diplomatic efforts. It is proof positive that dramatic, even “historic” change can be a very dangerous thing.

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RE: Defending the Gaza 54

A reader of Jeffrey Goldberg argues that Israel’s government shouldn’t have “snubbed” J Street’s sponsored delegation of congressmen, arguing that this is somehow an embarrassment for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. (Why? Because five congressmen who call for lifting the Gaza blockade and who reflexively vote against Israel should be rewarded with attention?) The reader, however, then makes a U-turn toward reason, arguing:

There’s a fine line between pushing a friend to do something that you believe is in her best interest and taking pleasure in sticking your finger in the eye of someone who has the audacity not to see the correctness of your position. I believe that J-Street crosses that line. So while I couldn’t claim that they are anti-Israel — not like, say, Syria — I certainly don’t see them as friends of mine. And especially now, with Israel’s precarious diplomatic position, we could use less “friends” causing us harm (like being the catalyst of the stir with the congressmen in the first place) in the name of friendship.

So if J Street is no friend of “ours” — presumably, friends of Israel — then why should Israel meet and greet with its handpicked congressional delegation? Israel is not obligated to bolster the credibility of those who take positions antagonistic to its interests. The congressmen do not represent the official position of the U.S. government nor are they offering Israel anything of benefit. (Unlike an Arab state, J Street doesn’t really have anything Israel might be remotely be interested in obtaining or discussing.)

The J Streeters are there to create the appearance that J Street is something that it is not (supportive of Israel’s fundamental interests) and that it is able to influence American and Israeli decision makers. Israeli leaders have figured out, just as Goldberg’s reader has, that the J Street gang is causing harm (to the extent the group is relevant at all) “in the name of friendship.” J Street can take whatever positions it wants. It can call itself pro-Israel or pro-anti-mullah or anti-neocon or anything else it chooses. But Israel doesn’t have to buy it and doesn’t have to encourage the pantomime of those who always seem to be on the side of those seeking to enfeeble the Jewish state.

A reader of Jeffrey Goldberg argues that Israel’s government shouldn’t have “snubbed” J Street’s sponsored delegation of congressmen, arguing that this is somehow an embarrassment for Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. (Why? Because five congressmen who call for lifting the Gaza blockade and who reflexively vote against Israel should be rewarded with attention?) The reader, however, then makes a U-turn toward reason, arguing:

There’s a fine line between pushing a friend to do something that you believe is in her best interest and taking pleasure in sticking your finger in the eye of someone who has the audacity not to see the correctness of your position. I believe that J-Street crosses that line. So while I couldn’t claim that they are anti-Israel — not like, say, Syria — I certainly don’t see them as friends of mine. And especially now, with Israel’s precarious diplomatic position, we could use less “friends” causing us harm (like being the catalyst of the stir with the congressmen in the first place) in the name of friendship.

So if J Street is no friend of “ours” — presumably, friends of Israel — then why should Israel meet and greet with its handpicked congressional delegation? Israel is not obligated to bolster the credibility of those who take positions antagonistic to its interests. The congressmen do not represent the official position of the U.S. government nor are they offering Israel anything of benefit. (Unlike an Arab state, J Street doesn’t really have anything Israel might be remotely be interested in obtaining or discussing.)

The J Streeters are there to create the appearance that J Street is something that it is not (supportive of Israel’s fundamental interests) and that it is able to influence American and Israeli decision makers. Israeli leaders have figured out, just as Goldberg’s reader has, that the J Street gang is causing harm (to the extent the group is relevant at all) “in the name of friendship.” J Street can take whatever positions it wants. It can call itself pro-Israel or pro-anti-mullah or anti-neocon or anything else it chooses. But Israel doesn’t have to buy it and doesn’t have to encourage the pantomime of those who always seem to be on the side of those seeking to enfeeble the Jewish state.

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