Updating the American Right’s knowledge of Israeli politics

An interesting commentary was posted on January 3 by the Gatestone Institute. Gatestone describes itself as a ‘non-partisan international policy council and think tank’ and is headed by John Bolton, the one time U.S representative to the UN under President W Bush.

The piece; ‘Could Obama Swing the Israeli Election‘ by Steven J. Rosen is worth a read through.

The author also seems to do a contortion or two in his attempt to make what often are very thinly described analogies between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu; two very different leaders working under very different political, national and international dynamics.

Mr. Rosen’s presentation, I think, is also a good representation of how the continuing efforts by the American corporate right to demean anything and everything about Obama’s foreign policy efforts, and particularly his foreign policy in the Middle East, has clouded America and the West’s ability to respond in a consistent and coherent fashion to Israel and to the Israeli hard Right.

In fact, Obama has done far better than Mr. Rosen claims with regards to the coming Israeli elections as well as the PA’s most recent hapless attempt to ‘legislate’ themselves a country.

Despite the redundant and continuing commentaries out of the American corporate right that Obama would not be (and has not been) strong with regards to his foreign policy mandate, the reality has been quite different. President Obama has, to the chagrin of many of his own supporters, flexed a very strong American muscle to include authorizing far more special operations and drone attacks overseas than could have been imagined.

Mr. Rosen’s commentary identifies a particular concern that Mr. Obama could alter the course of the coming Israeli election through miscalculation. In the process of making this argument, however, Rosen misrepresents not only President Obama but the current state of Israeli politics, the Israeli opposition confronting Netanyahu and key dynamics within the Israeli hard Right.

To start, Rosen’s claim that Obama is simply looking for a ‘compliant partner in Jerusalem’ misrepresents. What Obama and many western leaders and politicians want along with a great many Israelis, for that matter, is an Israeli government which can make hard decisions, is responsive to facts, the reality on the ground and incorporates thought and a real vision for Israel’s future while still remaining collaborative.

So far as I am concerned, it is the cheap non-stop histrionics, resistance even to external supporters, ongoing political miscalculations, delusional language and demands by the Israeli hard Right which is currently far more destabilizing to Israel’s present and future than the PA and Hamas combined.

Mr. Rosen then uses an older Israeli political phrase and makes reference to the ‘Peace Camp’ as a way to categorize the entire and newly evolving Israeli political opposition to that country’s too long in power hard Right.

I think it important to understand that those who do not support bombing Tehran or clearing all the Palestinians out of the Territories cannot simply be dismissed and categorized as Israel’s political ‘Peace Camp.’

The older Israeli ‘left’ (where the ‘Peace Camp’ metaphor is rooted) brought more than enough of its own counterproductive delusions to the table over the years.

The new and still forming Israeli ‘left;’ the opposition to the Israeli hard Right is less ‘left’ and far more just ‘Not the Israeli Hard Right.’ This is another point routinely overlooked.

In fact, key members of what is continuing to be broadly swathed as the Israeli left and ‘Peace Camp’ to include the writer Ari Shavit have actively supported military action against Iran. I’d hardly consider this of the ‘Peace Camp’ mentality.

As Mr. Rosen does point out, Israeli politics and the Middle Eastern environment continue to undergo dramatic change. Beyond this, it is also important for observers to understand that the Israeli opposition have been reframing themselves and making a number of their own self corrections.

In fact, if Netanyahu and the Israeli hard Right had recognized the need for selected areas of self correction, this election may not have even need to have been called.

A potentially new Israeli coalition government which would draw back the power of the hard Right in Israel is not going to simply hand over ‘land for peace’ or revert back to the days of the ‘Peace Camp.’ The new realities of the Middle East and Palestinian – Israeli relations have changed that formula forever.

In a speech a month or so ago, Avigdor Lieberman acknowledged that land, security and peace between Israel and Palestinians are closely interrelated. I doubt if Lieberman will be considered a member of the Israeli ‘Peace Camp’ as a result.

Rosen also incorrectly compared the ‘fatigue’ of Israeli voters with Netanyahu to American voter’s relationship with Obama.

While the ‘fatigue’ of the American electorate far more depends on who is offering the commentary, Israeli fatigue comes from years of civil and social destabilization, economic stressors and a non-stop and escalating confrontation between Israel, the Territories and the global community.

In fact, and barely reported overall, is the point that Israel and Israelis also have significant internal economic concerns and stressors. I find it interesting that these economic factors are almost never referenced in such commentaries.

Due to this gap in reports from Israel, most Americans likely haven’t a clue that Yair Lapid, a direct challenger to Netanyahu, is spending a lot of his time focusing on the Israeli economy rather on the trilogy of Hamas, PA and Iran. That Netanyahu’s vulnerability has been dramatically enhanced by Israeli economic conditions needs to be better represented.

Despite errors, Obama has managed unexpected geo-political volatility carefully and, I think, well overall. Not dropping the 82nd Airborne into Tehran or sending the U.S. military to save the Crimea from Russia has been from Obama’s strength, thoughtfulness and real time deliberation rather than ‘weakness.’

That mistakes have been made by the White House can be added to the raft of foreign policy mishaps and errors by American Presidents since the days of George Washington.

The fact that the America’s interaction with an increasingly charged and volatile global community has forever been changed is part due to the foreign policy mismanagement of previous White House Administrations.

But it is even far more due to so many unpredicted and constantly changing geopolitical variables.Simplicity and the old Cold War mentality of direct state to state military confrontation needs to be left in the trash can of history. Obama has continued to move forward in that regard even as he, and America, still have a ways to go.

While I have also had my own concerns with some of Obama’s work and actions, I’ve been generally impressed with his overall foreign policy framework. Remember, too, that the GOP’s own ‘investigation’ cleared the White House of the previously hysterically claimed culpability in Benghazi. This is but one more example of how Obama and his ‘foreign policy’ continues to be deliberately misrepresented.

Mr. Rosen ends his commentary by the absolutely correct point that ‘friction’ may well not weaken Netanyahu. Here, I’d take it a step further to say ‘friction’ which continues to accentuate military and security issues alone could give Netanyahu the only real card he can play to continue as the Prime Minister.

As I’ve written above, the Israeli ‘left’ (or, more correctly, the ‘Not Israeli Hard Right’) seems have figured that out and has been blending a strong economic message into its presentation.

And the key point that the struggling economic conditions of so many Israelis has a direct track back to military and security issues could well give the ‘Non-Israeli Hard Right’ the real trump card it needs in the coming election.

About the Author
I was born in Baltimore, MD and have since had a wide range of experiences including a year plus in Israel. I've been a progressive organizer, writer/media spokesperson, coordinator and freelance. I am a PhD level Clinical Behavioral Analyst specializing in severe behavioral need in children (and adults) and their families. I write through no ‘agenda or special interest’ other than being a passionate supporter of Israel and Israel's future.
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