In today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd makes a good attempt at justifying the Obama administration’s recent diplomatic “crisis” with Israel, seemingly encouraging the President to continue down his path (the pull-quote in the print edition reads: “Please, Mr. President, Keep up the heat before peace goes cold”). I commend her for doing so — and maintain that the winds of discourse are shifting — but, ever the nit-picker, I have a few quibbles.
Let’s leave aside for a moment that the sole “analyst” she uses in the article is Jeffrey Goldberg, an actual partisan in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — literally, he served in the IDF during the first intifada. (See here and here for some recent comments I’ve had on Goldberg, Juan Cole’s skewering of Goldberg here and, in the interest of fairness, Goldberg’s reply to Cole here.)
But my problems with Dowd’s analysis start higher up in her piece. A sentence in her fourth paragraph reads:
Obama is so unpopular in Israel that he has nothing to lose by smacking our ally for its egregious treatment of the vice president.
“Nothing to lose”? Maureen Dowd has never heard of the Israel Lobby? Hasn’t she read Walt and Mearsheimer? But she doesn’t need to take their word for it (they’re not uncontroversial, wrong as that may be). Just ask neocon John Podhoretz, the pro-war, pro-settlement editor of Commentary (my emphasis):
The word we keep hearing from Washington is that in the upcoming congressional elections there is an “enthusiasm gap” developing between resurgent Republicans and somewhat dispirited Democrats in the run-up to the 2010 midterms. That ‘enthusiasm gap’ is not just anecdotal; it’s also about organization, which means it’s about money. It’s no secret that a wildly disproportionate part of the Democratic donor base is Jewish. While Jews are almost certain to continue to vote lopsidedly for Democrats, that doesn’t mean Jewish donors are going to open their checkbooks as widely as they have in the past three election cycles. A diminution in Jewish enthusiasm for Obama and the Democrats is a problem for them. This is not a good moment to be picking fights on an issue of major emotional concern to a key Democratic constituency, even if you know that many of its members are not disposed to support the building program.
Podhoretz wants American Jews to forget about the settlements, and stop giving money to Democrats because of Obama’s supposed ill-treatment of Israel. Well, that’s what he hopes for, at least.
Or, if you please, Maureen, go to the horse’s mouth. There is a little lobby in Washington you may have heard of. It’s called AIPAC. Well, back in the day, it formed a think-tank — the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP). This group’s Arab politics expert, David Schenker, was recently on a television program discussing ‘The Row.’ Another guest on the program, Steve Clemons, recounted on his blog* that:
Schenker’s view was that Obama couldn’t afford to have a testy, strained relationship with Israel because it would cost him support in Congress for his health care legislation.
“Nothing to lose,” Maureen? Except for Jewish donations to Democrats (which make up nearly 60 percent of the party’s presidential coffers — according to the Washington Post) and votes from Congress on health care reform.
(*To be fair, Schenker sent Clemons an e-mail disputing this characterization of his remarks — you can read it at the bottom of the post. As of yet, however, there is no transcript or video, so I’ll let that be that, for now.)