Pseudo-Freeze Ends, Pseudo-Liberals Rejoice

Israel’s mostly-for-show settlement moratorium has expired, over the objections of the liberal pro-Israel group J Street, and the usual suspects on the right couldn’t be happier. More revealing, however, is the sight of Jeffrey Goldberg’s scarcely-concealed gloating over the fact that J Street “lost” the battle over a settlement freeze.

Why revealing? Because Goldberg is perhaps the classic example of the ostensibly “liberal” Zionist pundit who ostentatiously touts his opposition to settlements as proof of his liberal bona fides. By doing so, he hopes to gain greater credibility when he calls for invading Iraq, or bombing Iran, or finishing the job during the Gaza assault. In this he is typical of many Jewish establishment pundits — Alan Dershowitz is another example — who use their nominal opposition to settlements as a fig leaf to cover their generally unquestioning support of the Israeli government. Generally speaking, these pundits did so in the confidence that they would never be forced to act on their statements against settlements.

Thus when the Obama administration actually pushed Israel for a full settlement freeze, their discomfiture was obvious, and most of the leading “liberal” voices of establishment Jewry suddenly got a bad case of stage fright. J Street and Americans for Peace Now were virtually alone in being willing to offer unambiguous public support for the exact policy that they had previously claimed to back. The Goldbergs and Dershowitzes of the world weren’t quite willing to admit that they simply opposed a settlement freeze, so they waffled furiously — it’s just that the timing wasn’t right, you see, and anyway, Israel should at least be allowed to build in the nebulously-defined areas that “everybody knows” it will keep in a peace deal, and anyway, can’t we just change the subject to Iran? (We can see more of this waffling from Goldberg today, as he first timidly proposes a settlement freeze outside of the Greater Jerusalem area — which, of course, exempts an enormous chunk of settlement-building from the “freeze” — before turning the mic over to neocon Robert Satloff to explain why any freeze is a terrible idea.)

This is why Goldberg’s gloating over the failure to impose a settlement freeze is so revealing. Of all the Obama administration’s mistakes in its Israel/Palestine policies, one of the biggest was assuming that the allegedly liberal Zionists in the American Jewish establishment actually supported the goals that they professed to support.

Daniel Luban

Daniel Luban is a postdoctoral associate at Yale University. He holds a PhD in politics from the University of Chicago and was formerly a correspondent in the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service.



  1. It would’ve look like weakness for the Israelis to extend the freeze. Bibi had to take account of colleagues to his right (hard to imagine being to the right of B.N.) Of course, the Israelis have no business building settlements on occupied land in the first place. There is no basis in law for the Israelis to entend their lebensraum.

    Should the Palestinians walk? I know I would have. But whether that would be the smart move is questionable, very questionable.

  2. “Should the Palestinians walk?”

    I think they are walking, very slowly, pausing on the way to ask as many people as possible for support.

    The Palestinians have no partner for peace, and that is the message to get across.

  3. RE: “Israel’s mostly-for-show settlement moratorium has expired…” – Luban
    MY COMMENT: As someone who, after 40 years or so of advocating it, has finally (albeit regrettably) given up on the two-state scenario, I can only say:
    “Damn the torpedoes! Full steam ahead!”
    Elliott Abrams and his ilk have won. Ergo, one state for two (or more) peoples! With justice for all.

  4. Interesting thought, ‘bird. Let’s see if it plays out that way.

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