With the exception of George H.W. Bush, I have heard every president in my lifetime lauded by American Jews as "the best friend Israel ever had," and I have heard every one of them, even Ronald Reagan, denounced as a pawn of the peace process. This Jewish need to believe in the friendship of the highest power in the land is a survival of the political mentality of medieval Jewry, with its preference for "vertical alliances" over any reliance upon the goodwill of the local population--a highly anomalous survival in the American case, in which horizontal alliances, at every level of politics, are a regular feature of Jewish existence. But the reassuring truth is that every president in my lifetime has pursued more or less the same policy toward Israel, according to which Israeli security is to be regarded (in Obama's fine word) as "sacrosanct," and a Palestinian state is to be created out of the occupied territories, and Israeli settlement of the territories is to be discouraged, and a concord of pro-American Arab states is to be encouraged, and so on--in sum, partition, a special relationship, peace, a regional alliance. There have been tonal differences, to be sure, and all these elements may finally not go together--but this is the tradition, and I do not imagine that Obama will deviate from it, or Clinton, or McCain. September 11 drew the United States into a new and deep and justified engagement with the Arab world, and American Jews will have to accustom themselves to this historical complication--but hold the kaddish, because in American presidential politics now there is not an enemy in sight. [emphasis added]Some tradition. What Wieseltier refers to as "a reassuring truth" has become a platitude, a cliche, and ultimately a canned campaign pledge. How reassuring can it be when it has not worked?
But isn't that part of the problem: we had the perpetual Palestinian paradigm of 'land for peace'--a phrase so often repeated and taken for granted that no one seems to have actually asked what that actually means to the Palestinian leaders who supposedly avow it.
Over time, 'land for peace' has morphed into the accepted idea of a two-state solution, the Holy Grail of Middle East peace so sacred that the plan has now become to create the state first and then work out the details afterwards--details like terror infrastructures and the increasing number and range of rockets fired at Israel from Palestinian territory.
Ultimately, Wieseltier's point is that Obama is just like Clinton and McCain when it comes to Israel.
But is that really a good thing?
Technorati Tag: Israel.