Crazy-Making Discourse On Middle East Peace Efforts

The Onion's brilliant parody on the fate of a government official who had the temerity to criticize Israel, Government Official Who Makes Perfectly Valid Well-Reasoned Point Against Israel Forced To Resign, captures why it is so difficult to have any rational discourse on the Middle East peace process. Politicians have long been fearful of antagonizing not only Israel but American Jewish voters. Now, Republicans are skillfully exploiting this fear for partisan advantage, with the aid of cowering Democrats, by, as Greg Sargent states, "distort[ing] what's actually happening in order to paint Obama as anti-Israel." After President Obama had the audacity to restate the long-established parameters for negotiating a Middle East peace agreement, that the 1967 borders would be the starting point for talks about land swaps, the hysteria inside the Beltway reached epic proportions. As noted in a recent New York Times editorial: While "pandering on Israel in the hopes of winning Jewish support is hardly a new phenomenon in American politics," Republicans, knowing full well that Obama was not calling on Israel to retreat to its 1967 borders, were being "unusually dishonest," while Democrats piled on out of fear that "Republicans will paint them as anti-Israel." How else to explain the 29 standing ovations that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received when he addressed a joint session of Congress May 24th. Unfortunately, as the Jewish Daily Forward notes, Netanyahu's "spirited defense of the status quo and his reluctance to offer a way back to the negotiating table," puts "American Jews in a difficult and uncomfortable situation." By failing to give a speech to "move the process forward, safeguarding Israel's security as he must, but also recognizing the cogent, entirely reasonable requests from the President of the United States," he is driving a wedge between Israeli and American interests. The Republicans, as Rep. Howard Berman (Dem-CA) correctly points out, "in their never-ending quest to try and persuade Jews to shift their voting, have jumped on this to try to exacerbate that split." That is to be expected. What is discouraging is that the Democrats with very few exceptions, are helping them do so by refusing to stand up to the Republicans' manufactured outrage over the President's speech. While, as Steve Benen says, there is "no point in even hoping Republicans will be responsible on this . . . congressional Democrats have to be more sensible – not for Obama's sake, but for the sake of Israel's future and that of the peace process."

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