I have to believe that there is going to be popular backlash against the panderfest we saw last night. At the National Interest, Dimitri Simes, a Cold War realist who later broke with the neocons, issued an appeal to Romney yesterday to ditch his neocon advisers; or he will lose (the debate and presumably the election too). Romney didn’t follow the advice. But Simes’s piece is yet another sign of the great discomfort with the hardline Israel lobby, that even Jane Harman has expressed lately:
[T]o prevail, [Romney] will need to disregard the suggestions of some of his neoconservative foreign-policy advisers, who are out of touch not only with international realities but also with the realities of American politics….
criticizing Obama for “throwing Israel under the bus” and promising to avoid an inch of daylight between Washington and Tel Aviv does not convey tough-minded American patriotism. A commitment to outsource decisions on war and peace to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu may appeal to a small segment of Jewish and evangelical voters, but it is bound to alienate many others in the process.
In the Middle East, President Obama gave false hope to the Palestinians with a dramatic speech in Cairo, but he failed to follow through. The administration now has a credibility problem on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Once Obama demanded an end to new Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority could settle for no less. Peace talks collapsed as a result.
If the Obama administration threw anyone under a bus, it was not Israel but the friendly Mubarak government in Egypt. Mubarak was an imperfect ally and an even more imperfect democrat. But in the context of regional politics, he was trying hard to maintain ties with the United States and keep the peace treaty with Israel. In fact, his commitment to the treaty and his security policies contributed to the popular backlash that triggered his repressive response.