Obama Goldberg’s liberal Zionist lament

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 28 Comments

Jeffrey Goldberg has an odd piece for Bloomberg that offers a view from the White House of U.S.-Israeli relations. Goldberg reports (or intuits?) what President Obama thinks about Benjamin Netanyahu and affirms Obama’s approach to the U.S.-Israeli relationship. It’s difficult to tell where the reporting ends and the commentary begins in the article, it reads like Goldberg’s message for Israel as told through the President. The two are seamlessly molded into one generalized representative of the American liberal Zionist consensus — Obama Goldberg. The takeaway is that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are” and that the current government’s policies will only deepen Israel’s international isolation:

In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.

And if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah — one that alienates even the affections of the U.S., its last steadfast friend — it won’t survive. Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival; Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.

Does Obama think Israel won’t survive? Or Goldberg? Or both? Either way Obama Goldberg sees apartheid and sanctions in the future:

Obama, since his time in the Senate, has been consistent in his analysis of Israel’s underlying challenge: If it doesn’t disentangle itself from the lives of West Bank Palestinians, the world will one day decide it is behaving as an apartheid state.

Again, I’ve never seen Obama use this language. Goldberg has and is clearly concerned about Israel’s future. He (or Obama) also believes he has a handle on what Israel’s “best interests” are:

But what Obama wants is recognition by Netanyahu that Israel’s settlement policies are foreclosing on the possibility of a two-state solution, and he wants Netanyahu to acknowledge that a two-state solution represents the best chance of preserving the country as a Jewish-majority democracy. Obama wants, in other words, for Netanyahu to act in Israel’s best interests.

This is an American liberal Zionist definition of Israel’s best interests, and appears to be completely out of touch with the desire of Israelis. One of the best aspects of David Remnick’s current article for the New Yorker is that it lays bare the widening gulf between the imaginary Israel conjured by American liberal Zionists and the racist anti-democratic reality ascendant in Israeli politics. Compare Goldberg’s two-state plea to Remnick’s description from the ground:

Leaders of the traditional peace camp hardly conceal their gloom. Hagit Ofran, the director of the Settlement Watch project of the once influential Peace Now movement, told me, “Our fight today is not so much to persuade the Israeli public that we need two states. The biggest challenge is to ward off the despair and the indifference.”

Palestinians who are still in favor of a two-state solution and who have worked with Israelis over the years watch the elections with anxiety. “This is all very bad news for the Palestinians,” Ghassan Khatib, the vice-president of Birzeit University, in Palestine, told me. “If Netanyahu and this new crowd come to power, there will be two casualties—the Palestinian Authority and the two-state solution. The simple practical changes on the ground—the settlement projects, the daily incidents of settler violence against our people—just do not allow for a two-state solution. Also, the radicalization of public opinion in Israel and the radicalization of the leadership reinforce each other. And that, of course, has an influence on public opinion in Palestine. The percentage of people here who support armed struggle is going up for the first time after ten years of decline. The Palestinian majority is still in favor of a two-state solution, but hopes are fading all the time.”

Right-wing politicians listen to all this and smile. They are delighted. They are emboldened. Danny Danon, a Likud leader who recently suggested that, for every rocket launched by Hamas, Israel “delete” one neighborhood in Gaza, said to me, “I tell my colleagues on the left in the Knesset, ‘You are an endangered species. We’ll build a nature reserve for you.’ ”

Given this, Obama Goldberg really expects Netanyahu to “acknowledge that a two-state solution represents the best chance of preserving the country as a Jewish-majority democracy”? Maybe he hasn’t noticed but Netanyahu can’t run away from his Bar Ilan speech fast enough. Goldberg has missed the story — democracy is out of vogue, annexation is in. Remnick has a shocking, and clarifying, quote from settler leader Benny Katzover, “I would say that today Israeli democracy has one central mission, and that is to disappear. Israeli democracy has finished its historical role, and it must be dismantled and bow before Judaism.” In the past Goldberg has dismissed people like Katzover as outliers, but they are closer to the center of Israeli power than ever before. What is Obama Goldberg to do?

28 Responses

  1. ritzl
    January 15, 2013, 4:34 pm

    Very insightful!

    So what are the signs to look for that indicate the cognitive dissonance for libzios is becoming acute?

    Goldberg may be a special case, but this seeming inability to separate personas you point out here would appear to me to be one. For Goldberg anyway.

    Is what you point out in Goldberg’s case showing up elsewhere in your conversations within the “community?” Small, but nonetheless distinguishable, cracks in the PeP persona?

    I don’t know, so just askin’.

    Good one, Adam!

  2. Rusty Pipes
    January 15, 2013, 4:38 pm

    Here’s Al Akhbar’s take:

    The Jewish-American journalist reportedly acts as a favored messenger between the United States and Israel.

    Goldberg wrote that Obama regards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “political coward,” too focused on securing settler votes and unwilling to “spend political capital” for a compromise.

    Goldberg’s article has been widely cited in Israeli media, but Al-Akhbar cannot verify the authenticity of his sources.

    • Hostage
      January 15, 2013, 11:41 pm

      Goldberg wrote that Obama regards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “political coward,” too focused on securing settler votes and unwilling to “spend political capital” for a compromise.

      No, Israeli Prime Ministers deliberately employ the pretense that their constituencies or coalition partners won’t let them make compromises (that they themselves oppose). In the case of Netanyahu, he doesn’t even conceal that fact that no one will stop him from building settlements and that it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks about that.

      • Mooser
        January 16, 2013, 2:40 pm

        Hostage, if you wouldn’t mind, have you seen the report featured here from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network”?
        I am surpised the post has drawn no reaction, as of yet. Is it half as significant as I think it is, or much less so? It’s hard for me to evaluate. Not that we should discuss it in this thread, of course, plenty space over there.

      • Hostage
        January 16, 2013, 6:38 pm

        Is it half as significant as I think it is, or much less so? It’s hard for me to evaluate.

        The paper is based upon published sources from the 1980s. The role of the defense sector in the US or Israeli economies and the fact that both profit from exporting arms and services from homeland security type consultants that support repressive regimes is true enough.

        I don’t think that the description of the conspiracy to control Arab oil really applies to the world commodities market as it exists these days (not that the US government hasn’t used the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of its nefarious efforts to obtain exclusive oil and gas concessions or easements for pipeline construction).

      • talknic
        January 17, 2013, 11:09 am

        Hostage

        At last Digitized Palestine Gazette

        link to sesame.library.yale.edu:8080

        link to sesame.library.yale.edu

      • Hostage
        January 18, 2013, 3:15 am

        Hostage At last Digitized Palestine Gazette

        Thanks! There goes my spare reading time for the next couple of months;-)

        *al-Jarīdah al-rasmīyah.
        *Official gazette O.E.T.A. (South). (1919-23.)
        *Official gazette of the government of Palestine (1924-1931)
        * The Palestine gazette: official gazette of the government of Palestine. (1932-1948)

      • MRW
        January 18, 2013, 9:57 am

        It’s more than getting concessions, Hostage. It’s about draining everyone’s resources before we use our own. It was a national security and military decision to open up Prudhoe Bay in 1973 because of the advances in slant-drilling. National Security and military officials were terrified that the Soviets could get ahold of one of the machines and drain the huge field that is under both US land and extreme-eastern Russian waters. So we got there first. There are other huge massive fields there (particularly NE of Prudhoe, already determined but capped, 100% in US territory) but they are separate, not co-joining Prudhoe’s fields. If the Russian threat had not been there, we would never have opened Prudhoe.

        After all, the number one national security item is fuel. Fuel for consumer consumption is a convenience of overstock. (The all-in-cost for gas in Afghanistan for the troops/tanks/living is $400/gallon.)

        This change in strategic policy thinking was in the 60s. Reagan did a similar thing with Leo Wanta draining Russian coffers through geo-economic shenanigans. Now China threatens the balance of energy and fuel power that the USA thought it was dictating globally; hence, the US hands on its hips lately about China being its next area of concentration. The recently discovered and massive oil fields NE of the Banda Sea. US corps were all over it as soon as it was announced inadvertently a few years ago when an ostensible pleasure craft with oil execs and Rothschild was reported in the late August press. It was an inadvertent paparazzi at a port of call who gave it away by shooting pictures of the swags as they were going ashore for some partying. Clever oil-biz reporters searched the global oil leases for combinations involving the boat attendees, shell companies within shell holding companies, and knowledge of the massive fields discovery became public…for about a day. Not that the fields are unknown, but knowledge of their existence is kept as secret as possible for as long as possible until all permits and international laws are complied with.

      • MRW
        January 18, 2013, 10:42 am

        That’s also why we’re trying to drain as much oil out of the Canadian Oil Sands to Houston to sell it overseas. We don’t need all the oil we’re getting from Canada. The US (via the US oil companies who are the majority operators in the Oil Sands) doesn’t want China, which already owns 7% (perhaps more, but intent on buying more) of the leases, to siphon off the oil for its huge energy needs. Problem is the public is against transporting it here. A proposed Alberta to the Pacific Coast pipeline is getting local pushback there. The US is at a standstill and must protect the Indonesian fields; recent presidential announcements has made that clear in the political vernacular. Only one thing can break the psychological logjam about the Oil Sands pipeline. Watch for reported global warming abatements and slowdowns to lessen the threat. The first subtle salvo from Dr. James Hansen came out on the 15th, this week, from NASA GISS: global warming at a standstill for a decade, “flat.” (pg.4)

      • Mooser
        January 20, 2013, 12:04 pm

        “The paper is based upon published sources from the 1980s.”

        Thanks for responding, Hostage. Appreciated.

  3. Stephen Shenfield
    January 15, 2013, 4:39 pm

    The Katzover quote is from today’s Ha-aretz (Jan 15) and originally from an interview he gave Beit Mashiach (House of the Messiah), a journal of the messianic faction of the Chabad Movement. They want democracy replaced by a “halachic state” based on Jewish law (halacha). That means a Jewish king (ideally the Messiah himself) advised by a restored Sanhedrin (rabbinical council). In fact, a body that claims this status is already in existence, and its supporters seek “as a first step” to insert it into the current state structure as the new supreme court and simultaneously as an upper house of the Knesset.

    There are also settlers who propose establishing a halachic state first in the West Bank in the event of an Israeli withdrawal. This sounds infeasible but I suggest the following scenario as a possibility. Suppose Israel officially withdraws under mounting international pressure and the settlers then declare their own even-more-Jewish state in “Judea and Samaria.” Officially this second Zionist state would be quite separate from Israel, and Israel would disavow all responsibility for it. But in reality it would remain closely connected with Israel and receive support from Israel as well as through its own network of backers abroad. Parallels would be the Serbian republic inside Bosnia and Nagorno-Karabakh in relation to Armenia.

    As Adam says, these people are no longer marginal, and the further Israeli politics lurches to the right the greater their influence will be. So it might be worth paying some attention to their aims and strategies.

    • Hostage
      January 15, 2013, 11:49 pm

      There are also settlers who propose establishing a halachic state first in the West Bank in the event of an Israeli withdrawal. This sounds infeasible but I suggest the following scenario as a possibility.

      I’ve commented on that in the past. It would allow Israel to officially wash its hands of any responsibility to evacuate the settlements, since it could be considered a violation of the prohibition against the threat or use of force against another state.

      *http://mondoweiss.net/2012/12/video-gurvitz-says-settlers-threaten-to-detonate-a-civil-war.html#comment-521564
      *http://mondoweiss.net/2011/09/the-declaration-of-the-jewish-authority-in-eretz-yisrael.html#comment-364450

      • Mooser
        January 16, 2013, 2:43 pm

        “It would allow Israel to officially wash its hands of any responsibility to evacuate the settlements”

        Gosh! And any obligation to supply or defend the settlements wouldn’t exist, either. Well, unless the Halachic State and the Jewish State had a mutual-defense treaty, or something.

      • Hostage
        January 16, 2013, 5:57 pm

        Gosh! And any obligation to supply or defend the settlements wouldn’t exist, either.

        LOL! Perhaps not, but there’s still civil liability for damages under the anti-boycott law until it gets repealed. So the lights and water will stay on as long as the bills get paid.

      • Mooser
        January 20, 2013, 12:07 pm

        “Perhaps not, but there’s still civil liability for damages under the anti-boycott law until it gets repealed.”

        There’s just no escaping responsibility!

      • Hostage
        January 20, 2013, 4:18 pm

        There’s just no escaping responsibility!

        That begs the question about the Halachic State’s responsibility for supplying the needs of the citizens of Israel. We know why the Israelis want to have their own proxies sitting on top of the underground aquifers and other natural resources. But what if those proxies declare their independent statehood and threaten to cutoff the water supply & flow of resources to Israel, or simply sabotage them, in the event that Israel uses its IDF to commit “acts of aggression” against the Halachic State’s other outposts and settlements? The regional councils have been threatening to carry-out that scenario for years now every time the subject of evacuating the settlements or outposts under a peace agreement comes up.

    • chinese box
      January 16, 2013, 8:58 am

      @Stephen Shenfield

      What a nightmare scenario. That would allow the US to promote a new false dichotomy between “secular Israel” and the new settler state, even though the former birthed this monster. A few more ineffectual liberal Zionists might get in the Knesset. Maybe a Labor government or two. Meanwhile, school segration, discrimination against Arabs, Ethiopian Jews, etc. in Israel (along with aid to the settler state, as you mentioned) would quietly continue. The American MSM could then demonize the new state while whitewashing Israel’s behavior.

      Although I don’t see how Israel could completely wash it’s hands of it. Would the IDF stand by if the settler state was hit by rockets from Jordan (very unlikely, I know, but for argument’s sake)?

  4. seafoid
    January 15, 2013, 5:01 pm

    “appears to be completely out of touch with the desire of Israelis”

    I am paraphrasing here but democracy means giving Jewish Israelis what they want and giving it to them good and hard .

    • Mooser
      January 16, 2013, 2:45 pm

      “I am paraphrasing here but democracy means giving Jewish Israelis what they want and giving it to them good and hard .”

      Yes, it would be completely in line with Jewish tradition if ordinary Israelis suffered for the intransigence of Zionist leaders.

      • seafoid
        January 20, 2013, 9:28 am

        Mooser

        That point needs to be more widely appreciated.

        That is an element of the tragedy of Zionism for me- what it will mean in the end for the large % of Israeli Jews who don’t have the money .

      • Mooser
        January 20, 2013, 12:13 pm

        “That is an element of the tragedy of Zionism for me- what it will mean in the end for the large % of Israeli Jews who don’t have the money .”

        I see, Seafoid. For an allrightnik like you, it’s an “element”. But for a batlan like me, it’s the whole periodic table!

        Thanks for responding, Seafoid.

  5. American
    January 15, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Does everyone else find the zios as hysterical as I do?….First they demanded we build an Israel–and demanded we let it do whatever it wanted to do and defend it’s every crime—–and Now they want us to save it from itself?
    I don’t know how many zios libs I’ve seen moaning for the US to save Israel from the Israelis.
    I think O like a lot of us have given up on Israel. It’s like hard core drug addict that no matter how you warn that he is killing himself, keeps right on. I think O has let Israel go. He might keep up the aid and support because of domestic political pressure by the lobby, but otherwise he’s through with Israel. He’s letting it take it’s own course, washed his hands of reasoning with them. And if he’s doing anything about I/P it is under the table with the Europeans…..basically not squawking about whatever pressure they may apply on Israel.

    • a blah chick
      January 15, 2013, 8:30 pm

      American, this is the same thought I’ve had, only I would add that Israel is like a hardcore addict with TOO MUCH money. Like Hughes or Elvis or Michael Jackson, too rich to be forced into therapy.

      My understanding is that until addicts hit bottom it is very hard to get them to accept treatment. I say let Israel go down the inevitable road, only when nice white middle class Jews start feeling the pain will the tide turn.

  6. Shingo
    January 15, 2013, 9:36 pm

    In the weeks after the UN vote, Obama said privately and repeatedly, “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.” With each new settlement announcement, in Obama’s view, Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation.

    The sad thing is that the same coudl be said of the US. For many decades, it seems that the US doesn’t know what its own best interests are either. After all, if it did, it wouldn’t give such fanatical support to Israel.

    And it would be added that while Netanyahu is moving his country down a path toward near-total isolation he is taking the US right along with him.

  7. thetumta
    January 15, 2013, 9:42 pm

    One sentence is in quotes without a source? whom do you attribute the remainder of the highlighted text? wishful thinking or is there a citation?
    Hej!

  8. American
    January 16, 2013, 8:30 am

    This is funny. I question anyway whether O uses Goldberg to ‘leak’ his thoughts to Israel. I think Goldberg may want to be seen as more of a insider to O thoughts than he really and he leaks his own thoughts to Isr by using something or enlarging on something O said to give it more weight.

    link to jpost.com

    Likud accuses Obama of ‘interference’ in elections
    By GIL HOFFMAN, HERB KEINON
    01/15/2013 23:07

    Senior Likud officials accused US President Barack Obama on Tuesday of leaking sharp criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s leadership to columnist Jeffrey Goldberg in order to sway voters in next Tuesday’s election.
    Goldberg quoted Obama in a Bloomberg piece as having said privately that “Israel doesn’t know what its own best interests are.”

    But Likud officials accused Obama of “gross interference” in the Israeli election and said the president was “taking revenge” against Netanyahu for his perceived intervention in the November US election on behalf of unsuccessful Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The officials said Obama had been swayed against Netanyahu by President Shimon Peres and former prime minister Ehud Olmert.”

    • Rusty Pipes
      January 16, 2013, 3:22 pm

      Too funny: “The officials said Obama had been swayed against Netanyahu by …” Because it’s not possible that anyone could have been swayed against Netanyahu by anything he had actually said or done.

  9. ahhiyawa
    January 16, 2013, 12:13 pm

    Israeli fanaticism of a Greater Israel is hurtling towards an ‘uber alles’ Palestine, which in the wholeness of time is the default ‘one state solution’ should Israelis remain suicidally intransigent.

    Its presumed by some Jewish/Americans that the US should force Israel to compromise. Under Obama the US tried and learned it will never attempt such a ‘fools errand’ again. If Israel as a Jewish state is to survive it must on its own accord fully embrace the 2 state end game.

    If not, than Jews will again find themselves concluding the seder with “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Leave a Reply