The UN Security Council resolution against settlements will have the effect of mainstreaming the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and lead to “mass boycotts and sanctions,” a leading liberal Zionist told a Jewish audience in New York last night.
Michael Koplow, policy director of the Israel Policy Forum, said at the Park Avenue Synagogue last night the UN resolution will lead to “much harsher measures” from European countries:
If Israeli settlement policy continues as it has, world opinion is gong to harden further, and… Israel is going to be facing a larger prospect of mass boycotts and sanctions than it has up until now. Up until now, it has mainly been the province of the BDS movement and it has not been government driven. I think that with the UN Resolution and with the fact that most countries particularly in Europe do not view the current Israeli government as being serious in a real way of limiting settlement growth and negotiating with Palestinians for a Palestinian state, I think that it is likely that if things continue apace, we will see official governmental efforts that target the Israeli economy. The labeling of settlement goods was sort of a baby step in that regard. I think we’re likely to see much harsher measures down the road.
Koplow was responding to an audience member’s question about whether Israel is about to become “South Africa on the Mediterranean.”
Liberal Zionists still monopolize the U.S. establishment discourse, of course; and they are in crisis today. Israel’s political leadership is dominated by rightwing settlers and their friends; while Donald Trump could give a green light to Israel’s annexation of the West Bank.
Yesterday in the New York Times, liberal Zionist Roger Cohen lamented that the Security Council resolution was too little too late. Obama had displayed “political cowardice” on the Israel issue for eight years because of “domestic political” concerns (meaning, the Israel lobby), until the “obscene” flurry of activity at the end. Cohen says John Kerry was “honorable” but Obama was a coward.
Kerry’s speech [of December 28] was almost three years in the making. He should have made it in April 2014, when his diplomacy collapsed. Obama said no. There were the midterms, then there was the Iran deal to negotiate, so better not to anger Israel further, and finally there was the U.S. election in November. In America there is always a domestic political reason for not doing the right thing on Israel-Palestine.
Cohen doesn’t believe the two state solution is viable anymore; and he faults Israel.
I doubt that solution remains viable. But let’s be clear on the settlements. They may or may not constitute a primary cause of the conflict, but they do demonstrate Israel’s decades-long commitment to building in a way that makes a viable Palestinian state impossible. You cannot be a Palestinian in the West Bank watching the steady growth of Israeli settlements, outposts and barriers without concluding that Israel’s occasional murmurings about a two-state peace are mere camouflage for a project whose objective is to control all the land in perpetuity without annexing it.
The flaw in Cohen’s argument is that he cannot say how powerful the lobby is that produced such cowardice in Obama. Almost all American Zionists (including The Israel Policy Forum) opposed the UN Security Council resolution; and it is this faction that compelled Obama to veto a similar resolution in 2011 at the U.N. Today the Democratic Party is in revolt against that Obama decision because of the strength of pro-Israel Jews in the party.
What was Obama up against? Here is liberal Zionist fellow-traveler Michael Tomasky in the Daily Beast blasting Obama for taking on Netanyahu.
[Failure #5] Overplaying His Hand With Bibi Early On. This has nothing to do with the merits of Obama’s position on the settlements, but too much pressure too soon on Netanyahu started a downward spiral in the dynamic that could never be fixed. Democrats in Congress came to Bibi’s defense publicly and privately, and Obama was isolated against Likud and its bipartisan supporters. Bibi trolled him to death in subsequent years—but only because he knew he could.
Yes, how did Netanyahu know that he could? How did Netanyahu know that the US was something that could be easily moved? Tomasky and Cohen honor that pressure by failing to name it.
Ron Kampeas also honors that pressure in a column at the JTA where he criticizes Obama for sometimes offending Jewish audiences. He cites the example of a 2008 meeting with Cleveland Jewish leaders.
[T]hen, during a Q&A, Obama said, “This is where I get to be honest and I hope I’m not out of school here. I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have a honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress.”
Some folks in the room said later that their jaws dropped (to be fair, others said the meeting went over well). The Likud was not then in power, but it was a major party in Israel, and as president he would likely have to deal with it. Indeed, his eight years in office almost wholly coincided with Likud-led governments.
So Obama had the temerity, as a liberal Democrat, to criticize rightwing Israelis. I guess he learned his lesson.