One of the fascinating new trends inside US political culture is that the Israel lobby is dividing and reconstituting itself, slightly to the left, in order to take on its new enemy: the BDS movement. The lobby needs to reconstitute itself because it recognizes that the neoconservatives and Likudniks expose Israel and the lobby to grave political risk at a time when Europe is inching toward boycott of settlement goods and Americans say clearly they don’t want war with Iran. The lobby has to re-unify to deal with its greatest threat: the delegitimization movement, anti-Zionists who are questioning the fundamental character of the Jewish state and promoting democracy in Israel and Palestine.
This seems to me the takeaway from a piece by Jeffrey Goldberg at Bloomberg News praising John Kerry as the savior of Israel. Goldberg is trying to get American Zionists to support movement against the settlements.
Some excerpts. First, notice the over-the-top praise of Kerry’s speech last weekend and the challenge to Kerry’s Zionist critics:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry gave a passionately pro-Israel speech this past weekend at the Saban Forum in Washington. On matters concerning Israel’s security, its international legitimacy and its demographic future, he showed himself to be a true friend. There are people in Israel — there were people at the Willard Hotel, where Kerry gave the speech, in fact — who did not consider this speech pro-Israel, but they are deluding themselves.
Kerry proved a couple of things… [H]e is also committed, in a bone-deep way, to Israel’s well-being. He is an exemplar of a slowly vanishing type of Democratic Party leader, someone with great, and uncomplicated, affection for the promise of Zionism.
Then at once, Goldberg brings in his greatest fear: Israel’s delegitimzation:
[Kerry’s] working for something that most Jews, in Israel and around the world, desperately want — a secure Israel with internationally recognized borders that becomes an honored member of the family of nations, rather than a target of never-ending opprobrium…
Goldberg then notes that Obama’s host at the Saban Forum– Haim Saban, the Democratic warchest who has appeared at AIPAC– is helping to rebuild the lobby. He is the “central figure trying to bridge the various divides between Israel and the U.S.”
Again, because of the major threat. Not Obama criticism of settlements, but the rising leftwing movement:
Much of the Saban meeting was off-the-record, so I am limited in what I can say, but many of the Israeli participants I spoke to seemed worried, in ways I hadn’t noticed before, about the international delegitimization campaign targeting their country — economic boycotts in Europe, the beginnings of an academic boycott in the U.S. The leaders of the movement to delegitimize Israel are committed to the country’s destruction; no West Bank compromise will spur advocates of an anti-Israel boycott to stop hating the idea of a Jewish national home. But this anti-Israel movement gains strength and support by focusing not on its real complaint — Israel’s existence itself — but on Israel’s behavior on the West Bank. End the occupation, and the delegitimization movement loses much of its energy.
So Israel has to compromise on West Bank territory, Goldberg says, lest the anti-Zionists use the occupation to make it an international pariah.
Goldberg is wired. He is the journalistic representative of the lobby, so he gets access everywhere. And I think Kerry is listening to him. Notice the secretary of state’s pandering to Zionist concerns about Palestinian births. Makes Goldberg happy.
Kerry also spoke strongly about a related issue: The demographic challenge to Israel’s existence as a haven for the Jewish people and as a democracy if it holds onto the West Bank and its Palestinians indefinitely. This demographic dynamic, he said, “makes it impossible for Israel to preserve its future as a democratic, Jewish state without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a two-state solution.”
Kerry went on, “Force cannot defeat or defuse the demographic time bomb.”
P.S. For an analysis of what Kerry is actually proposing re Palestinian freedom, read Allison Deger’s post saying the Obama administration has dropped talk of Palestinian state for promoting “state institutions.” Or read Kerry’s presser yesterday at which he spoke of “ultimately, a Palestinian state.” Ultimately, when? I don’t see how you can avoid delegitimization when Israel continues to back endless occupation on a Jim-Crow model. Such conduct has to be delegitimized.