It appears that some liberal Zionists are preparing to blame Israel and its stiffnecked Prime Minister for the failure of the latest peace negotiations (if they do fail, as seems ever more likely).
Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street has expressed sharp concern about Netanyahu’s behavior. In a blogpost two days ago, he assailed rightwinger Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish state,” and echoed Secretary of State John Kerry’s regret over the forcing of this issue:
If Netanyahu walks away over this issue, he may win some propaganda points but he would be throwing away for the Jewish people our best chance to end the conflict in years. With goodwill and creativity, the parties can surely surmount this obstacle and move on.
Ben-Ami expressed greater sympathy with Palestinian positions than he does with the Israeli stance:
Palestinians say they have already recognized the state of Israel and are prepared to do so again in an agreement. They feel that defining the character of the state of Israel is up to Israelis not them.
Then there was that NYT profile of Zubin Mehta, the conductor of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. Reporter is Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim. I hear Mehta criticizing Netanyahu as narrow-minded:
“I have such a love for this country, Israel, that I see it as a tragedy what’s going on,” the Mumbai-born Mr. Mehta, now 77, said recently at the Pierre Hotel, a few blocks from Carnegie Hall, where he will conduct an Israel Philharmonic benefit concert on Thursday. “I speak openly about a country that I see, from my private musician’s perspective, as going in the wrong direction, as far as the settlements, as far as internal economic policies.”
And of course there’s Peter Beinart, the soul of liberal Zionism, who has become more and more openly critical of Netanyahu and his American backers. Here he writes that Netanyahu and the rightwing lobby are playing the U.S. to the point that any framework will fail to produce “a genuinely viable Palestinian state, one that is economically and politically strong enough to offer Palestinians a decent future, a decent future that will help safeguard Israel’s as well.”
The problem is that the Israel lobby guarantees American acceptance of rightwing Israeli demands, and this can only end badly, Beinart says.
You have to hand it to Netanyahu. He has steadfastly rejected the axioms that guided Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the past. (Remember, he still hasn’t even accepted the principle of the 1967 lines plus land swaps). In so doing, he has so shifted the terms of debate that positions once considered too radical for an Israeli prime minister to espouse are now considered American compromises.
I first noticed this trend a week back when I had dinner with a liberal Zionist who was filled with desperation. We are going to lose the Jewish state to a one-state apartheid destiny, he said bleakly, and it is Netanyahu who is refusing to compromise. This man put the onus fully on the rightwing Israeli leadership.
So the real possibility exists that unlike the failure of the Camp David talks in 2000, when the Palestinians were blamed, this time many American liberal Zionists will blame Israel for the failure of the peace process. This could have domestic political consequences: the Israel lobby will crack even more widely open, and more and more Jews will find themselves in solidarity with Palestinians, and the mainstream media will have to reflect that paradigm shift.
The issue of course is what the liberal Zionists will do with their newfound Palestinian solidarity. I wager that some of them are preparing themselves to endorse sanctions against Israel– withdrawal of American foreign aid. To be continued.