If the last story that happens before an election tips the election, Benjamin Netanyahu is in trouble. The conventional wisdom in the press over the last couple days is that Israel has become an issue in the US presidential race, and Netanyahu is driving that wedge along with his good buddy Donald Trump.
Three Democratic candidates have “slammed” Benjamin Netanyahu over his promise to annex West Bank settlements, NBC says. The slammers are Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg, though Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro have issued milder criticisms of the prime minister.
Buttigieg said of the annexation idea:
This provocation is harmful to Israeli, Palestinian, and American interests. Supporting Israel does not have to mean agreeing with Netanyahu‘s politics. I don’t.
Netanyahu appeals to “racism,” Sanders said. “I’m not a great fan of his, and, frankly, I hope he loses his election.”
Well, not to worry. Here comes the Israel lobby to clean up after the parade. Jewish Insider reports today on several Israel advocates who are already trying to bring the Democrats and Israel back into the fold. Former Obama ambassador Daniel Shapiro, who went native, says in Tel Aviv:
[I]f Netanyahu prevails, both he and Democrats, whatever their views of each other, should find ways of engaging one another respectfully.
Shapiro gave permission to Democratic presidential candidates to criticize Israel, but he also called on them to criticize Palestinians.
“But make no mistake: no Democrat will be able to avoid expressing profound disagreement with any moves by Palestinians, the Trump administration, or Israel — like annexing parts of the West Bank — that harm U.S. interests by pushing the two-state solution further out of reach.
And then there’s Elliott Abrams, an adviser to one Republican president after another, a fixture of neoconservatism and convicted liar. At Jewish Insider, he tells Democratic Party leaders and Netanyahu too to do kumbaya with Israel and in a hurry, to stave off “disaster.”
“If Bibi [Netanyahu] remains prime minister, a serious responsibility falls on him and on Democrats in Congress to repair the damage to their relationship. He should reach out directly to top Democrats immediately to say the damage that has been done must be repaired not deepened. And they should be quite open to that possibility, not resentful that Israeli voters ‘voted wrong’ from their point of view. It is possible to think of relations between Netanyahu and the Democrats getting worse, and that would be a disaster — among other things feeding the anti-Israel forces in the party. So Netanyahu, Pelosi, Hoyer, Schumer, and others really have to join hands and prevent that before it starts.”
Abrams clearly fears the advance of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, BDS.
Aaron David Miller does his own form of damage control, in deploring/repairing the damage that Trumpian partisanship has done to the American belief that the US and Israel share values.
[T]he Netanyahu years have undermined that value affinity not just with regard to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians; but have stressed Israel’s democratic character, values and practices as well.
As Miller does, Susie Gelman of the New Israel Fund urged Israelis not to go forward on the annexation idea because of what it will mean to Democrats.
“I am confident that the Democratic Party will do everything in its power to prevent erosion of support for Israel, but annexation would present a real challenge, not to mention what it could portend for the relationship between the American Jewish community and Israel.”
There really is a crisis in the Israel lobby right now: a fear that Israeli policies, fostered by Donald Trump, are damaging the breathing tube for Israel against its many enemies, the American Jewish support for Israel. The political question of the hour is whether this understanding is percolating in Israel itself. Will they read Bret Stephens– and vote for Gantz? The reports from Israel on i24 cable station reflect a lot of Netanyahu exhaustion.
It doesn’t matter who wins, though. These issues will become rancorous over the next year, imho, because the occupation won’t end, and the two-state solution won’t get up off the operating table and run marathons again. The Israel discourse is shifting dramatically.
Note this from Ron Kampeas’s report on Amy Klobuchar criticizing Israel but not that much. The base doesn’t like Israel.
“I’m for the two-state solution and I don’t favor what Netanyahu did this weekend,” she said. “I don’t favor the annexation; I think we should have a two-state solution.”
An older man interrupted her meeting with local Democratic activists in suburban Las Vegas on Sunday, saying “Israel oppresses Palestinians.” But Klobuchar cut him off, saying “We’ve talked about that.”