Foreign Policy

Will a "Right-Wing" Israel Get Less Respect from the U.S.?


Jason Horowitz in the New York Observer wonders if the Netanyahu regime will make it more chic to be able to criticize Israel:

"It might be possible to open a debate that says, 'Look, this is not an anti-Israel discussion," said Mr. [Tony] Judt, the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University, whose criticism of the pro-Israel lobby in America kicked off a public fight during which, at one point, he accused Mr. [Abe] Foxman of sabotaging a scheduled speaking engagement at the Polish consulate and likened him to gutter trash.

"This is a discussion about what's happened in Israel such that there's a far-far-right government that no one could have imagined 10 years ago, and certainly not 40 years ago," he said. "So let's talk about what this means. We now have a government that doesn't even pay lip service to the peace process. It doesn't acknowledge Palestinians' right to a state and in the case of the foreign minister, if he is appointed, he's an out-and-out racist. That's something you can say about a country, I hope, without even appearing to criticize the country per se."

Not that never has been heard a discouraging word about the Israeli state and its actions in American discourse. But now, Horowitz wonders, such words

won't be limited to America's political margins-the Cynthia McKinneys and Jim Morans and Ron Pauls in Washington, or those Juan Coles and Stephen Walts and John Mearsheimers in the academic world, who constitute what amounts to a political niche as European-style critics of the Israeli enterprise and of what they believe to be a much-too-powerful Israel lobby in America…..

Certainly, there are indications of a shifting posture at the very top levels of American government, beginning in Jerusalem on March 3, when U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pushed Israel to open border crossings "to address the humanitarian needs in Gaza" and again called for the fulfillment of obligations to create a "viable Palestinian state." The next day, in Ramallah, she publicly criticized Israel's plan to demolish dozens of Palestinian homes as "unhelpful" to the peace process.

It was hardly vitriolic stuff-or anything remotely indicative of any organic hostility toward the Jewish state-but in diplomatic-speak, and Clinton-diplomatic-speak no less, it represented an unmistakable change not only from the unwavering Israel-boosting of the two Bush terms but from Mrs. Clinton's four-square-behind-Israel rhetoric as a senator from New York.