Let’s talk about what it means to be “pro-Israel.” Barack Obama correctly noted that in American Jewish circles being pro-Israel is often synonymous with being pro-Likud. For example, you’ve got to advocate moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. You’ve got to label Hamas a bunch of murderous thugs with whom no government should negotiate. You’ve got to view the chance of Iran getting nukes as “Munich, 1938,” to use a Netanyahu coinage. Israel doesn’t make mistakes–and even if it did it’s merely a departure from an otherwise sterling moral reputation.
The only problem? Most Israelis don’t agree with above statements (with the exception, perhaps of the one about Iran). I want to deal with Hamas here as Glenn Greenwald has taken it up so well in his blog. If 64% of Israelis can live with the idea of their government negotiating directly with Hamas for a ceasefire, why can’t a U.S. presidential candidate take up the same position without being tarred as anti-Israel? You see that both American Jewish attitudes toward Israel, and presidential politics are hopelessly out of whack with real Israeli attitudes.
So bravo to Obama for pointing out that being pro-Israel can mean asking questions and challenging prevailing attitudes about Israeli policy. But let’s go farther and track a candidate’s rhetoric on the issues with the actual attitudes of Israelis. And if Americans and Jews don’t know the overwhelming majority of Israelis favor talking to Hamas let’s make them aware.
Let’s also tell Condi Rice and any other right wingers who spout off about Hamas being no partner for peace that their views contradict those of the very people who have the most interest in resolving this conflict, Israelis themselves.
The Haaretz story makes a dubious claim:
It now appears that this opinion [favoring talks] is gaining traction in the wider public, which until recently vehemently rejected such negotiations.
Haaretz itself has featured past polls stating quite the contrary. The numbers were not as high as 64%. But they were a plurality if I recall correctly. But regardless of who’s right, I would say that such a marked evolution in Israeli attitudes toward Hamas indicates that such attitudes toward many other issues like returning to ’67 borders could also evolve in more pragmatic directions over time.