In a New York Times column last fall, Nick Kristof explained how the increasingly hard line that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking regarding expanding settlements outside Israel's 1967 borders and the recognition of a Palestinian state is isolating Israel from the rest of the world and is serving as little more than a "national suicide policy." As Mr. Kristof explains:
Every negotiator knows the framework of a peace agreement — 1967 borders with land swaps, Jerusalem as the capital of both Israeli and Palestinian states, only a token right of return — and insistence on a completely Israeli Jerusalem simply means no peace agreement ever.
Former President Bill Clinton said squarely in September that Mr. Netanyahu is to blame for the failure of the Middle East peace process. A background factor, Mr. Clinton noted correctly, is the demographic and political change within Israeli society, which has made the country more conservative when it comes to border and land issues.
The fact that the Israeli government is serving as a primary obstacle to the Middle East peace process makes it all the more frustrating when our media and others refer to folks who unquestionably support the positions taken by increasingly right-wing Israeli governments as somehow "pro-Israel." They are not. Conversely, the contention that people who question the actions of the Israeli government are somehow "anti-Israel" is also wrong. Unfortunately, such labelling is seen far too often in US media and political discourse.
The continuing effort by Netanyahu and others to undermine the peace process and expand settlements may be good for the political fortunes of right wing politicians. But it is dooming Israel to an endless future of war, terror, and fear in an area where Jews are becoming a minority. Such a future certainly cannot be considered "pro-Israel" as it is not good for that country, the region, or the world.
The core problem here is that radicals on both sides feed off each other. Each time a radical militant on the Palestinian side commits an act of violence, it hardens Israel's resolve to expand settlements and overrun the opposition. And each time a radical militant in the Israeli government rebukes an effort at peace, approves a new settlement, or launches a military strike that kills innocent Palestinians, it weakens the Palestinian moderates and gives the Palestinian radicals more grievances to feed off of.
In such a situation, it is up to a third party to break the cycle. And the only third party with the wherewithal to do so is the US. That requires us to stop with the nonsense that blind cheerleading for every action of the Israeli government is somehow "pro-Israel." Instead, we must evenhandedly and objectively work to reign in the radicals on both sides and push both sides towards peace. Such an approach would truly be "pro-Israel" and "pro-Palestine." Because, as Mr. Kristof reminds us:
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk — or drive a diplomatic course that leaves their nation veering away from any hope of peace. Today, Israel’s leaders sometimes seem to be that country’s worst enemies, and it’s an act of friendship to point that out.
The good news is that there are a number of good Jewish organizations here in the US that are pushing for a more balanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in which our government would help strengthen moderates on both sides, rather than continuing to unquestionably support the actions of an increasing belligerent Israeli government. Winning Progressive encourages its readers to check these three organizations out: