World

3 Trends Driving Liberal American Jews Away From Israel

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. I n the wake of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory last week—and the sordid campaigning that made it possible—liberal American Jews may be feeling, more than they ever have before, pained by, conflicted about, and even estranged from Israel. There are certainly consequences for policy, as U.S. policy toward Israel could become a much more partisan issue than it is now. But more than that, there's a crisis of the spirit emerging. It's fed by three trends, all of which serve to alienate liberal American Jews from Israel, all of which were highlighted by this election, and all of which look inexorable. The first, of course, is the hopelessness of the Palestinian situation. When, just before the election, Netanyahu abandoned his stated support for an ultimate two-state solution, it didn't surprise...

Fear Wins: Israeli Elections, the Morning After

Netanyahu sacrificed Israel’s democratic principles and its relations with the U.S. to win another term as prime minister.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) An Orthodox Jewish man walks past a billboard of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Bnei Brak near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 16, 2015, a day ahead of legislative elections. Netanyahu won his fourth term as prime minister on March 17. I f there is any credibility left in Israeli polls—a highly questionable proposition—Benjamin Netanyahu won a come-from-behind victory in yesterday’s election. The final opinion surveys of the campaign, published Friday, showed the prime minister’s Likud Party trailing challenger Isaac Herzog’s left-of-center Zionist Union by as many as four seats in parliament, which has 120 members. Exit polls shocked the country by showing a virtual tie. This morning, those of us in Israel who dared to hope for a change in direction awoke with a pounding political hangover. The nearly complete vote count showed the Likud winning 30 seats in Israel’s parliament to the Zionist Union’s 24. The right-wing bloc of parties as a whole...

Hope and Fear in Israel in the Moments Before Polls Close

Gershom Gorenberg
Gershom Gorenberg Banners outside a polling place in Israel: The top banners, for Isaac Herzog of the center-left Zionist Camp, read “Herzog: a level-headed, responsible prime minister.” The bottom swath of banners, for Benjamin Netanyahu, read “It’s us or them.” As Israelis went to vote today, they ultimately got a choice between two moods: fear and hope. The fear, as always, was provided by Benjamin Netanyahu—who no longer asked citizens to be scared of Iran, but rather of each other. “The rule of the right is in danger. Arab voters are advancing in large numbers toward voting places. Leftist organizations are bringing them in buses,” said a midday status on the prime minister's Facebook page. “Go out to vote, bring your friends, vote Likud and close the gap between us and the Labor Party.” Besides the blatant incitement against a sixth of the country’s citizenry, Netanyahu’s statement was amazing in its audacious untruth. At the time he issued it—and of this writing, a few hours...

Are You Ready for War With Iran? Here's How It Could Happen

If 2016 lands a Republican in the White House, with a Republican Congress behind him, the war will be all but begun.

(AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
I t's been a while, so you may have forgotten just what a great time it was for the national security hawks widely known as neoconservatives back in 2002 and 2003. With the memory of September 11 still fresh and Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, there was little to stand in the way of the dream of remaking the map of the Middle East, the region that had so vexed us for so long. Democrats sure weren't going to—most of them were only too eager to show that they weren't lily-livered pacifists, so they provided barely any impediment at all to a new war. Sure, when it came to justifying an invasion of Iraq, the hawks had to exaggerate a little here, twist the facts a little there, spin out ridiculous scenarios everywhere. But it would all be worth it once victory was won. Saddam Hussein would fall, we'd quickly set up a new government, and democracy would spread through the region as a glorious new age dawned, brought forth by the beneficent power of American arms. Then...

Republicans Hankering for Ground War Against ISIS. What Could Go Wrong?

We're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for a re-invasion of Iraq. And how 'bout a strike on Iran while we're at it?

(Sipa via AP Images)
View image | gettyimages.com I t's been an entire 12 years since we started a war, and apparently the American people are getting a little antsy. A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 62 percent of Americans, including 72 percent of Republicans, favors the use of ground troops to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. We should be careful about over-interpreting that, because the question was preceded by another question talking about limited, but not long-term operations for ground troops. But there's no doubt that the public's interest in getting some boots back on the ground is gaining momentum; in Pew polls , support for ground troops went up from 39 percent in October to 47 percent in February; in the same poll, 67 percent of Republicans said they supported ground troops. The reason I focus on the number of Republicans is that I suspect with this increase in support from their constituents, we're going to hear more and more Republican politicians coming out for what we might call a re-invasion...

Can Liberal Democracy Survive?

Architect of the Capitol
Architect of the Capitol This article appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . I n 1932, on the eve of FDR’s presidency, Benito Mussolini proclaimed, “The liberal state is destined to perish.” He added, all too accurately, “All the political experiments of our day are anti-liberal.” The democracies were doomed, Il Duce declared, because they could not solve crucial problems. Unlike the dictatorships, which were willing to forcefully use a strong state, the democracies could not fix their broken economies. Parliamentary systems were hamstrung politically. The democracies were also war-weary, conflict-averse, and ill-prepared to fight. The fascists, unlike the democracies, had solved the problem of who was part of the community. Mussolini’s ally, Adolf Hitler, was further contemptuous of “mongrelization” in American democracy. Who was an American? How did immigrants fit in? What about Negroes? The fascist states, by contrast, rallied their...

How to Sabotage Iran Negotiations in the Name of Avoiding War

Israel and AIPAC are using Congress to push their own agenda of increasing sanctions on Iran and reducing presidential authority.

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
(AP Photo/Cliff Owen) Stage hands prepare the stage for the 2015 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., Monday, March 2, 2015. A s multilateral talks over Iran’s nuclear program continue with the U.S. leading the negotiations, Congress seems to be doing its best to complicate things. And both Israel and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) are doing their part to help. Earlier this week, as 16,000 people convened in Washington, D.C., to attend AIPAC’s annual conference, the powerful pro-Israel lobby made it clear that the organization would push not only for increased sanctions on Iran—through the passage of the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act —but also for the ability to make it more difficult to lift sanctions later, via a new bill, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act . This latest bill, introduced on Friday by Republican Senator Bob Corker and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, would give Congress a 60-day period to...

Saving Obama from a Bad Trade Deal

Republican intransigence may have saved the president's legacy—from himself.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) In this June 11, 2013, photo, President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, prior to a trip to Europe for a Group of Eight summit of major Western democracies, where the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with Europe was be a top item. The deal is touted as a means of boosting growth and jobs by eliminating tariffs and other barriers, but those expectations are unlikely to be fulfilled in the deal, which would benefit corporations far more than governments or citizens, which would likely be hurt. P lans to rush fast-track authority for two trade deals for a quick House and Senate vote abruptly broke down on Tuesday. The White House was hoping to put the vote to Congress as early as this week. But Republicans wanted to see more details of one of the deals, which addresses trade with Pacific nations—before agreeing to a fast-track vote. Democrats who favored the deal were seeking some concessions to...

Netanyahu's Campaign Road Show Comes to Washington

The Israeli prime minister didn't offer an Iran policy to Congress. He offered dread and overconfidence to Israel voters.

 

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waves as he step to the podium prior to speaking before a joint meeting of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 3, 2015. I n the end, Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before Congress was precisely what was expected from the beginning, from the day that House Speaker John Boehner publicly invited the Israeli prime minister: an Israeli campaign event before a more impressive and much more sycophantic audience than the Israeli prime minister could have found at home; a Republican show designed to use Israel against President Barack Obama; and a blow to the connection between Israel and the United States that Netanyahu and Boehner supposedly hold so dear. The campaign theatrics were there in Netanyahu's opening lines, when he addressed the leaders of the House and Senate and called special attention to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid—a move meant to distract the Israeli audience from the absence of Vice...

He Whose Name Shall Not Be Written

Israel's prime minister is the main issue in the upcoming election. That's just what he wants.

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)
(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit) The Israeli prime minister speaks to his Likud party members during a campaign event near Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, February 9, 2015. T he French author Georges Perec earned peculiar literary distinction by writing a 300-page novel called La Disparition ( A Void ) without once using the letter "e." His countryman, Michel Dansel, published Le Train de Nulle Part ( The Train from Nowhere ), a novel in which he managed to avoid the use of a single verb. I envy these writers, whose lives were apparently so graced with calm that the only thing they want to exclude from their thoughts was a letter of the alphabet or a part of speech. I live a less blessed life. As an Israeli and a journalist, my aspirations are more limited, yet less within my own power to achieve. I aspire to be able to write about my country's politics without using the name of the current prime minister . I'd like to write my next 300 articles without the N-word. I'd like to think of him, if I...

National Security and the 2016 Election

(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv)
(Photo: Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv) Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrives in Israel in November 2012. This article originally appeared at the Huffington Post . Y ou may recall a campus slogan from another era, "Hey, hey. Ho, ho. Western civ. has got to go." That was at Stanford University in 1987, part of a wave of demands to limit traditional courses featuring dead white males, in favor of cultural pluralism. Sure enough, many colleges a generation later have more varied courses. Today, however, there are people out there who feel that western civilization really does have to go — not the courses but the thing itself. And they seem to be gaining. Call me sentimental, call me privileged, but I have a certain fondness for western civilization. Let me count the ways. I like the rule of law. I like the Enlightenment sensibility that a wide variety of religions and viewpoints must be accommodated. I like the connection of free speech and free inquiry to the scientific...

Netanyahu’s Curious GOP Connection

The Israeli prime minister's alliance with U.S. Republicans defies the politics of most American Jews.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in Jerusalem, Sunday, July 29, 2012, during the U.S. presidential campaign. This article originally appeared in the Washington Post. I sraeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is giving chutzpah a bad name. Over the past several weeks, Netanyahu has aligned himself and his cause with the Republican Party, which an overwhelming majority of American Jews reject , and many actively despise; he has told European Jews to pull up stakes and come to Israel; and, according to a report just released by Israel’s comptroller , he has spent large amounts of Israelis’ tax dollars (well, actually, shekels) on cleaning his private home (to the tune of $2,000 a month) and his wife’s makeup and hairstyling ($68,000 over a two-year period). Like every world leader and, for that matter, nearly everybody else, Netanyahu is fully aware that the...

A Talent for Storytelling

Rick Perlstein tells how Reagan imagined his way into the American psyche.

(AP Photo)
This book review is from the Fall 2014 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here. Simon & Schuster The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan By Rick Perlstein 880 pp. Simon & Schuster $37.50 I n 1959, as the Cold War heated up and the economy cooled down, President Dwight Eisenhower received a letter from World War II veteran Robert J. Biggs. Tired of hearing the president explain the complexities of the modern world, Biggs begged Eisenhower to lead the nation with firm assertions rather than “hedging” and “uncertainty.” The former general responded that such guidance by authority was imperative in a military operation but fatal in a democracy. Self-government demanded that men reject easy answers and instead carefully weigh the often contradictory facts about great issues facing the nation. Just as Eisenhower did, Rick Perlstein’s new book, The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan , illuminates the deadly attraction of...

Will E.U. Leaders Wreck Europe’s Economy to Teach Greece a Lesson?

(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) Pro-government protesters passes in from of a banner outside Greece's parliament to support the newly elected government’s push for a better deal on Greece’s debt, in central Athens, on Sunday, February 15, 2015. The protests held in Athens by around fifteen thousands supporters of the left-wing Syriza party as the new Greek government on Monday, February 16, presented its proposals to skeptical rescue lenders at a euro zone finance ministers' meeting in Brussels. G reece and the European Union are now in a final showdown. And if you had to place odds, the likelihood is that the stubbornness and folly of Europe’s senior leaders will create a catastrophe for both Greece and the E.U. On Monday, at a key meeting of finance ministers in Brussels, the Greek negotiators walked away from a demand that Greece recommit to the terms of the current austerity program as the precondition for extending talks on possible easing of the terms. In return, E.U. leaders had...

Silence of American Jewish Leaders on Boehner-Netanyahu Ploy is Unacceptable

The Israeli prime minister has worked assiduously to transform Israel into an American partisan issue since his first term—never mind the harm to the Jewish state.

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci) House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio looks on at right as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu makes a statement on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. M eir Dagan, former head of Israel's Mossad espionage agency, says that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's scheduled speech to the U.S. Congress is an "excessive provocation" of America and "the gravest blow to [Israel's] security." Dov Weisglass, the closest adviser of late prime minister Ariel Sharon, said on Israel's prime-time version of Meet the Press, that the speech will cause "terrible damage" to Israel. Speaking of talk shows, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters at a Democratic retreat on Friday that if Netanyahu wants to tell Americans his views on Iran, a Sunday morning interview program would be a better venue. Netanyahu is a fixture on such shows, she said. Pelosi didn't say that Democratic lawmakers would stay away from Netanyahu's address on March 3—but she wouldn't...

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