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It’s the American Left, Not the Right, That’s Trying to Redefine Support for Israel

Jan. 24 2018

In a recent column, Jane Eisner, editor of the Forward, argued that Vice-President Mike Pence’s speech to the Knesset on Monday is evidence of an attempt by Republicans to “redefine what it means to be pro-Israel.” According to Eisner, Pence put forward a pro-Israel vision grounded in religion and the Bible that cannot win the sympathy of secular Democrats who believe the primary role of the U.S. in its relationship with the Jewish state is to upbraid it for its failings; furthermore, claimed Eisner, Pence’s words would have even alienated Israel’s founders. Jonathan Tobin disagrees:

[Eisner is] wrong about Democrats and liberals being unable to identify with Pence’s language. That would be a surprise to former President Bill Clinton, who often spoke of the way his religious background compelled him to support Israel. The same is true of other liberal Democrats who, whatever their differences with Pence about fiscal or social issues, share his ideas about America’s biblical heritage and the moral imperative for backing a Jewish state.

But Eisner’s lack of perspective isn’t confined only to Americans. She’s just as wrong about Israel’s founders, whom she claimed wouldn’t care for their achievement to be praised by Christian Bible-thumpers. But as much as those socialists didn’t share the faith of evangelicals, they did have an equal appreciation of the Bible. According to David Ben-Gurion, the Bible was the founding document of Jewish statehood and its history. He and other Labor Zionists were largely irreligious, but they wanted Israelis to be knowledgeable skeptics about the Bible, not its opponents or disconnected from it. And, unlike contemporary liberals, they were smart enough to know that the Jewish people needed to embrace its friends wherever they could find them. The contempt for Christian conservative defenders of Israel often heard these days on the left would have appalled them, not Pence’s emotional embrace of Zionism.

The Forward editor is also wrong about the definition of friendship. . . . [T]he problem with many on the left is that . . . they have come to believe that the only way to express friendship for Israel is to attack its government. . . . [T]he notion that it is the U.S. government’s duty to override the judgment of Israel’s voters and, in effect, to save Israel from itself is neither respectful nor particularly friendly. . . .

Trump, Pence, and their evangelical supporters haven’t redefined the term “pro-Israel” in an effort to exclude liberals. The opposite is true. Liberals have sought to change [the term’s] meaning in order to justify support for policies that undermine Israel’s self-determination and to delegitimize the Jewish state’s conservative friends.

Read more at JNS

More about: Bible, Democrats, Evangelical Christianity, Israel & Zionism, Mike Pence, Republicans, US-Israel relations

How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen