The US-Israel Relationship

Daniel Luban argues that the Wieseltier affair shows "how deeply discussion of the Israel lobby has shifted."

The TNR liberals now insist that of course the Israel lobby is extremely powerful, and of course it exerts an influence on U.S. foreign policy that is frequently (or even generally) pernicious. To conceal the fact that they are conceding the truth of the basic Israel lobby thesis, they tend to contrast their views with some caricatured position that they attribute to Mearsheimer and Walt (the Israel lobby is the only interest group with any influence in Washington, The Jews call all the shots in U.S. foreign policy, or something to that effect).

Of course, only a few years ago many of the same parties alleged that it was an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory even to claim that there is such a thing as an “Israel lobby” and that it exerts a powerful (although not all-powerful) influence on U.S. foreign policy. However, they seem to expect the public to forget all this.

In short, the Wieseltier-Sullivan affair demonstrates that things are changing in Washington. And, I might add, not a moment too soon.

I think Luban is onto something. This is not about me as such. It is about a deep shift in thinking about the US-Israel alliance, especially after Gaza and the Netanyahu government's refusal to cooperate with Obama in even minor ways that in no way affect its security. It is about the rapidly changing benefits and costs for both sides of such an alliance that is almost a fusion, and the furious but necessary debate about what the future should bring.

I believe, after the last year, that it is in the interests of the United States to use serious leverage to get Israel to get serious about ending settlement construction permanently and beginning the dismantling and removal of these impediments to any serious progress in the region.

This debate is also about who can and will police discourse on this subject in Washington, which is why AIPAC and even the Israeli ambassador are so intent on marginalizing J-Street, and why the old media guard, whose genuine and often admirable concern for Israel sometimes blinds them as to why so many younger thinkers and writers simply do not hold the same reflexive paranoid positions that they have come to regard as eternal truths, and do not see Israel's long-term interests served by the same old neocon intransigence on everything. The blogosphere has made this wider, more honest discourse possible - even as it has meant the usual charges of anti-Semitism being thrown about with such cheap abandon.

One thing I can assure Dish readers is that I will not be intimidated from having this discussion, of airing as many sides as I can, as fairly as I can, and while I will do my utmost not to knowingly offend anyone of any party, I will also refuse to quiver in fear of cheap and vulgar uses of the anti-Semite card.