I'm glad Peter has gotten around to a response to the fundamental argument his critics have made, and shown the bleeding obvious - that it is not an argument at all:
The main complaint is that I didn’t spend enough time discussing the nastiness of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and extremist Muslims in general.
Well: duh. This was an essay about Israel and America's Jewish leadership, not about Hamas. It was about whom the American Jewish Establishment could influence, but have chosen not to. It was about a Rubicon in Israel's increasingly fundamentalist politics. It is not a valid criticism of an essay to say that it should have dealt with another subject instead. And on almost all the substantive points Peter makes about the Israeli right, his critics broadly agree. I would not feel so bleak about Israel, if I had not read so many of Jeffrey Goldberg's Cassandra-style warnings these past few years. No one is really defending the settlement expansion. No one is defending the Greater Israel the Israeli right is so wedded to.
So the real issue at hand is whether the situation is serious enough to prevent the AJE from using its clout to slo-mo any change and smear any critic (as they now are) or whether they should shift to saving Israel from itself, before the next generation of American Jews moves on from the subject en masse. I have to say that after reading Peter's critics concede almost all his points on Israel, Beinart's case stands up even more strongly. Have Chait and Wieseltier and Frum refuted his analysis of Israeli politics and society? Or have they simply thrown some Hamas sand in his eyes?
However pernicious Hamas and Hezbollah are, they do not prevent Israel from freezing settlement construction as a kick-start for wider talks.
And Israel's refusal to negotiate from that position has simply won Hamas, the PA and Hezbollah more sympathy than they deserve, while keeping all the blame fixed on Jerusalem. Moreover, the shape of Israeli domestic politics is something that leading American Jews could indeed influence, whereas their clout with the Israel's enemies is close to zero. So where are they? Playing the old Blame-The-Arabs-And-Expose-The-Anti-Semites game again.
What we have learned this past year and a half is sobering: it is that the minimum concession necessary from Israel to have any hope of movement on the Israel-Palestine question is now beyond the maximum power or will of any viable Israeli government at this moment in time. So peace may have become impossible because of internal shifts within Israel. That matters regardless of the positions of Israel's enemies.
All the West was asking for was a freeze in settlement construction - not withdrawal, not removal, not destruction, not even an end to construction. Just a freeze. For a while. Asked by a new president with a big majority at a moment when Israel desperately needs international support.
We know what the response from Israel was: "Don't even think about it." We know what the response from AIPAC was: "You're anti-Semites for asking." And we know how the American Jewish Establishment responded: "Move along here; there's nothing to see."
But there is something to see, something disturbing and apparently unstoppable. Peter is not wrong to point it out.
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