Max Boot writes, "Sort of like the Israelis and Palestinians, Jeff Goldberg and I seem to be talking past one another."

I wonder which one I'm supposed to be?

In any case, Max went on to write, "I argued on CONTENTIONS that the reason Israelis aren't dismantling the settlements (and that President Bush isn't pressing them to do so) has nothing to do with the views of American Jewish groups and everything to do with the dismal record of recent Israeli concessions in southern Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. In both cases (as well as at the Camp David negotiations in 2000) Israelis thought that territorial concessions would lead to peace. Instead they led to the empowerment of terrorists. It's an obvious point, and one I'm sure he's familiar with, but one that Jeff never mentioned in his article."

Then he states that I objected "only to one part of my critique," the one concerning the vile Walt and the vile Mearsheimer. The reason I did so, Max, is I felt that you were accusing me of something atrocious, so I thought I ought to knock it down. Also, I'm allergic to long posts. But if you want to discuss the substance of the dispute, I'm happy to. Maybe the great Rosner can referee.

Two quick points: Like many people on the right, Max focuses mainly on the problems Israel would face by leaving the West Bank, but he doesn't address the problems Israel brings on itself by staying, and I don't mean merely what he might think of as the goo-goo moral issues concerning the long-term effects of occupation on the society that is doing the occupying. I'm talking about the demographic threat to Israel's Jewish and democratic nature.

The second point concerns Walt and Mearsheimer: One of their many sins, perhaps one of their bigger sins, was to make impossible an open conversation in the Jewish community about the impact of pro-Israel lobbying. By accusing American Jews of acting against the best interests of their country, they not only made themselves worthy heirs to Father Coughlin and a long list of antique Jew-baiters, they sent us into a defensive crouch.

It is actually okay to talk about Aipac's priorities, and even its power, despite the odious specter of Waltsheimer. Discussion of Aipac's power doesn't bother me, because I believe that its power derives mainly from the fact that most Americans, and most members of Congress, actually like Israel and support Israel. (Unlike Waltsheimer, I've actually interviewed members of Congress on this subject.) It's the first rule of lobbying: Lobbying can only be successful over the long-term if the cause in question is one Congress is predisposed to support anyway.

But on Max's substantive points, concerning the best course of action Israel could take to protect itself from external threats, and from demographic challenges to its Jewish nature, I'm ready to rumble. Actually, I'm not entirely ready, because I'm leaving for the Middle East soon, but I'll rumble anyway.

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