Andrew Sullivan stumbles on something much darker

Several days ago, May 19, The Dish linked to a post by Jeffrey Goldberg on Netanyahu’s use of the word “expect” in wanting some further public remarks or clarifications from Obama. Here’s Goldberg:

For whatever reason, I tend to react strongly when a foreign leader disrespects the United States, and its President. I didn’t like it when Hugo Chavez of Venezuela insulted President Bush; I don’t like listening to Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan lecture the U.S. on its sins, and I’m not happy when certain Pakistani leaders gin-up righteous indignation about American behavior when it was their country that served as a refuge for the greatest mass murderer in American history.

And so I was similarly taken aback when I read a statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday that he “expects to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress.”

So Netanyahu “expects” to hear this from the President of the United States? And if President Obama doesn’t walk back the speech, what will Netanyahu do? Will he cut off Israeli military aid to the U.S.? Will he cease to fight for the U.S. in the United Nations, and in the many  international forums that treat Israel as a pariah?

I don’t like this word, “expect.”

I don’t think the word was a graceful choice by Netanyahu, but Goldberg’s getting worked up by “expect” like it ranks with the Bush-is-the-devil-and-the-U.S.-is-on-its-way-down-and-I-smelled-sulphur-after-Bush-left remarks of Hugo Chavez is a tribute to Goldberg’s anxiety, not the issue at hand.

Does Jeffrey think that if Netanyahu had said “hope” instead of “expect,” Netanyahu’s request — “to hear a reaffirmation from President Obama of U.S. commitments made to Israel in 2004, which were overwhelmingly supported by both House of Congress” — was reasonable and not pushing his luck? I hope he answers that question. Furthermore, there is the question of whether the President’s remarks “with land swaps” is tacitly honoring the implications of the letters regarding the settlement blocs. I don’t think that anyone can answer that question yet.

Andrew uses Jeffrey’s recoil from a single word, “expect,” to impress upon his readers two ideas of Andrew’s own: (1) that in asking for a confirmation of Bush’s promises to Israel that were congressionally approved, Netanyahu is demanding a substantially different U.S. policy than Obama shared in his speech; and (2) that Andrew loves Israel deeply and absolutely.

Some problems: In regard to idea #1, Andrew has been arguing that the policies in Obama’s speech were no different from the policies of any previous president since Clinton, including George W. Bush. So, Andrew is contradicting himself in his enmity for Netanyahu. The problem with idea #2 is a horse of a different color, something much darker.

Here’s how Andrew comments on Jeffrey’s expectorating upon hearing the word “expect”:

My hope, for what it’s worth, is to protect the possibility of a majority Jewish state to survive with its capital in Jerusalem for ever. I’m a Zionist. Always have been. And strongly so.

What’s missing in this impromptu self-declaration of love that we would expect to see from Andrew’s history of posts and the discourse in general about the “demographic threat” to Israel? Answer: the qualification of a “democratic” Jewish state. One might read Andrew’s Zionist-love statement by itself and decide that a particular gentleman is saying he loves Israel so much that he wants a majority Jewish state in the Jewish ancestral homeland, and democracy might only be a close second. But that’s not the case with The Daily Dish.

I note Andrew’s repetition here: “Always have been. And strongly so.” Perhaps he’s not worried that he doth protest too much, or maybe he believes that if people catch him at this awkward moment, he’s still going to have his pants down.

Among the recent posts on the Dish, there is one on May 18 that relates closest to this avowal of undying support for the Jewish state of Israel. In that post, the stipulation of a “democratic” Israel was supremely important for Andrew to support a Jewish state — overwhelmingly more important than its being a Jewish majority state. Furthermore, his criteria for what would qualify Israel as undemocratic had scant differences from Israel’s present political situation. According to this post — one day before he posted his declaration of Zionist love — hardly any facts on the ground would have to change for Andrew to immediately turn his back on Israel. Here’s the quote from May 18:

And if a democratic Egypt emerges to insist on the obvious contours of the two-state solution, and Israel still balks at even freezing its settlement activity, it seems to me that the US should side with a far more crucial ally in the region, Egypt, and withdraw its support from an essentially un-democratic Greater Israel, with a disenfranchised Arab majority in Judea and Samaria.

I’ve already posted about the inexplicable, context-less appearance of these remarks about supporting Egypt in relation to support for Israel.

The remarks of May 18 seem to reveal a particular what-if fantasy Andrew has pondered with regard the Middle East. In it, American support is withdrawn from Israel; with very little changes on the ground, Israel becomes semantically categorized as an apartheid state; and America turns its Middle East support to one Arab nation that has captured the democratic (or majoritarian, anyway) hopes of the Muslim world. This is not a Zionist fantasy to say the least, but a fantasy whereby American supportiveness of Israel is totally erased — with pragmatic-righteous justification — and somehow the United States benefits greatly in the hearts of Muslims everywhere.

The tenor of Andrew’s anti-Zionist hypothetical is the very opposite of Andrew’s declaration today that sticks out like a sore thumb, struck with … sudden emotion: his  “hope, for what it’s worth, is to protect the possibility of a majority Jewish state to survive with its capital in Jerusalem for ever. I’m a Zionist. Always have been. And strongly so.” Why has he totally withdrawn from the equation, that which was his primary concern only yesterday, democracy?

I’m getting blog hits from people google searching for Andrew’s phrases in his hypothetical policy remarks about Egypt and Israel. I’m sure the Daily Dish is getting many, many more from such searches. Andrew knows that he may have approached some real trouble in the audience of reasonable people, if not something really troubling in his feelings.

I think Andrew realized he said something the day before that revealed way too much about his true opinions at some level that he doesn’t want to be known yet.


For the sake of completism …

Here are the rest of his remarks, which are somewhat more relevant to the Jeffrey Goldberg’s linked-to post:

I think Obama is doing his best to bring it about, primarily because it is America’s interest, but also because it is in Israel’s. And despite the hysteria from the Fox-Likud fringe, Obama’s words yesterday toward the Palestinians were stark, essentially putting Abbas on the spot on the Hamas charter, for example.

(In fact, the day before his argument was that Obama’s speech consisted entirely of well-worn platitudes.)

And yet this leader of a foreign government thinks he can essentially dictate terms for an American president and attempt to corral the US Congress to side explicitly with a foreign leader over the American president in foreign policy.

I don’t know … Keeping the promises of a previous executive, supported by Congress, is important when trying to push other countries to take risks for peace. It’s pretty standard realist foreign policy to back up your treaties and agreements, so other nations know your promises are reliable and you can gain some influence with them.

It seems like a big deal for an American president to dictate to an ally exactly the opposite of what the United States has promised the ally for assuming certain risks (that ended up in seasonal thundershowers of rockets and a war Andrew says “pulverized” Palestinian civilians).

On the Dish, the question of whether Obama’s reversal was a big deal or a bad move was sidestepped, which was presumably deliberate. I’m not going to rush to decry either Obama or Netanyahu about this, although I think “expect” was an ill-conceived word.

Netanyahu could have used much worse words, and if he wasn’t the leader of Israel, the Daily Dish wouldn’t have a problem with his statement or enough of a problem to tell us about it.

I find it strange that Andrew wants the Congress to approve anything one could remotely call a “war” but, with Israel, to be totally disregarded by the President when he decides what policies to support in order to prevent wars? Furthermore, must the Democratic Congress march lock step with their executive even if they disagree? Weren’t we, and the Daily Dish, upset about that presumption of the Republican Congress during the Bush presidency?

Don’t push your luck, Bibi. Others have with Obama and they have learned that he is often more canny than they are with political jujitsu. Obama’s usual tactic: gently and subtly prompting his foes to self-destruct. I just hope that in this critical juncture in the Middle East, Netanyahu doesn’t take his country with him.

I guess we have to just hope that you “just hope” for what you say you do …. even though it can change diametrically in just one day without a word of self-explanation.


Meh mail

From today, two emails to the Daily Dish:

As an Israeli citizen, I want to thank you for this post. You should know that many Israelis actually do understand that we should go back to 67′ borders, but the environment here is so toxic –

Except that Andrew has been arguing that Obama is absolutely NOT talking about going back to 1967 borders and anyone who is suggesting that is a right-wing lunatic, liar or Likudnik, including Ethan Bronner. So here someone with the view that 1967 is a moral imperative that Israelis are resisting against Obama’s prompt gets a free pass — because he’s supposedly an Israeli reader upset with his country and grateful to Andrew Sullivan.

Not unlike what the far right has done in America – that you just can’t say anything out loud or you’ll be denounce as almost Antisemitic. What’s going on here is awful, Bibi is taking us straight to hell. It’s amazing to think that if Ulmert was still in charge, he would have cut a deal with Obama a year ago.

Would any Israeli spell it in English “Ulmert”? Regardless, someone should inform this reader that Netanyahu is supposed to cut a deal with the Palestinians — which is what Olmert was doing a year ago — not Obama.

Doesn’t the reader know that the Dish has been trying to convince us that the small-c conservative does not support such overestimation of America’s ability to solve international problems? Of course, Sullivan’s Israel positions are patently hypocritical in view of his preaching of small-c conservativism … Even his ideological inspirations Ron and Rand Paul are trying to adjust their Israel policies to a philosophical conservative approach, in saying that an American President cannot have a positive influence on this foreign matter.

What a waste to finally have an American president who is so sincere, serious and decent, at a time when there’s no leader, no vision and no hope in Israel.

Is this guy for real? I like Obama but this adulation is ridiculous, to the point of sounding far-fetched, like people in the commercial praising a life-changing brand of toothpaste.

Reader email #2:

Though this is not surprising in the least, imagine for a moment that the leader of a country that is openly contemptuous of a sitting Republican president pays a visit to America, is given a warm reception by the Democratically-controlled Congress (indeed, even given the opportunity to address a Joint Session of both houses), and invited to address the leading liberal/Democratic think tanks and lobbying groups.

Can you picture the interminable cries of treason from the right?

Well, that depends on what one means by “openly contemptuous” in the hypothetical. Openly contemptuous like Chavez was to both Bush and the United States? Or openly contemptuous for doing what Netanyahu has done to earn this characterization by certain pundits?

Remember, all Netanyahu has done is (1) ask for the President to clarify that “land swaps” means that the United States will make good on its past promise to back the main settlement blocs staying with Israel in a land swap; (2) ask for the President to clarify what possible solutions to the refugee problem the United States will back when the issue comes up “later,” as Obama wants it to; and (3) back a security plan (perhaps not involving Israel) in the Jordan Valley.

That’s all that Netanyahu has done other than using the ill-chosen word “expect,” which is not so ill-chosen as to be a gob of spit in Obama’s eye.

Andrew offers in the same post with the two meh reader emails:

Surprise! The Washington Post actually sides with a foreign government against the president.

“Against the president”? Tout court?

All the blame must be laid not at the feet of Netanyahu (who is rendered blameless for his belligerence and contempt

“Belligerence and contempt.” AKA, using the word “expect” and getting permission to deliver a short non-bombshell speech in front of Obama that politely shared the Israeli government’s red lines with both the administration and the American people in a remarkably open fashion. It’s definitely clear that Andrew is showing “belligerence and contempt.”


He violated the Washington consensus that the American president must let Israel direct and guide his entire relations with every other power in the Middle East. […]

So until a foreign leader signs on in advance to US policy, the American president is unwise to state a position. Even after years now of trying to get the slightest serious concession from Israel. There is a mindset here that treats Israel not simply as an ally but as unique among all allies in being able to dictate to the US what its foreign policy will be. That is unhealthy for all parties. But so much of the Washngton machinery is devoted to it.

Exactly the same demented characterization as in Pat Buchanan’s phrase “Amen corner in Congress,” which Sullivan criticized long ago, without entirely distancing himself from Pat.

The Dish is getting mondoweiss-y

Lot of fraught arguments and empty dysphemisms today…

Quote of the day

This really is a titanic struggle between fear and hope. What has changed since Gaza is the context. The Arab Spring has, in my view, made fear more dangerous and hope more necessary. The democratic spring – from Tehran to Tunis – is the opposite force to the logic of the dead-end Gaza war, as to the mindset of Assad and Qaddafi. — Andrew Sullivan, The Daily Dish, 5/21/11

So, when citizens of an autocracy take the streets in protest for democracy, it’s like when Hamas members launched rockets at citizens of another state in order to undermine Jews’ right to live there … And when a government shoots down its own citizens, it’s like collateral damage in a war, which took the lives of 400 civilians near militant positions in another country. OK, Cartman.

The inescapable logic of things like Jewish conspiracies

Two nuggets of fact lie on the shore after the last news-cycle. One helps explain my mystification at theimmediate hard right hysteria. The verbal formula that essentially repeats the standard position of every recent US administration on the two-state solution did not strike me as anything new;

There’s a debate about that. I’m not sure. If there is anything new, it probably has to do with nuances, not about the idea that the 1948 armistice lines here-and-there nudged a tiny bit westward is going to be the new border.

in fact, it struck me as a minimalist response to Israel’s continued aggressive settlement of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

That’s a lie. There is no “continued aggressive settlement.” There is continued construction in areas it already has. In fact, in Jerusalem, construction has been slowed to less than a trickle and it’s driving residents up the wall. Going by Orwell’s standards, Andrew is being a pure propagandist.

And yet instantly Drudge, Fox, Romney et al. blasted the “stunning” news that Israel had somehow been thrown under the bus.

My God. Drudge, Fox instantly blasting Obama with a spin on something in the news cycle! … It makes you wonder whether the world has turned totally upside-down in just one evening.

None of this makes sense until you realize that Netanyahu had been given a heads-up by the administration.

Really, there is no other explanation that would make sense to him?

So it’s pretty obvious that it was the Israelis who immediately got their US media mouthpieces to spin

— Does his psychiatrist read his blog? If so, he should kindly inform Andrew that “pretty obvious” can indicate a narrow view that takes very little information to sustain some strange hopeful thinking.

the speech as some sort of attack. So those of you who think Jeffrey Goldberg and Walter Russell Mead and Victor Davis Hanson are a foreign government’s favored outlets should think again.

“Those of you” in this case are antisemites of the flaming variety that make Andrew feel better about his own opinions.


In the same post as the above delusional musings, Andrew gives us this gift:

And then, of course, one wonders if what Obama really wants is exactly for the European allies to vote for Palestinian statehood, because he, given the exigencies of American politics and fundraising, and his own attachment to Israel, cannot. And this speech was designed in part to give him cover.

In other words, Obama might not have betrayed Andrew’s vision, and Andrew does not have to feel ashamed and self-questioning. In this case, Andrew would have that, in regard to a potential UN vote on Palestinian statehood, the speech both (a) shows that Obama’s emotional attachment to Israel prevents him from voting “for”, AND (b) shows that he really wants his Europeans to VOTE “for.”

Ladies and gentleman, this is a mind capable of crafting both the most bizarre simplicities and complexities in the service of his angry, ashamed and vengeful politics.

Quote of the day

A dog whistle for his beagles and people who are in the know? —

And if a democratic Egypt emerges to insist on the obvious contours of the two-state solution, and Israel still balks at even freezing its settlement activity, it seems to me that the US should side with a far more crucial ally in the region, Egypt, and withdraw its support from an essentially un-democratic Greater Israel, with a disenfranchised Arab majority in Judea and Samaria. — Andrew Sullivan, 5/13/11

What does Egypt have to do with this? … Why does supporting one country imply undercutting the other?

The Dish mentions Egypt in this context because of a fantasy he entertains wherein the United States gains influence in the region by giving dramatic support to a fulminating Arab polity while decreasing our current support to Muslim-hated Israel.

And where did I infer the Dog Whistle part? Because surely Andrew knows that Egypt will give lip service to the 1967 lines (while not promoting a compromise on refugees, of course), that’s all it has to do to fulfill its part of Andrew’s conditional. And surely Andrew knows that Israel will not adhere to a permanent “settlement freeze” if that phrase means not building and renovating inside those areas that it already has, that are contiguous with Israel 1948, the portion of the settlements that does not interfere with Palestinian lives.

It seems as though the Dish is preparing to introduce the majority of its readers to the idea that Israel will attain the status of “Greater Israel plus Apartheid” on the Dish much sooner than they expect. (What an amazing Zionist he is!)

Broken political compass watch

Ethan Bronner even props up this bizarre notion [that Obama asserted borders must hewn to 1948 lines]. Bronner’s evidence is that there is a distinction between affirming that a peace settlement should not be based on “a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949” and one saying exactly the same thing with the formula of 1967 borders along with “mutually agreed upon land-swaps.” Let’s just say that Bronner is now far to the right of Jeffrey Goldberg and Walter Russell Mead.

This after the Dish called, of all people, Aaron David Miller (!) a “classic A[merican] J[ewish] E[stablishment] member” merely because (a) he has a semblance of power (a respected byline and friends who still work for the White House, and (b) and he’s a Jew who disagrees with the Dish.

There’s more:

Well, Roger Ailes isn’t that powerful. The meme that a speech that said almost nothing new is a “stunning” attack on Israel is countered on the right with an embrace of the speech by neoconservatives. Yeah: you couldn’t make this conservative cognitive dissonance up.

So the Dish’s latest opinion is that all self-professed conservatives have to think the same?

Is open-mindedness now only praised when the opposite quality is the criticism Andrew Sullivan is levying against other people? I thought Sullivan was portraying himself as the conservative cast out for defying a monopoly of pro-Bush opinion which was, by definition, anti-intellectual.

There’s even more:

Pro-settler Huckabee:

President Obama has betrayed Israel and made a grievous mistake by suggesting borders of Israel go back to pre-1967 borders. This is an outrage to peace, sovereignty of Israel, and a stable Middle East.

I guess this is a monent to realize that the American right and the West Bank settler movement are now indistinguishable.

Except for the teeny little detail that one group lives in the settlements … It seems that for him, it’s a faraway idea that Israelis daily, constantly, deal with issues that are outside the American news cycle to which he applies his obsession with outing neocons.

Plus, didn’t he just say that the Right is divided — Unacceptable! — on this speech?

My view of the speech as I heard it is below. My bottom line on Israel/Palestine is that this contained little that is new on the subject. Moreover, the content about democratization was almost exactly the same as the final section of the prescient Cairo speech. The distinction between Bush and Obama on democratization is now and always has been that Bush wanted to impose it by force and Obama wants to coax its indigenous evolution. Is that so hard to grapple with?

Well, there definitely is someone here that is having difficulty grappling with Obama’s actual positions as opposed to what they expect of the President.