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.

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