What Bibi faces in liberated Washington

Gershom Gorenberg

My new column is up at Ha’aretz in Hebrew and in English translation.

Washington at the beginning of the Obama era has the feel of a city that has just been liberated from foreign occupation, or of a person who just snapped out of an inexplicable psychotic episode. The paranoia of the Bush days has passed. The world is no longer divided into children of light and children of darkness.

The standard assessment says that after his return to power, Benjamin Netanyahu will have a tense time when he visits Washington – just as he did during his first term when he faced a president who demanded that he advance a peace process. That assessment isn’t quite right – because this time, Netanyahu is likely to have an even more tension-fraught time than he did in the 90s. In his new term, he won’t be able to count on Congress as a counterweight to the administration in his relations with America.

During his first visit to Washington as prime minister in 1996, Netanyahu spoke before Congress to repeated applause. The part of his speech praising deregulation and tax cuts helped him by warming the hearts of the Republican majority. Today that economic approach is correctly seen as the cause of a worldwide disaster, and the Republicans are a defeated minority. Economic spin won’t help Netanyahu build a responsible image.

More important, Congress’ attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict has begun to shift…

Read the rest at Ha’aretz in Hebrew or  English; comment there in Tel Aviv or here in South Jerusalem.

5 thoughts on “What Bibi faces in liberated Washington”

  1. See this recent poll of attitudes of the American people to Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Note that support remains very strong for Israel, the war in Gaza has had no appreciable effect, the Americans are suspicious of the Palestinians, only (and I think this is significant for Netanyahu’s case) 48% support an indpendent Palestinian state. Thus, the “progressives” may believe that Obama will carry out their most ardent dreams and threaten Israel with punitive sanctions if it doesn’t do what the “progressives” want (e.g. knock down settlements in Judea/Samaria, make concessions that endanger Israeli security ,etc) but Obama would find a lot of opposition in the American public to this. Thus, with his plate full already with a major economic crisis and a recovery plan that Wall Street doesn’t seem to have much confidence in, Netanyahu, if he is as clever as people claim he is, can prevent American pressure inimicable to policies the Likud advocates.

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx?version=print

  2. Y your delusional appraisal of where we Americans stand in regard to Israel today is not reflective of most of the 320 million people who live here. Most Americans don’t give a crap about what happens in the Israeli- Palestinian tussel except for the 2% that make up the Jewish population.

    I would be amazed if most Americans even know where Judea/Samaria is and what it’s import to the whole peace process is. Most Americans don’t know who Netanyahu is or what he stands for . Hawks are not held in good oder lately here and the GOP ranks lower in the polls than Curious George from Texas

    If most Americans believed that tearng down the illegal settlements would assist in helping the Palestinians get a state they would contribute money to help blow them up and move the settlers out by force if need be. Don’t get lulled into believing the AIPAC propaganda on what Americans believe . You don’t live here or you would know that our thoughts are centered on surviving Depression II not some nonsense involving Israel

  3. Liberated Washington is the first step to liberated Jerusalem (al Quds). When al Quds is liberated, all usurpers will have to pack their belongings and leave. The ugly structures that you have erected in all parts of Al Quds will be demolished, and replaced with authentic Palestinian architecture. The myths of your temples will be erased, and you can worship in authentic temples of tackiness in Las Vegas

  4. Thanks, YBD, for pointing me to the Gallup poll – http://www.gallup.com/poll/116308/Americans-Support-Israel-Unchanged-Gaza-Conflict.aspx – once again I learn from your postings at South Jerusalem!

    I like the line graph “trending” from 1988 for the question “are your sympathies more with the Israelis or more with the Palestinians?” It shows remarkably steady support for Palestinians, even if it is at 15-18% over the years. You can see a spike of support for Israel during the infitada, and again after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. Support for Israel rises from 40 to 59% from ’01 to ’09 but this is at the expense of the “undecided’s”. Meanwhile the proportion who favored the Palestinians seems to have been steady.

    I believe what this poll really shows is that Americans are pro-Israel and anti-Terror. At certain times we associate “Palestinians” more strongly with “Terror” than others – and in these times the “undecided” decide they are against the Palestinian terrorists they see on the news and for Israel.

    At other times the “Palestinians” we identify with are the ones we consider more like ourselves (or how we see ourselves) – the people with families, respectful of tradition, struggling to get by with good intentions and peace in their hearts.

    That of course is the flaw of the question – “which” Palistinians do you favor more completely skews the results.

    We apparently haven’t gotten to the point yet where reducing refugee camps to rubble (regardless of cause) is going affect our policies or affection for Israel. But one day, it will. If 1,200 isn’t enough to stop the rockets, what then? 1,500? 2,000? With a third to two thirds collateral casualty rate? The flaw in deterrence through massive retaliation is the increasing level of brutality required. A more sustainable strategy has to be developed. Why not develop one with Mitchell, Clinton, and Obama?

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