Latest tail-wags-dog faux story: Israeli “Minister without Portfolio” Yossi Peled sent an 11-page letter, revealed by the Jerusalem Post, to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. At one point in the letter, Peled says that if the U.S. keeps moving in an anti-Israel direction, Israel should reconsider some ties and move in a more independent direction, such as selling controversial military equipment without U.S. approval and buying European airplanes.
Of course, this would be a dramatic and historic break in Israel’s policies, and there is little doubt that Israel never would actually consider such a move, or that such a move would be anything more than counterproductive to Israel. Anyone fairly reading the JPost article would see that this was not seriously considered (italics mine):
“We must make every effort to maintain our relationship with the US and I respect Obama, but Israel has its own interests and we have to know what our alternatives are,” Peled said. “I don’t think what I suggest is vengeful. I just think that even a superpower must behave like a partner.”
Peled personally gave the letter to Netanyahu at Sunday’s cabinet meeting and urged him to take it seriously. But a source close to the prime minister reacted to it with scorn and stressed that none of Peled’s suggestions would be implemented.
“The government’s goal is to cooperate with the US,” an official in the Prime Minister’s Office said. “Jerusalem and Washington have a special relationship and we expect that relationship to continue to be strong, intimate and cooperative.”
None of the quoted language, however, stopped some bloggers from spinning the story as Israel (the tail) trying to wag the American dog.
Robert Farley at American Prospect (“Tail Attempts to Wag Dog”) cross-posted to Lawyers Guns and Money (“Tail Vigorously Attempts to Wag Dog””) gave huge significance to this letter notwithstanding the clear fact that the letter constitutes an outlier of Israeli opinion: “This puts to test the notion that Israel is a major strategic asset for the United States, rather than a strategic liability.”
Spencer Ackerman correctly noted that there was “only the slimmest mathematical possibility that anything Peled suggests here going to become reality,” yet urged Israel to stop “causing needless U.S. acrimony.”
Fair enough, but other than the leak of this letter, there is nothing Israel is doing to cause acrimony, other than trying to adjust to the newly-empowered Arabist school of American diplomatic thought (which has been around but out of power for decades).
The Arabists believe (wrongly in my view) that “balance” is the road to convincing the Arab states to accept the legitimacy (not just the existence) of Israel, and blame unwavering American support for Israel for the Arabs’ traditional rejectionist policies. Yet it is this unwavering support which brought some Arab countries to the table, although Arab opinion in general still denies the historical and legitimate claims of the Jewish people to Israel.
If anything is going on here, it is that the “progressive” Jewish movement, such as JStreet [added: and it supporters], which has been hostile to Likud forever, is seeking to put pressure on Israel. The progressives share the Arabists’ view that U.S. support for Israel is the core problem. As Matthew Yglesias notes, the progressive Jewish movement is engaged in aggressive fundraising to insulate pro-balance Democrats from pressure.
The source of Farley’s post (which he linked) was a post at The Progressive Realist, which argues:
Obama’s willingness to put settlements in the forefront represents a balance that has been sorely lacking from the US-approach to the conflict – a necessary corrective to the dysfunctional US/Israeli relationship where blanket and blind support for any and all Israeli actions has enabled many mutually destructive policies to gain life.
Follow the linking in The Progressive Realist quote, takes you to an Obsedian Wing’s post (no, not Publius) which itself links back to a Stephen Walt post arguing that “the special relationship (i.e., the policy of nearly-unconditional and uncritical support) is increasingly harmful to the Jewish state….” Yes, that Stephen Walt, co-author of the much criticized book “The Israel Lobby.”
So which tail is wagging which dog here?
Ultimately, the Peled letter, which is a complete non-starter and non-event is being used by adherents to “The Israel Lobby” approach to the Middle East to cause the very acrimony of which such adherents accuse Israel.