Representatives David Price (D-NC) and Peter Welch (D-VT) deserve accolades for their Congressional letter encouraging President Barack Obama and Congress to work together to prevent cutting U.S. assistance to the Palestinians.
Supporters of the letter are far from left wing anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian peaceniks. The Shin Bet, Israel’s F.B.I, has noted that U.S.-trained Palestinian Authority security forces are a primary reason that 2010 was the most terror-free year in the last decade. U.S. and Israeli experts also connect the dots between U.S. assistance and improved security.
But only 44 members of Congress chose to put their name on the letter.
The other 391 didn’t have a “Rick Perry oops” moment and forget their political platforms or the raison d’etre of their Congressional service. Unfortunately, taking the safest route to reelection is too often their platform and focus. That route and focus certainly risks offending fewer (ostensibly) pro-Israel organizations and large contribution bundlers. And it helps ensure continued Congressional employment — a form of government tenure where it’s not “publish or perish” as much as “assimilate or face strong opposition at election time.” Congress’s Pavlovian reaction to what they believe the traditional pro-Israel lobby wants also helps ensure the continued pro-Israel organizational employment of the reliable gaggle who revel in creating perpetually myopic fundraising campaigns primarily focused on blamestorming.
It’s not only AIPAC or AJC and others on the pro-Israel right who seem to generate campaigns more aligned with their own organizational fundraising interests (or in the case of ECI, Republican political goals) than Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking goals. J Street and many on the pro-Israel progressive left are, at times, also guilty of similar confusion.
How many Congressional resolutions have to be proposed or opposed before pro-Israel organizational supporters recognize that victory doesn’t come from names on Congressional letters or the few extra fundraising bucks they generate? How many “fire-up-the-troops” speeches about Israel’s vibrant democracy and focus on human rights — always, of course, with a compare and contrast to Israel’s neighbors (who we are assured have neither) — have to occur at (ostensibly) pro-Israel conventions before there is a realization that the quality of Israel’s perfection isn’t the issue?
Rather, it’s about how perfectly Israel acts to respond to the world it lives in: Passing laws that threaten Israel’s democracy or proposing laws that many argue will weaken dissent, equality and human rights is far from a perfect reaction. So is engaging in “we’ll show you” settlement building that merely ensures a more entrenched and expanded pool of enemies, weakens Israel’s relationship with its key supporters, and limits the opportunity to enter into “two state” negotiations with the Palestinians.
If counting who gets more standing ovations in Congress— Obama or Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — could lead to a two state solution, then let’s give Netanyahu the win for his May 24th speech (as ECI trumpeted and AIPAC and AJC used in fundraising appeals) and encourage pro-Israel organizations to back a Congressional rule that legislators must remain upright whenever they listen to novella-like speeches about Israel’s proven sincerity and the Palestinians’ demonstrated perfidy.
But the rules won’t change any more than the pointless speech-making will, at least while so many pro-Israel organizational actions remain mired in tactics that are deeply disconnected from any strategic focus, and Israel’s coalition government seems allergic to visionary leadership.
So we are left with a 24 hour, seven days a week soap opera that, in the version played around the world, primarily features deprivation and violence caused and furthered by leaders who, too often, prefer reciting their own history lessons rather than taking decisive and meaningful actions. It is, unfortunately, a show guaranteed to renew, unless organizations, who claim to be pro-Israel, start to redefine their mission to include advocating for Israel to recognize and act as if it understands that not only is peace with the Palestinians an Israeli vital interest, the absence of peace is a growing existential threat — a threat to Israel’s survival as a democratic nation serving as the homeland for the Jewish people.
Friends don’t let friends drive drunk: It is past time for pro-Israel organizations to stop effectively giving Israel the keys to drive along whatever path she wants to take. There are, no doubt, any number of dangerous obstacles and drivers on Israel’s road. This isn’t intended to ignore them. This proposed change in approach is, however, intended to help Israel best navigate around the obstacles, including the ones she has managed to create for herself, which will provide a more direct route toward a two state agreement and peace.