There’s a shift in the anti-Obama camp, from Obama as Jew-hating, Iran-appeasing, Farrakhan apologist, to a sincere friend of Israel who just happens to be wrong on a host of issues. I write about it this week, pointing to recent essays by Yossi Klein Halevi, Nathan Diament, and Hillel Halkin.
To their credit, each of these writers goes to great pains to distance himself from the worst things said about Obama. Halkin’s testimonial is especially forthright, especially because he seems to fear the most from a Obama presdidency (despite the polite hiccup at the beginning of the following paragraph):
From an Israeli point of view, [an Obama presidency] need not necessarily be a catastrophe. Mr. Obama never was and is not the anti-Israel figure that some right-wing Jewish circles nastily attempted to portray him as during his primary campaign. He will support Israel on many issues just as nearly all American presidents have done before him.
Fair enough. Diament, as I pointed out in a previous post, basically suggests that Obama still has to prove he feels Israel in his kishkes — which in some ways is the hardest thing to convince voters of. Barring his throwing himself in the path of a bulldozer in the streets of Jerusalem, it’s not clear what grand gesture Obama must make to overcome the distrust of those who are already disinclined to like him. Kishkes equals pandering plus time. He can pander, but there’s not much time between now and November.
Klein Halevi and Halkin, by contrast, air their specific gripes and anxieties about Obama policies, especially on Iraq, and worry he won’t be resolute in deploying the military option if it comes down to that, or supporting Israel if it decides to strike first.
In my column, I suggest that this is a positive trend:
Halkin’s claims about the Clinton legacy, like Klein Halevi’s about the dangers of diplomacy, are highly debatable – but that’s the point. You can’t argue with a paranoid e-mail, any more than you can reason with a head cold. But in the new wave of Obama anxiety, at least there is something to debate. And that’s a start.
I keep harping on this — but what I object to is how Israel supporters, almost exclusively on the right, defend their own policies as “pro-Israel,” and everyone else’s as “anti-.” It’s a Bush-ian “you’re either for us or against us” formula that makes every debate on Israel about bona fides and symbolic gestures and minutely parsed language, instead of serious debate over the best policy. To support Oslo and oppose the settlements is not anti-Israel. To add diplomacy to a president’s arsenal is not anti-Israel. It is merely an alternative approach. And maybe it’s a bad approach. And maybe Obama, as Halkin’s article is headlined, presents “Dangers Worse than Clinton’s.” But let’s at least talk about it like adults, and stop the name-calling, the distorting of perfectly reasonable statements, and the specious comparisons.