The power of the "Israel lobby" in the US is hard to measure exactly. But its hawkish positions do conflict with the views, and interests, of most American Jews. So why isn't there a more dovish lobby to counter it? One is, finally, about to be unveiledby Gershom Gorenberg / April 27, 2008 / Leave a comment
Discuss this article on First Drafts , Prospect’s blog
In late January, the Israeli novelist AB Yehoshua wrote an article in the country’s largest-circulation newspaper, Yediot Aharonot, urging the US to temporarily recall its ambassador from Israel. That act of diplomatic pique, he said, would be proof of America’s friendship to his country.
The purpose, Yehoshua wrote, would be to pressure Prime Minister Olmert to evacuate the tiny West Bank settlements known as outposts, which violate Israeli and international law. Olmert and his predecessor Ariel Sharon had been promising President Bush to dismantle outposts for over three years. Olmert has publicly said that the country shames itself by not acting, but he fears the violent protests of the outpost settlers. Since most Israelis value good relations with the US, an American show of displeasure would help produce the public backing Olmert needs. “If the US is a true friend of Israel,” Yehoshua said, “it must help her through a symbolic act of protest.”
Yehoshua is an immense figure in Israeli culture. His novels are canonical. He is outspokenly dovish but firmly within the mainstream left. He is also an old-fashioned Zionist who offends diaspora Jews by saying that one can only live a full Jewish life in Israel. So the man calling for America to lean on Israel is no radical. (In fact, in Israel Yehoshua’s article promptly vanished from public notice, presumably deemed unremarkable.)
By asking for a deus ex machina to intervene in Israeli politics, Yehoshua was demonstrating the despair of Israel’s peace camp. The left’s once-forbidden positions—a two-state solution, evacuating settlements—are now boringly respectable. Olmert, a recovering rightist, supports them. But nothing happens. Why can’t a winged figure descend to get the plot moving? America has filled that role for Israel before, vetoing UN security council condemnations, providing aid. Someone simply needs to tell the gods what Israel actually needs.
I write this not to mock Yehoshua but to agree with him. As a progressive Israeli, I long to see a shift in US policy. With Yehoshua, I believe that the right actions by the US could awaken public support here in Israel for the steps needed to reach peace.
I also believe there’s no chance that President Bush will take Yehoshua’s advice. If a member of the US congress made a similar proposal, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (Aipac) would almost certainly encourage donations…