Paul Waldman and Ed Kilgore wonder whether Republicans in America are still going to feel a strong allegiance to Israel if, after tomorrow's elections, Israel is run by a government the GOP doesn't like.
In recent years, the Republican Party has elevated “support for Israel” to a level of passion and consensus usually reserved for things such as tax cuts and opposition to abortion rights. But that happened during a string of conservative Israeli governments. If Israel is led by a Labor Party prime minister and begins to change some of its policies, will Republicans decide that “support” is more complicated than they used to think?
...Republicans don’t concern themselves much with the lively debates over policy within Israel, because the government is controlled by conservatives (Netanyahu’s Likud Party has ruled since 2001, with an interregnum of control by Kadima, a Likud offshoot). “Support for Israel” just means support for the current Israeli government.
But tomorrow, Republicans could learn that by the standard they’ve been using, most Israelis are insufficiently pro-Israel. And then what? What if a Labor-led government moves toward a two-state solution, or a curtailing of Jewish settlement in the West Bank? And what if those changes are enthusiastically supported by President Obama and Hillary Clinton?
But we know how Republicans' loyalty works in reference to the other country they say they love without qualification, America. Republicans say that America is the greatest country in the history of the human race and that it's totally unacceptable to criticize America ... except when the "wrong" government comes to power (i.e., a Democrat is elected president), in which case Republicans' criticism of America is vehement and relentless. Oh, but they're not saying America in those cases; ask them and they'll tell you that an America run by Democrats isn't really America at all.
That's how they'll feel if Israel tacks leftward after tomorrow's elections -- yes, they'll still swear that they love Israel, and they'll still insist that anyone who criticizes the idea of Israel or Israel under Likud governments is an anti-Semite, but they'll explain away the apparent contradiction by saying that a non-Likud government isn't the real government of Israel.
Netanyahu is already laying the groundwork for this by asserting that the responsibility for a Likud loss tomorrow will lie with a sinister international conspiracy:
“I turn to the public out of concern that we will not be able to form the government because of the enormous support to them from foreign associations which are giving them tens of millions of dollars,” the Prime Minister told Israel Radio, referring to the Zionist Union leaders Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni.
“This support is provided because those giving it know that if elected they will accept the dictates of the international community.”
The American right is just flat-out blaming President Obama for Netanyahu's struggles in the polls, and that blame assessment extends all the way to the GOP congressional delegation. In essence, U.S. conservatives will say that Obama was to the Israeli elections what they believed ACORN was to the 2008 American election.
Of course, the outcome of the Israeli elections could be complicated -- there could even be a power-sharing arrangement between Likud and the opposition Zionist Union, as a number of observers have noted. In which case, the U.S. right's attitude toward Israel's government will be very much like its attitude toward the U.S. government: only the conservative parts are legitimate.
In any case, Republicans will still say they love Israel without qualification, while ignoring the fact that that love comes with the huge qualification of hating whoever isn't in sympathy with Likud. Sure, it's cognitive dissonance. But Republicans are very comfortable at that.
TO GET SPECIFIC: We now have this headline:
Netanyahu: If I'm elected, there will be no Palestinian state
In a definitive disavowal of his Bar-Ilan two-state speech, prime minister makes last-minute attempt to draw voters from Bennett's Habayit Hayeudi.
It sends a clear signal ... for the American right wing to openly join him in this provocative stance. And that's not good, not good at all. For anyone.
Which will happen even if Netanyahu loses. Whatever the next Israeli government's policy is, the GOP's stance will be the same as Netanyahu's.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog