You know, if I was a public diplomacy expert who spent the last decade staking my career on something like the Cairo speech, then I consulted for various principals in the leadup to the Cairo speech, then I watched the Cairo speech explode in Obama’s face and send Israeli public opinion of the US President nosediving to levels heretofore unplumbed outside the Muslim world – if I was someone like that, I’d be pretty careful about sullenly blaming Obama’s Mideast failures on Israel. At worst I’d casually mention it during Q+A’s at invited University lectures. That way I could leave graduate students with the impression that it was the sophisticated opinion and link to them offhandedly if they ever published it.
I certainly wouldn’t post it on my well-respected Foreign Policy blog, lest people read it and get the impression that I was overcompensating for something:
The [Goldstone Report] vote shows that Israel is paying a price for its short-sighted diplomatic strategy of confrontation with the Obama administration… Netanyahu has spent many long months doing everything in his power to subvert Obama’s peace initiatives, defying the demand to freeze settlements and inciting American and Israeli public opinion against the President and against peace…
The passage of the [Goldstone Report] may slightly increase the odds of a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation agreement under Egyptian auspices… Given that the Egyptians are talking about holding two seperate signing ceremonies so that Hamas and Fatah don’t have to be in the same room with each other, I doubt that any deal signed soon will amount to actual reconciliation…
Given how much importance the Israeli government has given to the Goldstone Report, [a US] veto might actually be used as a form of leverage. Obama’s push for peace is at the brink of collapse almost entirely because of Netanyahu’s intransigence. But the administration has thus far seemed highly reluctant to actually put any serious pressure on the Israeli government — which has only emboldened Netanyahu and his enablers to dig in their heels further. The use of the veto to protect Israel from Goldstone should not be free.
See? Because Israeli public opinion used to be on the side of massive concessions but then Netanyahu “incited” Israelis “against the President and against peace.” So any foreign policy experts who pushed Obama to “stand firm on settlements” as an anti-Netanyahu Israeli wedge issue in the context of currying favor in the Arab world – hypothetically, if such foreign policy experts were to exist – well, it wouldn’t be their fault that their recommendations backfired spectacularly.
They couldn’t have known that their expert expertise would have the President alienating Israeli leftists without much benefit in the Muslim world. The peace process isn’t moribund because Obama’s enemies-first allies-last strategy left Israelis feeling betrayed while inevitably failing to assuage eliminationist Palestinian sentiment. It’s that Netanyahu mendaciously turned Israelis “against peace.” Not their fault!
Here’s the thing though. Just a few months ago Lynch posted that Obama should engage Hamas because Fatah/Hamas reconciliation was critical to providing a “viable Palestinian negotiating partner.” The post was mostly boilerplate, though it did cleanly embody what solid liberal foreign policy expertise should look like: “my work is of staggering importance; here’s what just happened; here’s why my staggeringly important work, in light of what just happened, justifies a predetermined, unwavering, and always-still-untested policy of robust diplomatic engagement with rogue states, anti-Western multilateral organizations, and/or terrorist cretins.” Aspiring scholars take note.
That’s how foreign policy elites can emphasize that a Palestinian unity government presents the perfect opportunity for Israeli concessions and then – when there’s a Palestinian civil war – insist that Palestinian disunity presents the perfect opportunity for Israeli concessions.
But if you’re already on the record saying we should engage Hamas to achieve Palestinian unity to set up peace talks – if you’ve already played that card that way – isn’t it a little dishonest to blame “Netanyahu’s intransigence” while Fatah and Hamas remain split? It almost raises the unseemly suggestion that you’re lashing out.
There’s a totally separate issue, by the by, about how just how much our vaunted foreign policy or public diplomacy community actually understands about Israeli public opinion. Lynch repeated over and over again that he just didn’t get why Israelis are so pissed off about the Goldstone Report. I counted four different times where he openly mused that their reactions were just so inexplicable. You’d think that so much confusion about such an undeniable part of Israeli public opinion would engender some reticence regarding the evaluation of said opinion. That maybe rather than blaming Netanyahu’s “incitement,” one might consider the possibility that one never understood Israeli sensibilities in the first place. Not so much it turns out.
In fairness, Lynch is on much firmer ground when it comes to strict descriptions of Arab and Muslim public opinion. Here he has reams and reams of data, not all of it public. So when he says that the US loses credibility when it does something as basic as supporting Israel’s fundamental “right to defend itself,” that’s an evaluation you can probably rely on. Now I’d read that as an admission that nothing short of a total sellout of our democratic ally Israel will mollify the Arab and Muslim world – and that therefore a disastrous loss of what in better times used to be called “national honor” is a mere prerequisite to engagement and public diplomacy – but I’m not an expert on these things.
* Obama and Israel: Betrayal in the Broken Places [New Ledger]
* How the UN vote on the Goldstone Report could help Israeli-Palestinian peace [Lynch / FP]
* Stand Firm on Settlements [Lynch / FP]
* Obama Alienates The Israeli Left: “He Has Spoken About Us But Not To Us” [MR]
* New Pew Study: No, Of Course There Was No Cairo Speech “Obama Effect” In Lebanon Or Iran [MR]
* Palestinians say hopes in Obama ‘evaporated’ [AP]
* Towards a Palestinian accord [Lynch / FP]
* Obama to Arabs: "what you’ll see is someone who is listening" [Lynch / FP]
* Unity Government? No Unity Government? The Solution Is the Same – Israeli Concessions [MR]
* The fallout from Obama’s interview: day one
* There Are Many Arabs That Support Hezbollah? No Way!
* Why Would Anyone Smart Say Hezbollah Achieved a Military Victory?
* Foreign Policy Experts Freak Out Over Biden’s Gaffetastic “Green Light” For An Israeli Attack On Iran