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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Liveblog: Israel and America: Has the love cooled?

Here's the session I'm at now. My battery is running out and I'm having trouble charging it.

Elliott Abrams says that Obama does not have the view of Israel that Clinton and Bush had. No great love for Israel, but deeper question is relationship between the two societies where there has been remarkably little change.

America has Christians and Europe has former Christians and that's the difference between them. That's who supports Israel. Jewish community keeps getting smaller. Fewer young Jews are Jewish in any meaningful sense.

Democrats much less enthusiastic about Israel but that pre-dates Obama and Netanyahu. Not personal. The left around the world hates Israel.

Ethan Bronner asked Abrams if he's offended by the term 1967 lines. Abrams said that it's only offensive if it's not Israel's policy and it's being imposed on it. That drew some applause.

Martin Indyk says that tension has existed in US-Israel relationship since time immemorial.

By the way, I am now on the other side of the room and I am plugged in.

Indyk describes Obama's speech as James Baker done over - claims it's nothing new. He says that whether the two sides can find a way to get back to the table is going to be tested now. He refers to September as a train wreck. Israelis have never considered UN cause for concern so why are they panicking now? (Because no one is sure Obama will actually veto). Indyk claims that Obama doesn't want negotiations either because he doesn't believe anything will come of them. Obama afraid he will have to veto, putting him on the wrong side in the Middle East. Indyk thinks that US and Israel will find partnership to relaunch negotiations but not likely they will produce anything.

Itamar Rabinovich is next. He thinks there is a personality conflict between Obama and Netanyahu, which he calls a train wreck. He says that change in the Middle East may not be worse for Israel but it is more difficult. Depends what Israel does with it.

Rabinovich raises linkage issue and infamous Petraeus speech. Does Petraeus believe it or is it what the White House wanted him to say? Obama himself said linkage to Tom Brokaw during campaign and that is a negative in and of itself.

Rabinovich talks about base of support for Israel. He doesn't like what he sees on US campuses - specifically mentions Jewish faculty and students. He says it's a function of where and when Obama went to school.

Robert Wexler is next - you know how much I like him.... Wexler says love is still present in US-Israel relationship. He says it's a passionate love affair. He takes issue with Abrams claim that President Obama does not have in his heart the requisite love for Israel. Wexler says he doesn't know what love any President had for Israel, but can judge them on statement, deeds and actions.

Wexler touts security relationship with US-Israel and says that can't happen despite the President of the US.

Wexler says that Obama got Israel into OECD - called every country voting to make sure they would vote for Israel. He thinks that's a fair amount of love.

Regarding last 3-4 weeks - Obama spent his time trying to convince Germany, France and UK not to support unilateral resolution of 'statehood.' As a result, French Foreign Minister wanted peace conference. Abu Mazen said yes, Netanyahu said give me a week, Israel asked US to throw cold water on idea and US did.

Wexler says African-Americans over age 45 have warm feeling for Israel but younger African Americans don't because of different set of formative events. Same with Latino community. Says we have to work on that.

Says young Americans (including Jews) aren't liberal - they're progressive. Gay rights, abortion, etc. are givens. There's a degree of liberal thought that's a given among American Jews that has not necessarily been reflected in Israeli society.

Ruth Yaron is next. She says that Israel wants to feel the love. Says that it's not enough to tell me that you're giving me more aid. We want the rest of the world to know. If we don't feel secure with US support we won't take risks. We need to feel we have support (we being Israeli public). That's a huge difference on what we do with the 'Palestinians.'

Where was Obama's love during the Cairo speech? Where was sign of affection? Living in an era where the whole Middle East is changing (and not the way Peres envisioned 15-20 years ago), if there is a gap between Israel and US radical forces could sneak in and this will undermine Israeli public's willingness to make compromises necessary for peace.

This seems to have eluded Barack Obama. He has to make sure that the love is seen (I think it's too late for that). Any gap is dangerous for the State of Israel. She draws lots of applause.

Ethan Bronner to ask questions and then let audience ask questions. Bronner said Gazans were concerned that Netanyahu got so much applause. So why doesn't Israel feel the love (he asks Yaron)? Gazans said that US run by Netanyahu and not just leaders - average 'Palestinian' said that. Yaron responds by saying that Obama has to speak to Israeli public and come here. Gets lots of applause. I doubt Obama will take that chance before the elections.

Bronner asks Wexler about Petraeus idea. Wexler says he's uncomfortable with notion that American blood being spilled because of Israel. Bronner says that was a misquote. Wexler says it's unwise. Bronner asks if it's untrue. Wexler says that you can't says that there is no effect. Wexler says that Yaron asks them to show us some love, while Prince Turki says that America is an unabashed Israel lover. How can Turki say what he said and Ruth said what she said and both feel as they do?

Rabinovich picks up point and says Turki was angry at passage in Obama speech that criticized Bahrain. Rabinovich says take out love and introduce intimacy. Rabinovich says there's a way to say yes, US a close friend to Israel, let's see how we can make it to the Palestinians advantage. Rabinovich says that Israelis are nervous because they see how the US treated Egypt.

He says that Netanyahu needs to lay out to Obama what he is willing to do, which is what Sharon and Rabin and others did. Obama has to have Israeli partner who levels with him. (I think the problem is that anything that Netanyahu could give would not be enough).

Rabinovich said that what happened in Congress is good. Arabs think time is on their side. The message of the Netanyahu speech and Congress' reaction is that time is not on the Arabs' side.

Bronner asks if problem is policy gaps or if there is something at the core that is troubled. Abrams says that for some people it's both. He says to forget the Europeans but as far as the Democrats are concerned, if Israel only country criticized that has nothing to do with Netanyahu. In Europe there's a fundamental issue of anti-Semitism. But is Democrat problem existence of State of Israel? No, but it goes too far to say that the problem is just the policies.

Abrams said that when Bibi said that we would only keep the blocs - which no Likud Prime Minister has ever said - Obama didn't give him any credit. That's where we're missing the love. Obama attitude is sooner we get rid of Bibi and Likud the better - you can do no right.

Indyk addresses Abrams' point about Bibi Knesset speech about only keeping blocs. Says that Bibi's coalition makes it sound like his concessions aren't concessions. Bibi may have made important statements but they were cloaked in other language that made it sound like he wasn't making concessions at all. Bibi heads coalition that does not support two-state solution. That is not Obama's fault.

Indyk agrees that Obama should have come to Israel and addressed Knesset and said we can't get explanation from anyone who works for him why he won't come. Obama has ignored Israeli public opinion and Israelis can't stand it. Especially since he's chasing the other woman (Palestinians).

The only relationship Obama seems to have that's intimate and close is Russian President. He's not warm and cuddly. No drama. He says Israelis should get over it and that Yaron is describing a neurotic nation (lots of laughs). Israel is already 60 years old and it's time to grow up. Get over whether he loves me or he loves me not. Israel has to find solution to problem with 'Palestinians.' Not acceptable to continue 'occupation.' When Israel solves this problem, it will have the love of President Obama.

Abrams agrees that Obama doesn't have this relationship with anyone else but that doesn't matter because no one is trying to kill or eliminate anyone else. The reason Obama has not come to Israel is that he does not want to come to Israel.

Ruth Yaron says that there is a solid majority of 70% in Israel that supports two-state solution but tapping that majority is difficult because of political system. Says Israeli public is not shifting to the right and that Obama could tap into reservoir by speaking to the public.

Surprise: Wexler agrees with Indyk and not with Abrams. Says Obama agreed to Israeli military presence in Jordan Valley and don't have to leave until demonstrated that 'Palestinians' are doing what they are supposed to be doing. Where's the applause from the Knesset?

Audience question: No one has addressed the questions of Obama putting us in corner by settlement freeze and 1967 line surprises. Does anyone disagree that the President cornered Israel and therefore people believe he doesn't love them.

Rabinovich says that settlement focus was a mistake and that Netanyahu should have made Bar Ilan speech earlier. Indyk asks whether Biden was cornered with the Ramat Shlomo story (no).

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At 5:05 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Left does hate Israel and Israel's agreeing to commit national suicide won't change its view of the Jewish State.

Israel gets support from America because its Christians identify with Israel and as America's Jews assimilate and disappear, this is the main source support for Israel in the West. Europe is dying and is irrelevant.

Israel and the US have differences but they are differences between friends and its not at all like the visceral antipathy Israel encounters from Europe.

Israel in short, is very much on its own and the Middle East is turbulent and its contours are uncertain and contrary to what Dennis Ross said before, that is exactly why the status quo will continue.

In a word, Israelis prefer peace. But as Barry Rubin noted, they don't start out by saying a piece of paper is the only thing that matters and what's needed is the concessions Israel has to make to get every one to signed up. A peace based on a lie puts Israel in danger, will not stand for a long time and in fact will lay the seeds for a future war.

The experience of Oslo has turned Israelis into realists. Today an Arab-Israeli peace at an acceptable price is simply impossible. That's unpalatable to official Washington but it is the truth.

At 6:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America has Christians and Europe has former Christians and that's the difference between them. That's who supports Israel.

European Christians supported Israel prior to becoming secular Europe? I don't think so. Those countries in Europe that still have sizeable Christian populations are anti Israel.

American Christianity is not a monolith. Catholic, Episcopal, Jehovah's Witnesses, Evangelicals, Baptists, Presbestyrian, and so on..

In any case, America is headed the same way as Europe. Christianity is dying in the US.

The Decline Of Christianity In America

So what do all of these poll numbers mean?

They mean that evangelical Christianity has totally lost almost an entire generation of American young people.

Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor recently published an article about the "coming evangelical collapse" that they believe is coming. They openly predict that "within two generations, evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its occupants."


The reality is that nearly all Christian denominations are rapidly losing members at this point.

The most recent American Religious Identification Survey demonstrates this fact very clearly. According to that survey, the percentage of Americans who call themselves Christians has dropped more than 11% since 1990. The survey also reports that Catholics, Baptists and other mainline Protestant churches have seen very large drops in numbers.

However, Islam, Wicca and eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism showed large gains in the survey.

The long-term trends look even more frightening for the churches in America. According to LifeWay Research, membership in Southern Baptist churches will fall nearly 50 percent to around 8.7 million Americans by the year 2050 if current trends continue.

But even more bad news for evangelical Christianity in America is that those who still call themselves Christians do not necessarily hold to traditional Christian beliefs any longer. Two other recent surveys reveal that the majority of American Christians believe that accepting Jesus Christ as savior is NOT the only way to eternal life.

At 8:45 PM, Blogger Batya said...

What love? It was always one-sided, Israel was in love with the idea that America is a friend.

America always treated Israel badly, but Israel never cared, rather like the chronically abused.

ps word verification is "chess"

At 9:08 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The liberal mainline churches - the ones least supportive of Israel, have seen huge drops in their membership. The same is true of liberal Reform and Conservative Judaism.

Conservative churches and Orthodox Judaism are flourishing.

In 2050, most people who are religious will follow traditional beliefs. I'm not really as worried as the alarmist polls indicate.

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Neshama said...

I don't see Obama having love for anything but his daughters. I think he is driven by an agenda and he doesn't care for 'incidentals' (like Israel, Pollard, etc.) not on his (socialist one world) agenda.

He's not in this alone, he answers to someone. I think that's why he plays so much golf - I think he is communicating with someone when he's on the green via his blackberry.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Carl in Jerusalem said...


I think Israel is part of Obama's agenda. Just not the way we'd like to be.

At 10:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ NormanF

The liberal mainline churches - the ones least supportive of Israel, have seen huge drops in their membership.

It depends on what you mean by “supportive of Israel”. If you mean support for Likud and hard right, then that has been declining.

The Christian Post > World|Tue, Jul. 31 2007
U.S. Evangelicals Shatter Christian Zionist Misconception
The letter signed by 34 evangelical leaders – ranging from presidents of some of the nation’s top Christian universities and humanitarian organizations to the editor of a preeminent Christian magazine – acknowledged that both Israelis and Palestinians have rights to the disputed land.

Conservative churches and Orthodox Judaism are flourishing.

On the whole conservative Christianity in all forms is declining in the US though some church denominations show an increase, but only nominally. How anyone can choose Buddhism over Judaism is beyond understanding, but lots of American Jews convert to Buddhism.

The mainline liberal churches you're talking about are more influential than conservative ones anyway. the latter have a proclivity of exaggerating and sometime outright lying about the numbers of their followers. Joel Rosenberg (messianic) is guilty of this.

So much for your "pro Israel" churches :)

Learning to Count to One
New math for those addicted to getting higher and higher in their churches.


The goal of any card-carrying evangelical leader is to learn to count as high as possible, and there is something invigorating about that. But I wonder if we'd be wiser if we learned also how to count to one.
* * *
The Religion News Service just published its annual story on U.S. church growth, with the prosaic headline "U.S. churches continue growth, decline trends." What they reported is that for another year, yes, mainline churches continue to decline. This trend has for decades given evangelicals a cause for self-congratulation as they've looked to their own churches and seen them growing.

This started in the early 1970s after Dean Kelley published his Why Conservative Churches Are Growing (HarperCollins). Kelley noted how badly mainline liberal churches were declining and how conservative evangelical churches were growing. Kelley more or less just reported what he saw, and noted the correlation between high-demand churches (which conservative evangelical churches were at the time) and church growth.

Conservative evangelicals took pride in the correlation, and many began assuming that the righteousness of orthodox theology was confirmed by the growing numbers.

That has worked for decades, but the last few years have given us pause for thought. The recent RNS story reports that, again, even evangelical churches like the Southern Baptist Convention are now in decline. One conservative church is growing—the Assemblies of God—but it's nothing to write home about: a mere half a percent.

At 5:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Wexler is a scum I know him from Florida and he wont do a thing for Jews but bend over backwards for Muslims

At 6:12 AM, Blogger biorabbi said...

Norman, I'm not sure I agree completely with your thesis on the left hating Israel. Does this apply to Dersh, Anthony Weiner(ok, not a good example but their ilk?). How about Steny Hoyer? These guys are "leftists" and reliably pro-Israel. GHWB was not a leftist but was not really reliably pro-Israel(not was his secretary of state James Baker.

I think and believe there is a strong amount of generalized good will and pro-Israeli sentiment in America. I don't really see anti-Israeli sentiment except among the ultra-leftists, the Ron Paul crowd(although possibly not Ron Paul himself) and most American Muslims.

I just believe America is and will always be Pro-Israel and I just don't see anything happening to change it.

The huge anti-semitic diatribe to explain this is the strength of the Jewish Lobby-AIPAC, but the reality is the ties are deep and bottom up and the Israeli haters will never understand this.


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