Transforming America's Israel Lobby
by Dan Fleshler
Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, 2009. 267 pp. $24.95.
Reviewed by Steven J. Rosen
Middle East Forum
Middle East Quarterly
Fleshler, a New York media and public affairs strategist and an adviser to the new American Jewish lobby organization, J-Street, has written a book-length presentation of the J-Street message: An opportunity for peace beckons in the Middle East but Israeli intransigence stands in the way. U.S. pressure on Israel would be the solution but the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) impedes movement forward.
What to do? Build a new lobby of "progressive" Jews with a loftier and more cosmopolitan identity than the small-minded Jewish nationalists at AIPAC. Create some political space for the new president to use the diplomacy of tough love to deliver Israel. If the majority of Israelis do not agree that the concessions that need to be made will contribute to their security, even they cannot be permitted to obstruct the path to peace. Force them to yield, and they will thank you later when the good results come in.
Fleshler channels the familiar constructs of Israel's leading dove, former Meretz party chairman, Yossi Beilin, but adds little to what has already been said by previous American Jewish peace lobbies—Breira in 1973-77, New Jewish Agenda in 1980-92, Americans for Peace Now since 1981, and the Israel Policy Forum since 1993. The ideas he advocates are shared by a small splinter of the Israeli public, mostly in Meretz, and its acolytes have all but abandoned the hope that the Beilinist left can win an election there. The hopes of the Israeli far left and their American supporters have, therefore, shifted to Washington where the new Jewish agenda, reborn as J-Street, advances a blueprint to save Israel from itself.
An interesting but unanswered question arises: Does this book express the ideology of the new American ruling class, or only that of a fringe group clinging wishfully to Barack Obama's coattails? There are ominous signs that the former is the case, and if so, the daylight between the United States and Israel, publicly discountenanced by the administration, may soon become blinding.
Related Topics: Arab-Israeli debate in the U.S. | Steven J. Rosen | Summer 2010 MEQ
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