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Democratic Neocons: Party of Liberals Aligns With Extremists on the Israeli Right

The rightward lurch can be explained by the Democrats' reliance on pro-Israel money and the lack of political gain garnered from a fair position.

The American and Israeli flags.
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On August 2, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) became the latest Democrat to accuse the Republicans and presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney of "politicizing" Israel.

"I rise today out of disbelief with the rhetoric coming from Republicans and their presidential candidate concerning the U.S. relationship with Israel," Lautenberg said on the Senate floor. "Frankly, it pains me to see that a political trip to Israel is carried with a message to scare the Israelis that President Obama and this administration are not as fast and as complete as they are…Republicans want to use our relationship with Israel as a political game, which is terrible for America's national security and bad for Israel."

At first blush, it might seem that the fraying of a bipartisan consensus around Israel might open up an opportunity for political action toward a change in policy. One might think that Democrats might be more open to ideas for promoting peace and Palestinian rights alongside Israeli security, in order to gain a major foreign policy advantage over the GOP. Alas, the opposite seems to be the case.

Democrats seem to be reacting to the Republican shift to the right by moving their own platforms toward a still more hawkish position. As an example, we can consider the words of outgoing Congressman Gary Ackerman (D-NY):

"Palestinians are well aware of the special relationship between America and Israel but they have always recognized that even though we are not impartial, that we were at least not hostile toward them as a people, or opposed to their legitimate aspirations for a state of their own."

Ackerman thus speaks the truth that has been well-known for a long time, but has not been spoken before: the United States does not act as an honest broker in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. This has long been an understood reality, but it has always been stated that despite the US' "special relationship" with Israel, the United States was a fair and balanced moderator between the two conflicting parties. That such blatant a statement--coming from a two-state solution supporter and a congressman who has, at times, spoken out vociferously against Israeli settlers--can now be spoken as conventional understanding is a strong indication of a sharp shift rightward.

It isn't just the politicians, either. The National Jewish Democratic Council blasted Romney for considering Condoleezza Rice as his running mate in November because she had once compared the Palestinians' situation to the civil rights struggle for African Americans.

"Governor Romney," NJDC says on its Web site. "Are you actually vetting former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for vice president? How do you account for Rice’s much-criticized record on Israel? Are you comfortable with her comparison of Palestinians to African Americans fighting for civil rights in the 1960s? Do you agree with the way she pressured Israel to accept a peace treaty with Hezbollah before the Israeli military had a chance to complete its military operations?"

Losing all pretense of liberalism, this question reeks of the sort of dishonesty that characterizes neoconservative views on this issue. Indeed, the source NJDC links to on its Web site is a Tablet magazine article by neoconservative writer Lee Smith. Rice's full quote, which Smith selectively plucked from a 2007 article in the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, reporting on Rice's meeting with a team of Arab and Israeli envoys, includes that bit of empathy with the Palestinians. But it is followed by this: "Like Israelis, I understand what it's like to go to sleep not knowing if you will be hurt in an explosion, the feeling of terror walking around your own neighborhood, or walking to your house of prayer."