I Think Jeffrey Goldberg is Trying to Defend President Obama

when he says, “Like many liberal American Jews, when he looks at Netanyahu he sees a conservative Republican and he fails to understand how a Jew can be a conservative Republican. I think he looks at Netanyahu in much the same way he contemplates Eric Cantor, the Republican ‏(and Jewish‏) house majority leader. Like many liberal-leaning Jews, he might simply not understand how a Jew could be a Republican.”

But if Obama truly understands so little about Israel that he reduces things to “Netanyahu = conservative Republican” (something the Washington Post actually did quote an administration official as saying), as if Israeli politics somehow map on to an incredibly different American political scene, and truly has been so cloistered on the left that the idea of a Jewish Republican is somewhere between anathema and beyond his comprehension, Goldberg is not doing Obama any favors in pointing these things out. I actually doubt that Obama actually thinks these things, but I don’t doubt that a significant number of “liberal American Jews,” some of whom are or have been Obama advisors, do, and that there views filter down to journalists like Goldberg as Obama’s.

UPDATE: Put another way, there are some liberal Jews who are strong partisan Democrats who are both appalled by the notion of conservative Republican Jews and extremely resentful that (a) an influential group like AIPAC maintains strict partisan neutrality, which has the effect, given the baseline, of pushing the Jewish community and its donors effectively to the right; (b) there is a group of wealthy Republican Jews, exemplified by Sheldon Adelson, working for “the other side.”

There is little that can be done about “a” (JStreet is the attempt to do so) and nothing that can be done about “b” (though liberal Jewish groups did launch an abortive attack on Adelson last Summer). But given that Netanyahu has American friends and supporters from groups (a) and (b), one can take out one’s resentments on Netanyahu, entirely aside from one’s views on whatever policies he’s pursuing. We saw a fine example of this last Summer, when some were accusing Netanyahu of openly siding with Romney, and, when challenged to produce any evidence that this was true and failing to do so, kept insisting it was true nevertheless. (It was especially amusing to hear that Netanyahu was openly siding with Romney because they met when Romney came to Israel, when it turns out that Netanyahu met with Obama when he came to Israel in 2008, and lavished fulsome praise on him. Does that mean that Netanyahu even more openly sided with Obama in 2008?) So Netanyahu becomes a stand-in for all one’s Jewish or pro-Israel bogeymen, which, in my opinion, has not well served the Obama administration.

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