Jonathan Chait

There Are Idiots. Look Around.

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In response to my lauding of Gadi Taub's great TNR piece, Matt Yglesias replies that I'm a dupe and so is Taub:

I think Chait’s enthusiasm for the analysis reflects the main pathology of mainstream American Jewish thinking on the subjecta bizarre willingness to believe that Israeli politicians are bafflingly stupid.

I confess to believing that the current Israeli government is bafflingly stupid. I don't understand why such a belief is necessarily "bizarre." The United States recently finished eight years of being governed by a bafflingly stupid administration. I see baffling stupidity in politics all the time. I don't think that makes you naive, let alone pathological. Does Yglesias think George W. Bush's plan was to spend the remainder of his first term and all of his second term fighting a counterinsurgency in Iraq, and letting Osama bin Laden escape Tora Bora? Does he think Ben Nelson really wanted keep unemployment high? Not everything a government does is the perfect expression of its self-interest.

Ygelsias characterizes Taub (and me) as, broadly speaking, "demanding that Netanyahu be treated with kid gloves or that we all participate in a myth about a sincere search for peace." I have no idea why he writes that. In that same piece, Taub writes:

Zionism rested its moral claims on the right of all peoples to self-determination. Settlement and occupation run against its grain, and this is why they undermine international support for Israel. Had Netanyahu realized thisas Peres, Rabin, Sharon, Olmert, and Livni have before himhe would not have appointed a foreign minister who is himself a settler; he would not have rested his coalition on ultra-orthodox fanatics and modern orthodox messianics; he would have not entangled himself in a senseless quarrel with Israel’s best friends over enlarging the settlements. Instead, he would have taken the lead in putting an end to the occupation, with or without Palestinian consent. But he didn't.

Anything here about believing Netanyahu's sincerity? I don't see it.

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