THE SPINE SEPTEMBER 21, 2009
I am not in the business of giving dispensations. But I want to iterate my endorsement of what Leon Wieseltier wrote about Rahm Emanuel and the Jews. Now, it is true that Rahm is an old (and good) friend. And I trust him. I also have my differences with him. Remember that he was one of Bill Clinton's chief aides, and I was certainly not one of Clinton's fans, not by a long shot ... and from the beginning. This did not come between us. One more post-Clintonian observation: Rahm was never touched by even the whiff of scandal. Which, under Bill, was a great feat.
Frankly, though, if I felt for a moment that we had morally parted on Israel it would have set up some barriers in our relationship. Still, disagreeing about a tactic--he and the president pressing Israel to forswear building on to settlements--is not one of these points of departure. I actually believe that Israel has done as much as it could and should on this question. So I disagree with Rahm on this issue.
And I think that he and the president must know by now that the "demand ... no buts about it" tactic has failed. It actually unified the Israelis behind Netanyahu and it lost Obama whatever trust he had among Israelis. The U.S. has a great stake in Mahmoud Abbas and so does Israel, although both of these would prefer that stake to be vested in Salaam Fayad who is wiser and braver than his colleague. (Alas, he is not so popular among the Arabs of Palestine. Even on Google, he's the sixth "Fayad" to come up, behind a engineering professor in Nebraska and Lebanese singer.) So Abbas will have to sit at a table for three at the U.N., something he said he would never do unless Israel had given up on construction in the settlements (even in the ones that everyone recognizes will never be surrendered), in east Jerusalem and in the areas of Jerusalem which since 1967 have housed 150,000 to 200,000 Jews.
But I am not arguing with Rahm. I am arguing with his besmirchers and their idiot claims that he is a "self-hating" Jew. In the days before Yom Kippur one is supposed to focus on one's own transgressions and not on the imagined transgressions of others. So these accusing Jews are, during the holiest period in the Hebrew calendar, actually committing the of evil thought and libel. After all, even love of "the people Israel" and its state leaves plenty of room for disagreement.