Normally I’m able to contain my enthusiasm for Thomas L. Friedman, but fair is fair. He makes perfect sense today. And as longtime New York Times readers will know, it’s a kind of sense that was absent from those pages for far too long.
As Bradley Burston, a columnist for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, put it last week: “The settlement movement has cost Israel some $100 billion ... The double standard which for decades has favored settlers with inexpensive housing, heavily subsidized social services, and blind-eye building permits has long been accompanied by a kid-gloves approach regarding settler violence against Palestinians and their property ... Settlers and settlement planners have covertly bent and distorted zoning procedures, military directives, and government decrees in order to boost settlement, block Palestinian construction, agriculture, and access to employment, and effectively neutralize measures intended to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace progress.”
For years, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the pro-Israel lobby, rather than urging Israel to halt this corrosive process, used their influence to mindlessly protect Israel from U.S. pressure on this issue and to dissuade American officials and diplomats from speaking out against settlements. Everyone in Washington knows this, and a lot of people — people who care about Israel — are sick of it…
So if Mr. Obama has bluntly pressed for a settlements freeze, he is, in fact, reflecting a broad sentiment in Congress, the Pentagon and among many Americans, Jews included. Haaretz quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as calling two Obama aides pushing the freeze “self-hating Jews.” Bibi’s spokesman denies he said that. I hope he didn’t. When you have to trot that one out, you’re really, really out of ammo.