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The Real Challenge for Bibi’s Capitol Hill Allies

Excellent rundown from James Besser in the Jewish Week about the coterie of Christian and Jewish peace-process rejectionists ready to support Benjamin Netanyahu, the peace-process-rejectionist now running the show in Israel:

“There’s a kindred spirit between Christian Zionists and Netanyahu,” said the Rev. James Hutchens, president of The Jerusalem Connection, a Christian group. “He has demonstrated his willingness to reach out to us in the past and he shares our views. He is much more resistant to giving up land for peace — he’s referred to it as land for terror. I’m looking forward to working with him in any way we can.”

An interesting sidepoint: it’s the Christian lobbies, more than the Jewish Israel lobbies, that command more attention and deference and support from lawmakers. That’s why conservative Jews have embraced organizations like John Hagee’s Christians United For Israel despite the unsettling theological stuff about God eventually wiping the Jews off the face of the earth after the ingathering. (And Sen. Joe Lieberman: you drive me nuts. You say you support a two-state solution, but you pal around with all of these guys who don’t. Why?) But anyway.

Much of Besser’s piece is appropriately devoted to an analysis of the differences in the political landscape between the 1990s — the last time a Netanyahu government used Christian and Jewish lobby groups to depressurize U.S. peace-processing efforts — and today. Here’s another that isn’t discussed in the piece: Netanyahu’s basic challenge is to say no to the peace process and to Barack Obama without appearing to say no. But Obama has recognized that a two-state solution “is not easier than it was” before Netanyahu won the ability to form his government, which indicates that he’s not in the mood to be smoothed over with talk about how Palestinian “culture” needs to change before Israel can be persuaded to end the occupation.

Netanyahu’s U.S. allies will then have the challenge, with him, of arguing about why he isn’t the intransigent one, and as Karl Rove will tell you, if you’re explaining, you’re losing. Rather than pressuring Obama, in other words, Netanyahu’s allies are more likely to spend their time defending their man. Think it’s going to be fun defending Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s ranting about how what the U.S. and Israel committed to in 2007 no longer matters?

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