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Dean's demise relieves
pro-Israel Democrats



E.J. Kessler writes in the Jewish newspaper Forward:

Hawkish pro-Israel Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that Massachusetts Senator John Kerry has vaulted in front of former Vermont governor Howard Dean in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Dean's opposition to the Iraq war and his ambiguous statements about Israel antagonized many in this crowd, especially members of the pro-Israel lobbying powerhouse AIPAC. (CAMPAIGN CONFIDENTIAL, "Defunct Dean?", February 6, 2004)

It did not seem to me that Dean really threatened hard-line Israeli interests. Dean's national campaign co-chairman, Steven Grossman, was a former president of the American-Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), the powerful Israeli political lobby. And Dean has gone far in defending Israel's policies. But as Michelle Goldberg writes at Salon: "Dean is seen as having deviated from the narrow parameters in which Israel can be discussed in American politics." ("Howard Dean's Israel Problem," September 23, 2003)

Kerry himself is apparently at least one-quarter Jewish: his grandfather Frederick A. Kerry was born Fritz Kohn, in 1873 at the town of Bennisch, in what was then the Austrian empire, now part of the Czech Republic. And the candidate has preached his love for Israel. See, for instance, his piece at Hillel, "A Powerful Journey, An Essential Dream."

But Kerry is not perfect — not, at any rate, in the eyes of Likudnik Jews. The Forward's Kessler writes that one pro-Israel Democrat (who requested anonymity)

said that Kerry would attract many "institutional Democrats" in the pro-Israel camp, and that his emergence as frontrunner would draw many pro-Israel Democrats who had been dallying with retired general Wesley Clark, as well as many who had been holding back from the race. Even so, the source said, pro-Israel Democrats would be asking penetrating questions to Kerry and others in the field about "the Democrats' ability to deal with the failure of Oslo." These Democrats want candidates to reject the idea that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan for unilateral separation, and Israel's security fence, somehow hurt the Palestinians.

Kerry hasn't done that, and has criticized the fence. He also made his own gaffe in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in December, when he suggested that former President Carter and former secretary of state James Baker might make good Middle East envoys. Both men are considered pro-Arab by many pro-Israel activists.

I think a Kerry administration would return to the "peace process" approach of the Clinton regime. Of course, the "peace process" never offered the Palestinians anything more than a waterless Bantustan crisscrossed by numerous Israeli security roads. But it has the image of being a peaceful compromise, as opposed to Sharon's more direct brutality, which has shocked international opinion. In fact, a more international approach to the Middle East, which Kerry champions, could now be quite helpful to Israel, since it would entail international pressure on Israel's enemies to give up any weapons of mass destruction and "democratize" their societies, which should lead to internal hostilities.

In short, a new liberal international approach on the Middle East would enhance regional supremacy for Israel — in short achieving Israel's security goals by another means and rationale than the neocon/Iraq war approach. This new method would be more palatable to international and American elite opinion, and would help restore a favorable image for Israel.

February 8, 2004

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