Peretz is the publisher of The New Republic, a political mentor of Al Gore, Jr., and strongly pro-Israel. Even as his magazine has become intellectually more akin to extreme left-wing periodicals like Mother Jones and The Nation, thanks to John Judis, Jonathan Chait, and Michelle Cottle (to its credit, TNR has also continued to print moderate liberals like Anne Applebaum, Leon Wieseltier and even moderate conservatives like Alvaro Vargas Llosa), Peretz is at minimum a voice of reason on Israel issues.
Or so it seemed until he famously wrote that friends of Israel and Jews could trust Obama. Peretz came to that conclusion in early 2008, and campaigned for Obama. Now, after Obama's speech in Cairo last week, Peretz seems to realize he screwed up. Some of Peretz's analysis of Obama's mythmaking:
When Obama attributes the establishment of Israel, and also Israel's fear that the Iranian government and many Arabs would quite happily visit another devastation on it, to the Holocaust, he is in fact accepting [Iranian Pres.] Ahmadinejad's analysis of the Zionist triumph and also one of the tenets of Palestinian rejectionism, which is that the Palestinians are correct in their phobia that they have paid the price for what the Nazis did to the Jews.
If the president does not grasp Israel's history, he should be more modest in his judgments. Here's just one huge fact that does not fit into the president's sweeping explanation for the success of the Jewish state: Why did more than 800,000 Jews return to Zion from their thousands of years of exile in the Muslim world beginning with the very morn of independence? Surely this rupturing of communal life dating back, in some cases, three millennia was not Holocaust-related.
* * *
I, too, am for a two-state solution. I always have been. As the president said, "many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state"; he should have said "most" rather than "many." . . . Alas, Obama cannot and does not say that most or even many Palestinians recognize the need for a Jewish state or even, for that matter, the Israeli state. Here there is no symmetry, alas, that will serve. The most he can say is that, "privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away." Why does he not say "many Palestinians"? Perhaps because it would be stark deception. So which Muslims? The democratic but, alas, irrelevant and tolerant Muslims of Indonesia? Or Cairenes, especially the intellectuals, who have lived under a peace treaty with Jerusalem for all of three decades, but have not quite accommodated themselves to the existence of Israel?* * *
So, in the end, the grand conciliator violated his own principle and spoke asymmetrically: He was very tough on Israel, but he was vague to the Palestinians and to the Arabs. The president was not at all specific about what he wished from people who are still enemies of the Jewish state. Every Israeli concession requires a reciprocal concession, and not just words. But even words are difficult to extract from the Palestinian Authority, the so-called moderates. Mahmoud Abbas said only a fortnight ago that he had only to wait on what Israel surrenders. . .
Marty, and you too Dad:
I told you so.