Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't Read Into The RNC Israel Resolution

The pro- and (not-so-pro)- Israel Left was quick to jump today on a recently-passed Republican National Committee resolution which reads:

"NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, by the Republican Nation Committee that the committee by this resolution commends the nation of Israel for its relations with the United States of America.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and G*d-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people."

It is certainly no stretch of the imagination to read "united Israel governed under one law for all people" as supporting a one-state solution.  This was the interpretation of former B'Tselem Washington branch head Mitchell Plitnick who broke the story earlier today.  J Street, +972 Magazine and ThinkProgress endorsed this interpretation as well.

J Street's somewhat fatalistic take on it, that the "bipartisan consensus on a two-state solution is shattered," is probably an overstatement, especially since it assumes this is the first move the RNC or Republican party has made against the two-state solution.  In addition, American foreign policy in the Middle East is full of apparent contradictions and overlapping policy positions that spin a policy analyst's head in circles.

Ultimately, Foreign Policy magazine's David Kenner has it right in contending that the resolution is merely "a collection of platitudes [the RNC] thinks support Israel."  The resolution's contradictions with well-understood and longstanding policies of the RNC make the validity of this assessment clear.

For example, the resolution stresses "one law" in Israel for "Jewish and non-Jewish citizens," basing this claim in Leviticus 24:22 (#exegesisFAIL, this verse refers to foreigners, not non-Jews).  However, the RNC is clearly not calling for legal parity for Israeli Arabs, especially given that neither the word "Arab" nor the word "equality" appears in the text of the resolution.  This line contradicts the understood policies of the RNC.

The resolution also claims that "the roots of Israel and the roots of the United States of America are so intertwined that it is difficult to separate one from the other under the word and protection of almighty G*d."  Firstly, its unclear what the RNC means by this statement.  Secondly, the RNC has no problem making statements which exacerbate tension between the United States and Israel when it entails attacking President Obama on his comments regarding settlements.  Again, the line contradicts the understood RNC policies.

By the end of the resolution, the reader is left with a convoluted statement based loosely in Bible verses whose core assumptions are not reflected in their conclusions. Given its heavily religious tone, the statement is much more likely intended to maintain RNC support among Evangelicals and pro-Israel Christians than to delineate RNC foreign policy preferences.  It has very little policy value.  Thus, by jumping on the statement, the Left may have read a bit too far into the extent to which the statement, at the end of the day, matters.

The role the Left plays in countering baseless and ill-informed policy statements about Israel is of course an important one.  But in responding to the politicization of Israel in U.S. politics, it must be careful not to only further engage making Israel a partisan issue.  It is important that this RNC resolution was spotlighted.  However, fatalistic and hyperbolic language about its importance will only contribute to the very problem of polarization on Israel that Americans are counting on the left to solve.

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