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It is Time for Voters To Listen to Friedman

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Sheldon and Miriam Adelson want to put Newt Gingrich in the White House to guarantee what they perceive to be Israel's best interests. There is no doubt in Candidate Gingrich's mind what links him to Adelson.

In a state where the Christian religious right does not look with favor on gambling, a voter in Winter Park, Florida, asked the candidate about his friend's interest in gaming. The voter was concerned that Adelson might  introduce gambling into the state. Gingrich was ready for that one, as the New York Times reported:

"'Sheldon Adelson's passion in life is the survival of Israel,' Mr. Gingrich said. 'And he and I are in agreement that Iran is in deep, immediate threat of posing the risk of a second Holocaust' with nuclear weapons." 

Writing in his Foreign Policy blog, Stephen M. Walt looked at what the American people believe to be the right thing to do regarding Israel. He found that:

"Indeed, the evidence shows clearly that many Americans would be perfectly willing to play hardball with Israel when it acts in ways that are not in the U.S. national interest.

"For example, back in 2002, a Time/CNN poll found that 60 percent of Americans supported cutting off aid to Israel if it did not respond to Bush administration demands that it withdraw from areas it had occupied (during the Second intifada). One year later, a survey by the University of Maryland reported that over 60 percent of Americans would be willing to withhold aid to Israel if it resisted U.S. pressure to settle the conflict.

"So when Congress passes various 'pro-Israel' resolutions by amazingly lopsided votes, when its members rise as one to give Netanyahu standing ovation after standing ovation, and when U.S. presidents feel compelled to backtrack from efforts to advance a two-state solution before it is too late, it is not because the 'American people' are demanding these responses.

"As in many other cases (such as financial regulation, gun control, health care, or farm subsidies), politicians are ignoring the will of the people because a well-organized minority (comprised of some but not all American Jews and some but not all Christian evangelicals) is making its support conditional on support for its hardline views.

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"It's the classic story of interest-group politics: If a small minority cares passionately about an issue and the rest of the population cares less, politicians will pander to the few and ignore the many, even as evidence accumulates that the resulting policy is wrongheaded.

"In this case, our present policy towards Israel is harmful to the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel."

Walt was responding to the New York Times' Tom Friedman's, column, when Friedman was accused of being anti-semitic for writing about the upcoming Republican campaign, on December 14, 2011:

"As for Newt, well, let's see: If the 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians are not a real people entitled to their own state, that must mean Israel is entitled to permanently occupy the West Bank and that must mean -- as far as Newt is concerned -- that Israel's choices are: 1) to permanently deprive the West Bank Palestinians of Israeli citizenship and put Israel on the road to apartheid; 2) to evict the West Bank Palestinians through ethnic cleansing and put Israel on the road to the International Criminal Court in the Hague; or 3) to treat the Palestinians in the West Bank as citizens, just like Israeli Arabs, and lay the foundation for Israel to become a binational state. And this is called being 'pro-Israel'?"

Friedman is no dummy.  He is fully aware that Newt Gingrich would be a disaster for Israel if he makes it to the White House. The one thing Israel does not need is to be indulged by the United States government in its increasingly paranoid view of the "neighborhood" in which Israel lives.

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You can imagine the venom aimed at Friedman for that column, especially with this admonition:

"I sure hope that Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

This Friedman column is a wake up call to America where polls, as Walt suggests, tell us the public does not want to indulge Israel to the degree Israel's "friends" believe is appropriate.

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James Wall is currently a Contributing Editor of The Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, Illinois. From 1972 through 1999, he was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine. Many sources have influenced Jim's writings over (more...)

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