Via Matt Yglesias, we find once again that common sense is making a comeback. Obama has had the audacity to state in public that America can pursue America’s best interests, and owes a blank check to no one.

This quote in particular seems to be making the rounds:

“I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud ap-proach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel,” leading Democratic presidential contender Illinois Senator Barack Obama said Sunday.

“If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress,” he said.

Hooray for the bloody obvious. As you may suspect, however, there are many Roseanne Roseannadannas going ballistic right now, making complete fools of themselves.

Obama is responding to this story, which he specifically mentions, about a member of the Clinton campaign spreading the rumor that certain of Mr. Obama’s retinue are anti-Israel.

“When Brzezinski’s name appears on an advisory list, that’s a red flag right away,” says an influential American Jewish leader who did not want to sour relations with the Obama campaign. Many American Jews mistrust Brzezinski because he endorsed a 2006 article, later a book, called “The Israel Lobby,” which blames many U.S. foreign-policy problems on Washington’s ties to Israel. Lewis’s aside is not an isolated incident. (She did not respond to a request for comment.) As the race between Clinton and Obama has sharpened in recent months, other Clinton campaign operatives have sent around negative material about Obama’s relations with Israel, according to e-mails obtained by NEWSWEEK. In addition to Brzezinski, the e-mails attack Obama advisers such as Rob Malley, a former Clinton negotiator at the 2000 Camp David talks who has since written articles sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view, and they raise questions about Obama’s relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor at Obama’s Trinity Church in Chicago.


In one case, Daphna Ziman, a longtime friend of Hillary Clinton’s who has co-chaired several events for her, forwarded an e-mail from the Republican Jewish Coalition, a grass-roots GOP group, criticizing Obama for proposing a Muslim summit. In a Jan. 31 interview with Paris Match, Obama said he wanted “an honest discussion about ways to bridge the gap that grows between Muslims and the West.” Ziman, in her Feb. 2 e-mail, responded, “I am horrified at Mr. Obama’s point of view.” Her e-mail, sent to a group including Mike Medavoy, a Hollywood producer who supports Obama, contained a press release from RJC executive director Matt Brooks. “Nowhere in the Paris Match article does Senator Obama affirm Israel’s right to exist,” Brooks wrote. (Ziman says “the campaign had nothing to do with” her e-mail.)

This is an American political debate about Americans’ political sympathies, surrounding an American political campaign. It is not addressed to Israel, to Israeli politicians, or to Israeli voters. It is not a statement out-of-the-blue, but instead in response to an ugly challenge, one which I am happy to say Obama has met well.

I have to make all of this clear because it’s about to get stupid.

In American politics, there is this bizarre notion that those on the left must support right wing politicians in Israel or face being slurred as anti-Semites. Why this particular stupidity exists in American politics is unclear. Certainly, there are many other things even dumber about politics in my country, so there’s nothing special about this particular flavor of stupid.

But I stressed that only this quote (above) seems to have been making the rounds because, by itself, it seems to have confused some people who are happy to be confused so long as it gives them something to bitch about. Others, however, like Haaretz’s Schmuel Rosner, offer intelligent criticism of the statement but don’t seem to have read the whole thing:

Imagine Benjamin Netanyahu – the chairman of the Likud Party and according to all recent polls the leading candidate to become the next Israeli prime minister – saying something along the lines of: There are people who claim that I need to accept a Democratic nominee as friendly toward Israel – but this is not necessarily true, as I think the policies of the Republican Party are much wiser.

Imagine him saying this – and the outrage that would follow such statement.

Yes, that would be outrageous, but it’s not even close to being analogous. Obama is responding to criticism of his supporters, claiming that they are unmistakably pro-Israel:

The others that you refer to are former members of the Clinton administration. Somebody like a Tony Lake , the former National Security Adviser, or Susan Rice -these are not anti-Israel individuals. These are people who strongly believe in Israel ‘s right to exist. Strongly believe in a two state solution. Strongly believe that the Palestinians have been irresponsible and have been strongly critical of them. Share my view that Israel has to remain a Jewish state, that the US has a special relationship with the Jewish state.

So, this is an American politician talking about Americans receiving criticism from other Americans about foreign policy.

Had Mr. Rosner had the whole transcript in front of him, he would not need to wonder about something coming from Netanyahu that has nothing to do with anything. An analogous statement by an Israeli politician would have involved mention of Israeli advisors who had been accused by Israeli politicians of having a too-narrow view of relations with the USA.

In Rosner’s defense, the rest of what he writes demonstrates conclusively that he is barking up the wrong tree, and not just being dishonest:

Anyways, here’s what I think [Obama] was saying:

“I do not agree with the policies of the Likud Party. I also don’t think it is mandatory for someone to accept the policies of the Likud as to be considered a friend of Israel. That’s why you can still count me as a friend.”

Anyone can go and see for themselves that Obama was talking about affairs on a different continent.

I stress that Rosner appears to be an honest critic, emphasis critic, of Obama and I think that’s supported by the following quote. Rosner is clearly not politically sympathetic:

The irony here is quite entertaining. I’ve been hearing numerous Obama supporters warning from the tendency of Israelis to meddle in American politics. They were furious when anonymous sources in the Israeli government expressed “concern” regarding an Obama administration. They were outraged when former Israeli ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon expressed “doubt” regarding Obama’s positions and honesty when it comes to views regarding Israel.

I don’t hear these voices of protest now.

Well of course you don’t hear them now, Mr. Rosner, because you didn’t read what you’re opining on. As it is, therefore, this is a false analogy. Even if Mr. Rosner were right about Obama, however, it would still be a tu quoque fallacy.

We move now from the honest but hostile to those who appear simply to be lost. You may hear, for instance, claims that Obama is “dividing Israel.” Actually, Israel is already doing that itself: it’s called an “e – l – e – c – t – i – o – n”. But this leads to another problem, with other knee-jerk types like the dim bulbs at the Menorah Blog, assuming that Obama is somehow interfering in Israel’s election.

Once again, it helps if you can read what Obama said:

“Because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the U.S. pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation,” he said.

These words refer to domestic politics. And herein lies the problem. The pro-Likud types, who are proving Obama’s point by their reactions, assume that this is all about Israel. Obama is talking about Americans who should know better. This is about putting America’s best interests first.

Howard Richman doesn’t get that.

Senator Obama characterizes those who have concerns about policies he might follow as President as being Likud-supporters. This has been a charge propagated by the fiercest opponents of Israel

He thinks that people who talk about pro-Likud Americans are attacking Israel. Obama is talking about telling the difference between Israel and a single political party. Evidently, Richman can’t. Is Richman an American? It’s hard to tell.

Carl in Jerusalem shares a common brainfart with Richman, not to mention a common smear with American anti-Arab bigots:

Barack Hussein Obama, the frontrunner for the Democratic Presidential nomination, entered Israeli politics today …

Well, yes that is his middle name, Imperial Wizard, but Obama didn’t enter Israeli politics today, this issue of American domestic politics has been thrust upon Obama, at least in part by the Clinton campaign. How is it that you can get your rightwing American talking points all the way over in Jerusalem, but can’t seem to follow American politics?

As it is, everyone American or otherwise has cause to be alarmed at the prospect that “the chairman of the Likud Party [being] the leading candidate to become the next Israeli prime minister,” and that chairman has recently celebrated an act of terrorism.

I don’t see how the region or anyone who cares about it can welcome the elevation of an advocate of terrorism like Benjamin Netanyahu.