While Obama reassess his relationship with Israel, Scott Walker is planning a spring fling with the Jewish state.
The petition, titled #StandWithIsrael, features a photo of the newly re-elected prime minister, and a large block quote from the Wisconsin governor:
“We cannot afford to be passive spectators while the world descends into chaos. America must stand with our friends and stand up to our enemies. Then and only then can our standing in the Middle East and throughout the world improve and with it our own security.”
The move comes amid increasing tension between Israel and the United States. The latest tsuris was sparked by the Netanyahu campaign’s last minute efforts to consolidate right-wing support for the Likud party. Bibi entertained supporters with his best George Wallace impression, warning that the Arabs were “voting in droves.” He then promised that so long as he remained in power, he would never allow the Palestinian people to establish a sovereign state.
The latter comment was particularly destructive, since maintaining the pretense that the Netanyahu government is sincerely interested in a two-state solution has long been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region.
Now, as Bibi assembles a far-right coalition, President Obama is apparently trying to figure out some way of bringing diplomatic pressure to bear on a foreign administration that enjoys more support in Congress than his own.
In this context, Walker’s sudden focus on Israel makes a good deal of sense. Israel’s rightward shift may be an immediate danger to Palestinians, and a long-term disaster for the Zionist project, but it’s pretty great for the Republican party.
The Democratic coalition is increasingly made up of African-Americans and Hispanics, the only demographic groups in the country who register significant levels of sympathy for the Palestinians. But Democrats also rely on the support of Jewish voters, many of whom oppose any diplomatic separation between the United States and Israel, regardless of their opinion of the Netanyahu government. As Israel becomes a less apologetic apartheid state, Republicans may be able to use American policy towards the nation as a wedge issue.
Walker’s announcement also comes in the heat of the Adelson primary. Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, and Mike Pence will all make the pilgrimage to the Casino magnate’s Venetian resort this month. Adelson is one of the most prolific donors in both the United States and Israel, and helped fund Walker’s 2012 re-election.
On the issue of the Palestinians, Adelson sounds like he’d be more sympathetic to a final solution than a two-state one. So it’s unlikely you’ll ever hear a major Republican candidate offer even the mildest rebuke to settlement expansion for the foreseeable future.
That said, it would be unfair to paint Walker’s motives as purely cynical. The governor has been a proud supporter of apartheid since at least since his college days, when he made opposition to divestment from South Africa a central plank of his campaign for class president.