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9/11 + 13

national-9-11-memorial-june-2011-credit-joe-woolhead-91-4

I hadn’t planned on posting anything on it today, the 13th anniversary, but came across, via social media, these amateur photos taken from Queens of the Twin Towers collapsing on that calamitous day. The link was posted on FB by engagé historian and MENA specialist Mark LeVine—whose attitude toward US foreign policy is rather more negative than mine—, who wrote that he watched the catastrophe almost from the same spot in Queens where the photos were taken and had tears streaming down his face. I did too, almost. I watched the second tower collapse on live TV—in France—and was traumatized—by all that happened that day—, shedding more than one tear over the subsequent days and with trouble sleeping on account of what had happened in New York City. That’s all I have to say. For all those who lost their lives that day, R.I.P.

Valérie and François

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

(image credit: BFMTV.com)

[update below]

What a miserable affair. Worse than pathetic. One can hardly believe that French politics has descended to this level. And with everything else happening in France and the world, that this is the talk of the town. I, for one, refuse to read Valérie Trierweiler’s book. I won’t even pick it up. I have learned as much as I need to know about it from the media coverage, plus these choice morsels published in Les Inrocks. Now I have no sympathy with François Hollande in this sentimental psychodrama, as I made clear in my posts of last January when the thing first broke (here and here), but now have even less for Valérie T., who, in her manic—and likely successful—effort to politically assassinate her ex-companion and permanently sully his character, has only further discredited herself—and sullied the institutions of the Republic in the process.

This does indeed seem to be the consensus at least among journalists. E.g. Ariane Bonzon—whom I know for her excellent enquêtes on Turkey—has a good commentary in Slate.fr on “La triple faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” which thus begins

Lors de l’affaire DSK, un de mes amis, qui n’avait pourtant rien à voir directement avec cette histoire, m’avait dit qu’il se sentait lui aussi touché: «J’ai honte à trois titres: en tant qu’homme, en tant que juif et en tant que libertin.» Chacune de ces identités impliquant chez mon ami une certaine exigence, éthique. Comme si l’opinion qu’il avait de lui-même avait été bafouée par DSK, homme, juif et libertin.

En lisant le livre de Valérie Trierweiler, j’ai ressenti le même sentiment que cet ami: ce livre me fait honte en tant que femme, en tant que citoyenne et en tant que journaliste.

Renaud Dély of Le Nouvel Obs had a similarly entitled commentary on Thursday, “La faute de Valérie Trierweiler,” in which he asserted that

Le livre de l’ex-Première dame n’est pas seulement un brûlot anti-Hollande, c’est une attaque contre l’esprit civique et une menace pour les institutions.

Rue 89’s Pierre Haski was on the same longueur d’onde in his commentaire à chaud, “Grand déballage de Trierweiler : la vengeance est mauvaise conseillère.” For his part, France Inter political editorialist Thomas Legrand—who is one of the smartest, most insightful analysts of French politics around—, in speaking of VT’s book, deplored “L’arlequinisation de la vie politique” in his commentary the day before yesterday. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, in an interview on Europe 1, called VT’s book a “moral suicide” of the ex-première dame, and in which he quoted from an editorial by La République des Pyrénées’s Jean-Marcel Bouguereau, who observed that

L’image que son “ex” donne de François Hollande est terrible au point qu’on se demande comment elle a pu rester une décennie avec personnage qui apparaît sous sa plume comme menteur, arrogant, infidèle, veule, lâche et surtout cynique.

Indeed. Mme Trierweiler does not smell like a rose in all this. Loin s’en faut.

One thing I need to assert—and that I have been doing since Wednesday—is that I do not believe for a split second that Hollande uttered the bit about “les sans-dents” in the first degree, i.e. in a literal sense. If he indeed said such a thing about poor people, there was certainly a context, or he was being ironic about someone else who may have said it, or something like that. As Libé’s Laurent Joffrin said on France Inter this morning, no one who has known Hollande personally over the years and spent time with him—as has Joffrin and so many other journalists, politicians, and public personalities—gives the slightest credence to VT on this. For this smear alone, she deserves permanent banishment from public life—and certainly from the journalistic profession.

If all this is not the coup de grâce to Hollande’s presidency, it’s not far from it. I don’t know how he and his entourage at the Elysées will pick up the pieces from this but they’ll no doubt soldier on nonetheless, as Hollande will certainly not resign. Unless he commits a crime or misdemeanor, or some really gross indiscretion, there is no reason for him to do so. He just won’t do it. And almost no one outside the Front National wishes for him to, or for him to dissolve the National Assembly at the present time. As the latest TNS-Sofres baromètre reveals, every political party in this country—including the FN—is presently judged negatively by public opinion. C’est du jamais vu. And the latest baromètre of L’Observatoire Politique CSA shows only two national political personalities—Alain Juppé and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem—to have higher positive than negative numbers with those polled. I mentioned this in my post last week on Valls II and it’s being confirmed with every poll that’s coming out. If neither the PS nor UMP has an interest in going to early elections, then they won’t happen. Period. Moreover, alarm at the damage to the political system and institutions of the Republic is sure to be expressed by increasing numbers on both left and right, as has Sophie de Menthon in a tribune in the right-leaning webzine Atlantico, in which she calls for a “Halte au feu! Pourquoi il faut sauver le soldat Hollande malgré lui.” As she puts it

A trop critiquer François Hollande, nous contribuons à mettre plus bas que terre la fonction de président de la République, ce qui finit par être mauvais pour la croissance et le moral de la France.

If one hasn’t seen it, Art Goldhammer had an incisive analysis yesterday of this weeks’s events (and in which he offered a tidbit about me, which I clarified in the comments thread).

Triste France, c’est tout c’que j’ai à dire.

UPDATE: Magistrate Philippe Bilger—whose political views are solidly on the right—has read Valérie Trierweiler’s book and written a commentary on it, entitled “François Hollande en compagne!,” on his Justice au Singulier blog (September 6th). On “les sans-dents” business, which right-wingers are going to town with on social media, he has this to say

La version de VT est-elle d’ailleurs exacte? L’Elysée dément et conteste ces allégations. On comprend que François Hollande soit «atterré»: on le serait à moins, sans que cela valide en quoi que ce soit les coups ciblés de VT.

Même si elle a mis en lumière les ambiguïtés de l’histoire amoureuse et politique entre Ségolène Royal et François Hollande, j’attache cependant infiniment plus de crédibilité à celle qui a été sa compagne durant longtemps, la mère de ses enfants et qui est autant imprégnée d’humanisme que la journaliste. Ségolène Royal a formellement contredit cette image d’un François Hollande sarcastique et dédaigneux des affres de la misère en se fondant sur l’expérience qu’elle a eue de l’homme et du politique.

Bilger’s review is interesting and well worth the read.

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Le baromètre des partis TNS-Sofres de septembre 2014

Can Marine Le Pen win in ’17?

(photo: AFP/Joel Saget)

(photo: AFP/Joel Saget)

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below]

Faithful reader and regular commentator Mitch Guthman, responding to my post of last week, thinks she can and likely will. I say no way. Here’s why.

Five reasons. First—and this isn’t really a reason, just a preliminary point—, I am very reluctant to handicap an election three years down the road, as all sorts of things will obviously happen between now and then to changer la donne. It’s fun to speculate but is, objectively speaking, a waste of time.

That said—and secondly—I will continue to assert that Marine Le Pen has no chance—I repeat, no chance whatever—of being elected President of the Republic. I assert this because no candidate with negative poll ratings as high as MLP’s—i.e. in the 60s—can possibly win the presidency. It has never happened in the history of an advanced democracy and is not going to happen in France in 2017. Now if MLP’s negative numbers start to drop significantly—and, concomitantly, her favorable ratings rise—then I may change my tune. And I will definitely change that tune if the curves cross. But there is no reason to believe that this will or even can happen. The Le Pen name is radioactive—absolutely, totally toxic—for the entire left, center, and moderate right. As for those who have been casting protest votes for the FN in recent elections, a significant number would think twice about doing so if they actually thought the FN had a chance of winning (à propos, according to one survey in 2002 fully half of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s voters in the presidential election that year said that they would not have voted for him if they had thought he had a real chance of winning).

Thirdly, if there were a freak accident and with MLP somehow winning the presidency, she would be unable to govern. There is no way she would have anything close to a majority in the National Assembly (ergo, there would be no FN PM or government). And a significant portion of the haute fonction publique—where the FN has precious few members or sympathizers—would decline to cooperate with her. For the anecdote, back in 2002 I asked an énarque member of the Cour des Comptes whom I knew if he and his colleagues would have cooperated with Jean-Marie Le Pen had he won that year. His response was a categorical no. A Marine Le Pen presidency would thus not only be a fiasco from Day One but also bring about a constitutional crisis.

Fourthly, France is a mature democracy and the French citizenry is—appearances sometimes to the contrary—a mature electorate. French voters are not going to embark on some crazy adventure with a populist party of the extreme right, and that has no experience whatever in government to boot. The gravity of the French electorate has been on the center-right for most of the past century and remains so today. In this respect, it needs to be said that while the economic situation in France is bad it is not catastrophic. France is not Greece—as Paul Krugman has reminded us more than once—and is not going to be. Mitch’s assertion that France is being subjected to “murderous austerity” is hyperbole. The French are morose and fearful for the future—and many for good reason—but the majority of people are working and will continue to. As for the increasing numbers who are unemployed and excluded from mainstream society, they will retreat into political abstention rather than vote en masse for the FN.

Fifthly, if MLP makes it to the 2nd round of the election, she will most certainly face the candidate of the UMP (or whatever the UMP eventually renames itself). And the latter will win. Period. My dread fear is that that candidate will be Sarkozy (and rid of his legal problems). If so, we’ll have to live with the S.O.B. for another five years. The mere prospect of that depresses me to no end.

UPDATE: Slate.fr’s Eric Dupin, echoing my viewpoint, says “Non, le FN n’est pas aux portes du pouvoir.” (September 9th)

2nd UPDATE: A poll conducted by Odoxa—a new polling institute founded by a couple of former directors at BVA—for I>Télé-CQFD-Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui reveals that “65% des Français considèrent que le FN n’a pas la capacité de gouverner [la France]…” It indeed does not make sense, IMHO, that large numbers of Frenchmen and women would vote for a party to govern France that they do not believe has the ability to govern France… Ça n’a pas de sens… (September 13th)

3rd UPDATE: And then there’s the circus in FN-governed Hayange (here, here, and here). Does one really imagine that the French electorate will send these whack jobs to the Élysée and Matignon? (September 15th)

Turkey’s new PM

Resim_1409064302

There is much to say about Turkey these days—a country to which I am personally attached (and will be visiting soon for non-touristic reasons)—, particularly its recently elected president—the first-ever by universal suffrage—, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his plan to modify the constitution so as to transform his office into an elected sultanate. More on that some other time. I just want to link here to a couple of op-eds read over the past two days on RTE’s hand-picked replacement as prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, the erstwhile grand penseur foreign minister of “zero problems with neighbors” fame—and whose doctrine, at the end of his five-year stint as FM, should have probably been renamed “problems with all neighbors”…

The first piece, which appeared in the NYT (August 28th), is by Marmara Üniversitesi international relations prof Behlül Özkan, “Turkey’s imperial fantasy.” Özkan, who was a student of Davutoğlu’s and “has read hundreds of his articles and books,” knows of what he speaks. Money quote

[Davutoğlu] was a distinguished scholar of Islamic and Western political philosophy, and a genial figure who enjoyed spending hours conversing with his students. In his lectures, this professor argued that Turkey would soon emerge as the leader of the Islamic world by taking advantage of its proud heritage and geographical potential… Mr. Davutoglu’s classroom pronouncements often sounded more like fairy tales than political analysis…

The other piece—cross-published on the MEF website (August 28th)—is “Basting Turkey’s new prime minister,” by Daniel Pipes, a MENA specialist whom I normally link to with reticence, as his political world-view is 180° opposed to mine (and he is intolerant of views that differ significantly from his; e.g. several years ago he refused to authorize publication of a comment of mine on one of his blog posts, but which did not contain incendiary language and was in no way insulting; he manifestly did not like the fact that he was being critiqued from the left, c’est tout). But, like the proverbial stopped clock that gives the right time twice a day, he is occasionally worth reading and not off base (e.g. see here and last paragraph here). And Pipes is indeed worth reading here, as he recounts a conversation he had with Davutoğlu in 2005. Pipes concludes

As Turkey’s 26th prime minister, Davutoğlu faces a bubble economy perilously near collapse, a breakdown in the rule of law, a country inflamed by Erdoğan’s divisive rule, a hostile Gülen movement, and a divided AKP, all converging within an increasingly Islamist (and therefore uncivil) country. Moreover, the foreign policy problems that Davutoğlu himself created still continue, especially the ISIS hostage emergency in Mosul.

The unfortunate Davutoğlu brings to mind a cleanup crew arriving at the party at 4 a.m., facing a mess created by now-departed revelers. Happily, the contentious and autocratic Erdoğan no longer holds Turkey’s key governmental position; but his placing the country in the unsteady hands of a loyalist of proven incompetence brings many new concerns for the Turks, their neighbors, and all who wish the country well.

On this specific question at least, Pipes and I are pretty much on the same page.

The Valls II government

Manuel Valls, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Fleur Pellerin (photos: MaxPPP)

Manuel Valls, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Fleur Pellerin (photos: MaxPPP)

[update below]

I haven’t written anything on French politics in three months and didn’t anticipate doing so this week, but, with all that has happened in the past three days, think I should. My blogging confrère Art Goldhammer has been going to town on the latest psychodrama, summing up François Hollande’s “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week” in The American Prospect on Monday and, in his jeremiad today, mournfully evaluating Manual Valls’s new government, plus the lamentable state of French politics more generally. As I agree 98.5% with Art’s analyses, I won’t cover the same ground here as he. Just four comments.

First, after Arnaud Montebourg’s Sunday grandstanding in Frangy-en-Bresse (in the Saône-et-Loire profonde), Hollande had no choice but to have the government resign and ask Valls to form a new one. This was apparently not Hollande’s initial reflex but when Valls watched Montebourg’s improvised address on the télé before the latter’s copains et copines at his annual Fête de la Rose—visibly made after he’d had a verre too many—and took note of Montebourg’s petite phrase promising to send the President of the Republic “une bonne bouteille de la ‘cuvée du redressement'”—which means what it means—Valls told Hollande that it’s him or me, that if Montebourg (and Benoît Hamon) weren’t fired illico, that he (Valls) would resign. Question d’autorité et de cohérence. If Valls were to quit, then Hollande would clearly have no choice but to dissolve the National Assembly. Or maybe quit himself. So PM Valls exercised his authority over Président de la République Hollande. Quelle spectacle.

Second, the whole operation was manifestly staged to get rid of three ministers and three only: Montebourg, Hamon, and Aurélie Filippetti (who should have probably been gotten rid of when Valls formed his first govt back in April). The big story with the new government is the replacement of Montebourg at the Ministre de l’Economie etc with the social-libéral Emmanuel Macron. As Art Goldhammer has well described Macron in his aforelinked post I needn’t say anything about him here, except maybe to add a personal detail, which is that Macron, age 36, is married to his high school literature teacher twenty years his senior—intéressant; normalement c’est l’inverse—and to observe that he’s almost a caricature of the French bourgeois d’Etatet l’énarque pantouflard—, un prodige qui a eu un parcours sans faute. Le meilleur de la classe. Et la gauche caviar dans toute sa splendeur. À propos, France 2’s David Pujadas made Valls uncomfortable during the latter’s interview sur le plateau last night (from 19:33)

Valls: Emmanuel Macron est un Socialiste…

Pujadas: Mais ex-banquier chez Rothschild on a entendu…

Aïe! Ça fait mal…

As for the other ejected ministers, Hamon has been replaced by Najat Vallaud-Belkacem—the rising Socialist star, of Algerian-Moroccan parentage—at the Ministry of Education—the first woman ever to head this very high-profile ministry—and Fleur Pellerin (of Korean origin, adopted by a French family)—, who knows the dossiers—, happily taking over from Filippetti at culture and communications. Both are good, IMO. The new government, which is resolutely social-libéral—i.e. Blairist, or maybe Clintonian-Obamaist—is tighter and more ideologically coherent than the last one. France finally has a social-libéral government, but a decade too late. Problem now is, entre autres, the government’s political base is too narrow. With the exception of the PRG and allies (i.e. Christiane Taubira)—who, electorally speaking, represent not quite nothing but almost—the rest of the left (Front de Gauche, EELV) opposes the government and with the frondeur PS in quasi-opposition. And Hollande not having seized the perch extended by François Bayrou in 2012, an opening to the center is no longer possible. The last time a government governed with such a narrow electoral base was during the Cresson and Bérégevoy years (1991-93), and we know what the electoral consequence of that was. With the majority hanging in the balance and the left-wing of the PS up in arms, Valls will almost certainly be obliged to use Article 49-3 to get certain key bills passed (Pacte de responsabilité, etc) and dare the frondeur Socialists to vote for a censure motion, which, if it were to succeed, would result in early legislative elections—and certain defeat of up to 80% of PS deputies. This is not a good way to govern—ce n’est pas la bonne méthode, as Jacques Chirac would say—but if Hollande-Valls want to get their social-libéral legislation passed, this will likely be the way.

But it’s hard to see how this situation can last for three years. Hollande is at 17% in the polls, a hole too deep to climb out of, next year or in three years. In view of the calamitous state of French industry—the problems are deep, structural, and will take years to remedy (and many years have already been lost here)—, unemployment is not about to drop anytime soon. Ce n’est pas une information but Hollande—if he runs—and the PS are toast in the next presidential and legislative elections. Period. But the UMP—qui est en piteux état—is, as one knows, absolutely not in a position to take over. Not right now. The PS may be in a calamitous state but so is everyone else. Looking at the latest IPSOS/Le Point “baromètre de l’action politique,’ what is striking—and this is my third point—is how almost all major politicians have negative ratings higher than positive—and for the majority of these, the negative-positive gap is considerable. French voters are fed up with all of them, left, right, and center. The whole lot. It’s quite amazing, actually. Of those who are hypothetical presidential candidates, the only ones whose favorable numbers are higher than his/her negative ones are, at present, Alain Juppé, François Bayrou, Ségolène Royal (yes!), and (believe it or not) Laurent Fabius. It’s hard to see Mme Royal making a run if her ex decides not to in ’17, quoique on ne sait jamais… But Fabius? I’m going way out on a limb here but if Hollande throws in the towel in ’17, Fabius, the elder statesman, could well emerge as the candidat de réchange (and with Valls, burned by Matignon, biding his time till ’22). Une hypothèse, c’est tout. As for the UMP, all I can say is that I hope and pray that Juppé remains steadfast in his announced intention to run for the presidency of the UMP and, presumably after that, to be the UMP’s presidential candidate. And to, of course, block a return by Sarkozy (a return by whom I have never believed but that must, in any case, be prevented at all costs). Juppé will certainly be opposed by the UMP right-wing—which is forming into a French Tea Party—but he’s the only one on the right who, at present, has the stature to lead this country. And ward off a disastrous second round face off between Sarkozy and Marine Le Pen.

As for Mme Le Pen—and this is the fourth point—, just about everyone is now predicting that she will go to the second round of the next presidential election. Ça va de soi, presque. I normally eschew engaging in such speculation three years before an election but it is indeed possible that this will happen, that Marine LP will finish ahead of the PS or UMP candidate (mostly likely the PS) and square off against the one who makes it through (most likely the UMP). Many are also predicting that she will win outright, that Marine Le Pen will be the next Présidente de la République. I will say right now—d’ores et déjà—that this will not happen. It is totally out of the question. Period. I offered some of the reasons as to why in my post after the European elections in May but may also add her tenaciously high negative poll numbers, which today are at 63%—far higher than any other first-tier political figure save Jean-François Copé (and, of course, François Hollande, but he’s the chef de l’Etat being judged on an actual bilan). Poll numbers bounce around, of course, but there is no reason whatever to believe or expect that Marine LP’s curve will cross, as it were, in the next three years, that her positives will overtake her negatives. And that, as a consequence, 50.01% of French voters will cast their ballots for her in the second round of a presidential election. It won’t happen. Never. Jamais de la vie.

A final point. I return to my speculation of last November, on Hollande’s predicament and a possible way out for him. Dissolultion of the National Assembly and élections législatives anticipées. In 2016. You read it here first.

UPDATE: I reread my posts on the PS presidential primary campaign, of the fall of 2011. In the one on the first round of the primary (here), I devoted more space to analyzing the candidacy of Arnaud Montebourg than of the others. Those interested in his case may find it worth the read (as what I wrote three years is still relevant).

Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg having a fine time at the Fête de la Rose, Frangy-en-Bresse (Saône-et-Loire), August 24 2014 (photo: LP/Olivier Corsan)

Benoît Hamon and Arnaud Montebourg having a fine time at the Fête de la Rose,
Frangy-en-Bresse (Saône-et-Loire), August 24 2014 (photo: LP/Olivier Corsan)

Winter Sleep

Kış Uykusu

Saw this masterpiece of a film yesterday, directed by the great Nuri Bilge Ceylan and the well-deserved winner of the Palme d’or at Cannes this year. A 3¼ hour Turkish film d’auteur with not a dull moment. At no point did it drag or tax my patience. Variety critic Justin Chang got it exactly right

Don’t be daunted by the running time: This character study from Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a richly engrossing experience.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan is at the peak of his powers with “Winter Sleep,” a richly engrossing and ravishingly beautiful magnum opus that surely qualifies as the least boring 196-minute movie ever made. Following Ceylan’s sublime 2011 drama “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” this equally assured but considerably more accessible character study tunnels into the everyday existence of a middle-aged former actor turned comfortably situated hotel owner — and emerges with a multifaceted study of human frailty whose moral implications resonate far beyond its remote Turkish setting. Simultaneously vast and intimate, sprawling and incisive, and talky in the best possible sense, the film will be confined to the ultra-discerning end of the arthouse market thanks to its daunting running time and deceptively snoozy title, but abundant rewards lie in wait for those who seek it out at festivals and beyond.

For the rest of Chang’s review, go here (also see the reviews in Screen Daily and Indiewire; French reviews are naturally tops). As one learns in the closing credits, the film is inspired by “several short stories” by Chekhov (and there’s also some Shakespeare in there). The acting is excellent all around—particularly the protags Haluk Bilginer (Aydın) and the beautiful Melisa Sözen (Nihal)—, the dialogue is intense, and the cinematography spectacular (the film is entirely set in Cappadocia, which is one of the most breathtaking corners of the world I’ve seen). No release date yet for the US but it will make it there. Those who live in France and have the slightest interest in cinema (or Turkey) should see it ASAP. Trailer is here.

Is Mondoweiss stupid? – II

Hillary Clinton in Jerusalem October 31 2009 Xinhua Reuters Photo

[update below]

It looks like I have a new series going here. I just came across a commentary by Philip Weiss, founder and co-editor of Mondoweiss—the go to site for the stateside Israel-bashing one-stater crowd—, explaining how “Hillary Clinton just lost the White House in Gaza — [the] same way she lost it in Iraq the last time.” Weiss asserts that Hillary’s pro-Israel pronouncements during the latest Gaza war—notably expressed in her recent “famous interview” with Jeffrey Goldberg—and her striving “to please neoconservatives” have put paid to her ambitions for 2016, as the liberal-left primary and caucus-voting Democratic party base will turn away from her on account of her rhetoric on Israel/Palestine (my emphasis) and support en bloc the candidate who runs to her left—and that it is a certainty that such a candidate will emerge and “exploit this sentiment [on Israel/Palestine] for political gain.” Weiss acknowledges that “he’s going out on a limb” with his prediction but he’s pretty sure of it, as he sees a sea change underway on the liberal-left side of American politics in regard to Israel, with younger, progressive, and disaffected ex-liberal Zionist voters increasingly rejecting the Democratic party’s uncritical pro-Israel stance and slavishness to AIPAC. And that this sea change will manifest itself in the ’16 election.

Weiss is, as we say over here, à côté de la plaque, i.e. he’s out to lunch. His understanding of American electoral politics is clearly deficient or/and he believes his gauchiste Israel/Palestine-obsessed Mondoweiss milieu to be more consequential in the Democratic party base than it is. Now it is incontestable that liberals—including Jews—have become more critical of Israel in recent years, which any liberal-lefty in the US can attest to (e.g. I am continually struck by the number of American Jewish friends who speak harshly of Israel these days, which they never did in the 1970s-80s or the post-Oslo 1990s). And these personal observations are supported by polling data, e.g. last year’s Gallup poll showing 24% of self-identified liberals sympathizing with the Palestinians over Israel, with 51% for Israel, i.e. a mere 2 to 1 ratio, which, in the US, is not bad for the Pals. With Israeli governments now indistinguishable from US Republicans—and Tea Party Repubs at that—, liberal/Jewish disaffection toward Israel is only normal. But the disaffection is toward the current Israeli government and its leading personalities—Netanyahu, Lieberman, Bennett et al—and Israeli policy, not toward the State of Israel itself—or to Zionism (as defined here). If the Likud and its far right allies were defeated in a general election and replaced by a center-left government—such as center-left is understood in Israel—, and there were a serious return to the “peace process,” a lot of the disaffection among liberal Jews would dissipate. But even if this doesn’t happen in the next election or two—and I’m not holding my breath—there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that American Jews outside Weiss’s New York-New Jersey gauchiste milieu will become one-staters and endorse Palestinian narratives.

Or that Israel/Palestine will drive voting behavior. Weiss is deluding himself if he thinks I/P will be an issue during the 2016 primary season and cause even a minuscule number of voters not to vote for Hillary should she run. Why on earth would Israel suddenly become a major issue in a Democratic presidential nomination race when it never has in the past (except maybe in New York state, and even then)? Except when American soldiers are fighting and dying in a war, foreign affairs never figure in American presidential primaries. As for a candidate to Hillary’s left, the only potential one who would have any credibility—at least as it looks today—is Elizabeth Warren, though who says she’s not running. But if Warren changes her mind and throws her hat in the ring, she will definitely attract a lot of support (including from me, BTW; pour l’info, I am a registered voter in Cook County, Illinois, and faithfully vote absentee in all national elections and primaries), but it will be for all sorts of reasons and policy stands, and that will have nothing to do with the Middle East. Unless Hillary tacks sharply left on domestic policy, she will definitely be vulnerable to an eventual Warren candidacy. Mais on n’en est pas là…

But if Warren does run, pro-Pal liberal-lefties are likely to be disappointed, as it is a certainty that her rhetoric will be decidedly pro-Israel, perhaps even as much so as Hillary’s. Warren is a politician and will not take positions that will cause her to lose more than she will gain. As I explained during the last Gaza war, there is a reason US congresspeople and presidential candidates are 100% pro-Israel—even more pro-Israel than Israelis are themselves—, which is because they have absolutely nothing to gain by being otherwise. And on this, they have nothing to worry about vis-à-vis public opinion, as the American public remains overwhelmingly pro-Israel (the numbers on this are clear; and if Democrats have become less pro-Israel, Republicans have become more so, the latter thus cancelling out the former). This may evolve in the future but one shouldn’t count on it, as with the Middle East going to hell in a handbasket—with ISIS, bloodbaths in Syria and Iraq, brutal dictatorship in Egypt, state collapse in Libya, unsympathetic socio-cultural-political orders in the Arabian peninsula, Hizbullah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et j’en passe—Israel will continue to look relatively good to most Americans. Désolée mais c’est comme ça.

UPDATE: M.J. Rosenberg, on his new blog (August 24th), explains “Why Democrats will never change their tune on Israel.” Money quote

Progressive Democrats are not single issue. If a candidate (think of former Congressman Barney Frank) is good on health care, jobs, GLBT issues, fracking, taxes, abortion, etc. but supports the slaughter in Gaza, progressives vote for him anyway.

That is why even Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown are down-the-line Netanyahu supporters. There is no downside in offending progressives but there is one in offending Israel Firsters.

Obviously. And, lo and behold, Philip Weiss has expressed disappointment with Elizabeth Warren in her Senate vote to give Israel an extra $225 million in military aid and for “mouth[ing] Israeli talking points” in a public meeting with constituents (August 28th). Hey, Phil, what did you expect?

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