On The Middle East: It's Palin vs. Petraeus & New Poll

March 18, 2010 9:24 am ET — MJ Rosenberg

Most right-wingers claim to be great admirers of General David Petraeus. Bill Kristol has said that he's "America's man of the year." Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) says he is "an exceptionally smart and thoughtful man." House Republican Leader John Boehner says he has "earned" the right to be listened to. John McCain calls him "a great American hero."

But now, some on the right -- most notably Sarah Palin -- don't think he's all that great.  As for having earned the "right to be listened to," fugeddaboutit.

That is because General Petraeus is now saying that Israel's policies in the occupied territories harm US interests and potentially threaten American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It was Petraeus' warning that led to the Obama administration's condemnation of Israel's settlement policies. And that condemnation is driving Petraeus' erstwhile friends crazy.

On her Facebook page on Tuesday, Palin wrote that the Obama administration is out of line when it criticizes Israeli plans for new settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. She writes that "the Obama Administration has decided to escalate, make unilateral demands of Israel, and threaten the very foundation of the US-Israel relationship. This is quickly leading to the worst crisis in US-Israel relations in decades, and yet this did not have to happen. More importantly, it needs to stop before it spirals out of control."  She calls America's concerns about Israeli settlements "this manufactured Israeli controversy."

But that isn't how Petraeus sees it. 

Speaking about the Israeli-Palestinian issue before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Petraeus said:

"The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests... Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the [region] and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hizballah and Hamas...."

So Petraeus is telling us that American interests -- and Americans in uniform -- are threatened by the Israeli-Palestinian status quo and that Iran, Hizballah, and Hamas benefit from it.

That's pretty straightforward. 

Why doesn't this matter to Sarah Palin? What part of national security does she not understand?  Or more accurately, what part does she understand?


UPDATE

The first poll on the Obama administration's stand on settlements is out.  It comes from the right-leaning Rasmussen reports. And it's a doozy.  It turns out that "49% of American voters believe Israel should be required to stop building settlements."  Rasmussen also reports that their "national telephone survey finds that just 22% of voters disagree and believe Israel should not be required to stop building those settlements. Another 29% are not sure." 

This is important not only because this poll represents a significant shift in public opinion, not against Israel but for the President's approach. In fact, other poll responses indicate that the electorate remains strongly pro-Israel.  It is just that American voters understand that Israeli settlements are bad for Israel, bad for Palestinians and most significantly, as General Petraeus tells us, bad for America.  

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