This is the moment a certain number of a certain breed of Democrats have been waiting for. The latest outburst of bad feeling between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu can be the cover they seek for finally putting the Jews in their place.
First the president went to the Middle East to apologize to the Muslims for America being America, and couldn't find the time for a stopover in Israel, America's only true friend in the region. Then he dispatched Joe Biden, the vice president who says he is an "ardent Zionist," to Jerusalem to try to mollify the Israelis with a cheap and sentimental love song with lyrics that nobody believes. The mission quickly blew up when the veep used the occasion to lecture the Israelis for building 1,600 new apartments for Jews in East Jerusalem, which the Palestinian bomb-throwers and their American apologists insist on calling "settlements". Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, followed up with some nasty remarks.
Then came Mr. Netanyahu's long-scheduled visit to Washington, and things went from troubling to bad, and then to really bad. The Israeli prime minister, speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee reminded everyone that "Jerusalem is not a settlement, it is our capital." Israel's enemies are real: "The ingathering of the Jewish people to Israel has not deterred these fanatics. In fact, it has only whetted their appetite. Iran's rulers say, 'Israel is a one-bomb country.' The head of Hizbullah says, 'If all the Jews gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide . . . ' The future of the Jewish state can never depend on the goodwill of even the greatest of men. Israel must always reserve the right to defend itself."
Who could argue with that? But for this statement of mere fact, Mr. Netanyahu is rebuked as "defiant," and accused of trying to drive a wedge between Mr. Obama, who wishes the Israelis wouldn't be so beastly to the Palestinians, and Congress, which can sometimes do the right thing when propped up by angry constituents.
Democrats were once regarded as the best friends Israel had Harry S. Truman, a Democratic president and a Southern Baptist, was the first head of state to recognize Israel but now it's the Republicans who are steadfast in support of the Jewish state. Says Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Conference: "I never thought I'd live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the Jewish state of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem."
Some Democrats comfort themselves with the notion, understandable in the light of history, that American Jews will continue to vote Democratic no matter what Mr. Obama and his party do to undermine the Jewish state. The Israelis, under constant siege and occasional bombardment, are not so easily taken in. Benjamin Netanyahu's brother-in-law was widely scolded after he told an Israeli radio interviewer that he thinks Mr. Obama is "an anti-Semite." The prime minister distanced himself from the sentiment.
Accusations of anti-Semitism against the president are over-the-top, like the accusations of racism against anyone who sharply criticizes Mr. Obama, but it is certainly true that Mr. Obama has enjoyed the company of anti-Semites in the past a "milieu," in the words of New Yorker magazine, "supposedly composed of incendiary preachers, black nationalists, fading Weathermen and . . . Palestinian intellectuals." (Milieus are fashionable on the Upper East Side and Chicago's South Side.) Mr. Obama has explained that while he did indeed submit his family to the moral guidance of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and he sat through 20 years of the preacher's Sunday-morning harangues about perfidious Jews and other evil white folks, he never heard the anti-Semitic rants, thus establishing a mark worthy of the Guinness Book of Records for sleeping through more than a thousand fiery sermons.
Benjamin Netanyahu is the bane of the Democrats, who only wish he would go away (or be taken away). That's because he understands the stakes in the Middle East, and wastes no time on prissy conversation over diplomatic tea cups. "Throughout history," he said, "the slanders against the Jewish people always preceded the physical assaults and were used to justify these assaults."
This is the kind of rhetoric that strengthens resolve in sensible and prudent men aware of the threat to their own extinction, but it upsets the tummies of certain Democrats secure behind the protection of better men than they. It makes their teeth itch. Better to think of bunnies, enjoy the music of little fairies and early spring flowers, and maybe trouble will go away. Barack Obama insists he's a friend of Israel. Some friend. Israel won't long survive if it has to depend on friends like him.