I haven't read the former Alaska governor's new book, but I see that she's already brought the crazy in an interview with ABC News.
"I disagree with the Obama administration" on Israeli settlements, Palin told Barbara Walters. Fair enough. It sure seems like the administration's heavy focus on getting Benjamin Netanyahu to commit to a settlement freeze has backfired, making the Israeli prime minister more popular than ever and exposing the impotence of Palestinian leader Mamoud Abbas in the process.
But that's not what Palin meant.
"I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow," she continued. "More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don't think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand."
This is, quite frankly, morally and strategically obtuse. Setting aside the "right" of Israel to take land that the Palestinians see as theirs, as Israeli author Gershom Gorenberg wrote last January in FP, the settlements are hugely problematic for peace:
The message written on the landscape is simple: Every day, the settlements expand. Every day, Israel grows more entangled in the West Bank. To a large degree, the Israeli and Palestinian publics have accepted the need for a two-state solution. But time, and the construction crews, are working against it. No one knows exactly where the point of no return is—when so many Israelis will have moved into so many homes beyond the pre-1967 border that there is no going back. But each passing day brings that tipping point nearer. If a solution is not achieved quickly, it might soon be out of reach.
This is why, from their inception, successive American presidents of both parties have denounced this colonization of the West Bank, although rarely, such as when George H.W. Bush put real pressure on the Israelis by temporarily holding up loan guarantees, have they done more about it than talk. Even George W. Bush, the bulk of whose Israel policy can be fairly summed up as "Let Ariel Sharon do what he wants," at least expressed his displeasure over the settlements every now and again.
So Palin is way out there on the lunatic fringe, supporting an Israeli policy that all serious people understand to be deeply corrosive to the prospects for peace and to Israel itself. But I'd also note that her lack of precision in talking about the issue, while hardly surprising, betrays a continued lack of familiarity with even the most basic nuances of the conflict. She doesn't, for instance, make any distinction between existing settlements and new ones, which is at the heart of the debate right now.
It's depressing to think that this lazy, uninformed woman might have been a heartbeat away from the presidency.
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