"Sometimes the consensus on Israel in Washington is hard to explain to outsiders. The assault on Gaza, for example, was highly controversial around the world and prompted lively debates about just war, the limits of violence in controlling or deterring Hamas and the wisdom of Israel intensifying another bitter cycle of conflict with the Muslim world. In a poll last July, 71% of the American people wanted the US to be neutral in the conflict between Jews and Arabs. Polling about Gaza found Americans evenly divided about who was in the right. The Senate, however, did not even need to take a vote. A resolution backing Israel in Gaza was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, and in the House of Representatives only five out of 435 members voted against.
"Freeman’s appointment would put a tiny crack in that consensus. It would imply that the US-Israel relationship might be balanced by other key relationships in the region, or that Israel might be asked – or even pressured – to take risks for a broader peace that would benefit the US. It would imply that while American and Israeli interests often overlap in the region, they are not always and everywhere identical and that a healthier understanding of this might emerge that could benefit both nations.
"Well, we’ll see. I can’t say I am optimistic. Obama is being asked to transform America’s relations with the Muslim world while not moving an inch from Bush’s Israel policy. That’s basically impossible – and there is a price to be paid for pointing that out."
Also see my December piece in Middle East Policy, where I "discuss the importance of bringing skeptics, iconoclasts and critics into the tent. I express my concern that Obama may fail to do so when it comes to the Arab-Israeli zone:
"The reader may well be thinking that President Barack Obama is very likely to seek a wide range of expert opinion on Iraq or Afghanistan, and he probably will. However, he do so in politically riskier realms, not least the Arab-Israeli conflict? Early indicate that the new administration will have no shortage of players keen to respond Israel’s interests but tone deaf to the concerns of Palestinian Arabs, for instance. If the president is truly serious about moving deliberately to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian as has been hinted, then it is imperative that he seek out informed views that the embedded orthodoxies rather than echo them."
[Meanwhile, several well-connected former senior officials observe with alarm that two-time loser Dennis Ross is trying to insinuate himself as the senior diplomat for dealing with U.S. Middle East policy.]