I would note that, as Hounshell himself admits, not a single U.S. president has actually done more than mouth empty threats or apply mild, temporary, pressure on Israel over its settlements. All serious people may believe settlements are corrosive to peace, but those people do not include the current Prime Minister of Israel and the current U.S. administration (again, judge what they do, not what they say).
What Sarah Palin is saying has been U.S. policy in deed, if not in word, for decades. I see no reason to beat up on Palin over stating the obvious, not least because she will (thankfully) never be president. ~Greg Scoblete
Scoblete makes a fair point, which is why it is somewhat misleading to refer to Palin as being on the “lunatic fringe.” Lunatic? Maybe. But whatever else her views are, they are definitely not on the fringe. In practice, as Scoblete notes, it is the advocates of a settlement freeze who are on the margins and the supporters of continued settlement in the territories who actually make policy. This is the way it has been for decades. Of course Palin’s statements on the subject are formulaic and betray her ignorance of the “basic nuances of the conflict.” First of all, she is repeating what her advisors and allies have told her to say about these things, and she is keeping her lines as simple as possible. What matters to her hawkish allies and her loyal followers is not whether she understands the issue. For these people, understanding and nuance are obstacles to be overcome. What matters is whether she adopts the correct pose. In this case, she has to strike the pose of being unflinchingly, reflexively supportive of Israel, and so she takes a maximalist position that secures her reputation as reliably “pro-Israel.” It makes no difference if the maximalist position she takes is actually worse for Israel in the long term. She has established the appearance of respecting Israel’s “rights” to do whatever it wants in contrast to an administration that her backers believe has been “bullying” Israel.
As a matter of internal Republican Party and movement politics, what Hounshell describes as lunacy is the consensus view on the right. This is why Huckabee’s earlier dabbling with neo-transferism isn’t the least bit surprising. We should also be a bit wary of invoking the authority of “serious people.” I think it is true that informed people understand why continued expansion of settlements is detrimental to the long-term interests of all parties, but after the last decade of terrible foreign policy guidance by self-proclaimed “serious people” there is hardly anything more damning one can say about something than to say that “serious people” embrace it.
There is a problem in hiding behind policy consensus and dismissing those outside it as an irrelevant fringe, and this is that the consensus gets important things wrong with remarkable frequency. Hawkish interventionists were able to create the (false) impression that 9/11 happened because America was too wedded to geopolitical stability and was too willing to tolerate authoritarian governments in the Near East, and then the lazy establishment consensus allowed itself to be dragged along with them to support an unnecessary and disastrous war. Establishment consensus views on Iraq and its weapon programs were wrong; consensus support for the bombardment of Lebanon and the Gaza operation was also wrong; the “serious” bipartisan consensus in favor of NATO expansion has been disastrously wrong. The trouble with Palin’s views on settlements and Israel-Palestine is not that they are on the fringe, but that they are as deeply misinformed about political realities in the region as so many of the consensus views mentioned above. As with all of those, it is the ill-informed and ideologically-driven position that prevails when it comes to policy decisions.