Jennifer Rubin’s Sophie’s Choice

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Can a Republican be too pro-Israel?

Pretty much everybody who observed Saturday night’s Iowa debate declared Newt Gingrich the winner. By “everybody,” I mean Jonathan Martin, John Heilemann, Dave Weigel, Chris Cillizza, and basically everybody else. Except, of course, Jennifer Rubin. Obviously Rubin thinks Romney won – Rubin has appointed herself Romney’s chief advocate, and has taken it upon herself to defend him endlessly and savage his enemies. What’s comic is the grounds on which she chose to assail Gingrich:

Tonight’s Des Moines debate had no meltdown moment for any candidate, although it did suggest Newt Gingrich is in for a tough time now that he’s not just an entertaining candidate, but a serious contender for the nomination. The debate followed Gingrich forced “clarification” of his comment remarking that Palestinians have an “invented” nationality.

His press secretary had lamely suggested earlier in the day: “Gingrich supports a negotiated peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, which will necessarily include agreement between Israel and the Palestinians over the borders of a Palestinian state. However, to understand what is being proposed and negotiated you have to understand decades of complex history - which is exactly what Gingrich was referencing during the recent interview with Jewish TV.” But of course he was not being complex or nuanced; he was being provocative and, if we are to believe he might be president, irresponsible.

If you’re not in on the joke, allow me to explain. Rubin holds extremely right-wing views on Israel, and is highly prone to inflammatory and false charges. Gingrich’s comments on Palestinian nationality fit snugly within Rubin’s worldview – if anything, they are a bit too staid for her taste. Yet here she is denouncing him for his excessive anti-Palestinian bluster! If Gingrich simply quoted Rubin, I wonder if Rubin would denounce him for it.

Aside from demonstrating just how far Rubin is willing to follow the cause of advocating for her candidate of choice, it sheds some light on a controversy that arose last week over the term “Israel-firster,” a term of derision used by some left-wing critics to describe Israel hawks. The term implies that certain Americans, American Jews, place the interests of Israel above those of their own country. Rubin’s reaction to the Gingrich-Palestinian controversy offers a neat refutation of the charge. You can’t find a more passionate Israel hawk than Rubin. She is faced with a choice between her loyalty to the Republican Party and her loyalty to Israeli nationalism. And she sides with the former, clearly showing that her loyalty to the GOP – and, by extension, America – sits above her fidelity to Israel.