The third rail on electric railways carries the electrical current. Touching the rail will cause death. By extension, a number of topics in politics have been characterized as the third rail, in that they will cause an immediate political demise. Domestically, one of these subjects is Social Security, a program from which so many people benefit that altering the program would result in an electoral defeat. In foreign policy, this position was previously held by Communism. Now it is Israel. I’m not sure why that is, or what unquestioning support of Israeli policy has to do with American interests.
I opened the paper today, after a week-long hiatus, to find that the disagreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians over who should exist escalated over the weekend. Coincidentally enough, I also read Glenn Greenwald‘s column today, in which I learned that 71% of the U.S. population polled favor a neutral position on the above question, in stark contrast to the 99% of the U.S. political establishment which vociferously supports Israeli policy. There are, however, signs that this unanimity is splintering, at least among the chattering classes.