Thursday, April 22, 2010

What's Happening With Israel?

What's Happening With Israel?
by Victor Davis Hanson 4-22-2010

Current American relations with our once-staunch ally Israel are at their lowest ebb in the last 50 years.

The Obama administration seems as angry at the building of Jewish apartments in Jerusalem as it is intent on reaching out to Iran and Syria, Israel's mortal enemies. President Obama himself, according to reports, has serially snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A new narrative abounds in Washington that Israel's intransigence with its Arab neighbors now even endangers U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Obama is pushing Netanyahu's Likud government to make concessions on several fronts, from supplying power and food to Gaza, to hastened departure from the West Bank.

These tensions follow the Obama administration's new outreach to the Muslim world. Obama gave his first interview as president to the Middle East newspaper Al Arabiya, in which he politely chided past U.S. policy on the Middle East.

In his June 2009 Cairo address, the president again sought to placate the Islamic world -- in part by wrongly claiming that Islamic learning had sparked the European Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Lost in all this reset-button diplomacy is introspection on why past American presidents sought to support Israel in the first place. We seem to forget why no-nonsense Harry Truman, against worldwide opposition, ensured the original creation of the Jewish state -- or why more than 60 percent of Americans in most polls continue to side with Israel in its struggle to survive.

In contrast, most of the rest of the world does the math and concludes Israel is a bad investment. It has no oil; its enemies possess nearly half the world's reserves.

There is no downside in criticizing Israel, but censuring some of its radical Arab neighbors might prompt anything from an oil embargo to a terrorist response.

There are about 7 million Israelis; the Muslim and Arab population in the Middle East numbers in the hundreds of millions.

According to the academic cult of multiculturalism, it is fashionable to see pro-American, democratic and capitalist Israel as a symbol of a pernicious Western culture of oppression; its enemies are seen as underdog liberationists.

No wonder that in the ongoing dispute, most of the world adds up the pluses and minuses and concludes that it is wiser to side with Israel's foes than to become its friend. But why, until now, has America always bucked the tide?

The reason is not the so-called "Jewish lobby" here in the U.S., but because a clear majority of non-Jews supported Israel. They saw that in a sea of autocracy, Israel is a democracy and a free and open society, one quite different from its neighbors.

I suspect that when there is a final two-state settlement, Arabs wishing to remain inside Israel will be treated far more humanely as citizens than any Jews who stay on the West Bank and take their chances as residents of the new Palestinian state. We suspect that when Israel pulls back from lands occupied after the 1967 war, there will remain prominent calls in the Arab world to continue the withdrawal -- and finish Israel altogether.

Holocaust denial is still a staple in intellectual circles of the Middle East, and serially embraced by the Iranian government.

Fashionable anti-Israeli sentiment is de rigueur in European elite society. Nearly a third of all country-specific resolutions passed by United Nations Commission on Human Rights have damned Israel -- far more than anything directed at the mass-murdering regimes of Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein or the Taliban.

In contrast, America's traditional bipartisan support for Israel put the world on notice that the United States would never allow another Holocaust -- or the destruction of Israel, or even serial attacks against it.

Yet if we are seen as neutral, just watch the rest of the world get the message and start piling on. Anti-Jewish terrorism will gear up again. Frontline entities like Hezbollah, Syria and Iran will ready their missiles without worry of American anger. Iran will assume we are resigned to its acquisition of the bomb. And the UN will again begin providing cover by issuing its pro forma denunciations of Israel, counting on a newly diffident United States to vote "present."

Perhaps the Obama administration genuinely believes that by pressuring Israel and reaching out to its enemies, it can at last achieve peace. Perhaps a few key figures in this administration simply do not like or trust the Jewish state -- support for which now polls only 48 percent among Democratic voters (versus 85 percent among Republicans).

No matter. This administration should take a deep breath and review history. It would learn that when Israel is alone, its opportunistic enemies pile on. And then war becomes more, not less, likely.

No Way to Be Treated Like a Lady
by Cliff May 4-22-2010

It really is open season on Israel, isn't it? While Iran's jihadi rulers continue their drive for nuclear weapons, while Syria transfers thousands of missiles to Hezbollah, while leaders of the Palestinian Authority glorify Islamist terrorists, The New York Times finds President Obama's "willingness to challenge Israel .... refreshing."

"The question," Times editorial writers add, is whether Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "is able or willing to lead his country to a peace deal." That's the question?

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is building a "Museum of Tolerance" in Jerusalem. Who could criticize such a project -- except perhaps on the grounds that most of those living in or passing through Jerusalem already value tolerance? By contrast, a Museum of Tolerance in, say, Riyadh (where churches and synagogues are outlawed), or Cairo (from which Egyptian Jews have fled and where the ancient Christian community is increasingly oppressed), or Tehran (where the Baha'i are among the religious minorities most brutally persecuted) might push the envelope.

Nonetheless, the fraudulently named U.N. Human Rights Council claims that the museum is being constructed on sacred Muslim soil. Never mind that the building site -- in West Jerusalem, not "Arab" East Jerusalem -- has been used for decades as a municipal parking lot by Jewish, Muslim and Christian motorists alike, with Muslim religious authorities voicing no objections.

But the cruelest cut in recent days was made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who called on Israel to "continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza." She implored Israeli leaders "to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks."

To reveal the razorblades embedded in this diplomatic apple, begin with this question: What "momentum toward a comprehensive peace" could Clinton possibly have in mind considering that since President Obama came to office no senior Palestinian leaders have been willing to sit at the same table with Israeli leaders -- as they had in the past?

As for Palestinians' "legitimate aspirations," in 2000 and again in 2008 Israeli leaders offered a grand bargain: an independent Palestinian state in all of Gaza, more than 95 percent of the West Bank and with a capital in East Jerusalem. In exchange, Israelis asked only for an end to the conflict and guarantees of future security. Palestinian leaders turned them down cold.

Then there's Clinton's reference to "humanitarian needs in Gaza," a territory ruled by Hamas, designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. government and closely allied with the theocrats in Tehran. Hamas' leaders have said -- repeatedly and unambiguously -- that they intend to use all and any means to exterminate Israelis. They believe this to be their religious obligation. Despite that, Israel supplies fuel, food and medicine to Gazans. What other nation has ever done that for an entity waging a genocidal war against it?

Finally, Clinton talks about Israelis undermining trust. On what basis are Israelis supposed to trust people who say they want to slaughter them -- and do so whenever they get the chance? As for Mahmoud Abbas, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, his "moderate" Fatah political faction continues to celebrate jihadi terrorists including, recently, Dalal Mughrabi, a bus hijacker who massacred 37 Israeli civilians - 13 of them children. Abbas' government television station recently broadcast a sermon calling Jews "enemies of God and humanity." The sermon continued: "The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them ... Thus, this land will be liberated only by means of Jihad...'"

When Clinton was a U.S. senator representing the state of New York, she seemed to appreciate the existential threat Israelis face day after day. When she was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, she seemed to grasp that, as a matter of both principle and policy, the United States needs to stand up to its enemies and stand up for its allies.

But as President Obama's Secretary of State, Clinton has conducted Middle East diplomacy in a way that can be described, at best, as lacking coherence. At worst - borrowing a phrase from scholar Bernard Lewis - she is helping make America appear "harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend." How can any good come of that?

Editorial writers at the Times may not understand. Often, they think they are taking positions when they are merely striking poses. The U.N. Human Rights Council has its own agenda - which is self-evidently anti-Israeli and anti-American. But a woman as smart and tough-minded as Hillary Clinton ought to know better.

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