Friday, May 01, 2009

Why Bush Was A Friend--And Obama Still Isn't

In the May issue of Commentary Magazine, Norman Podhoretz has an article entitled: How Obama's America Might Threaten Israel. One of the issues Podhoretz addresses is how Bush was a friend to Israel:
Bush’s friendliness manifested itself in various ways. One of the most important was his backing for the measures Israel had been taking to defend itself against suicide bombing—the building of a wall and the institution of checkpoints that would make it harder for suicide bombers to get through from the West Bank and into Israel proper. These measures were denounced almost everywhere as oppressive in themselves and as a species of apartheid, while the accompanying assassinations of the leaders who recruited, trained, and supplied the suicide bombers were routinely condemned as acts of murder. But Bush—that is, the Bush who emerged after 9/11—would have none of this. So far as he was concerned, suicide bombing was a form of terrorism and therefore evil by definition. Israel had an absolute right to defend itself against this great evil, and in fighting it, the Israelis were struggling against the same enemy that had declared war on us on 9/11.

A similar logic guided Bush’s view of the Israeli incursion into Lebanon in 2006 and of its attack on Gaza in 2008. Since, contrary to the confident assurances of their opponents, the wall, the checkpoints, and the targeted assassinations had all but eliminated suicide bombing, the terrorists were now resorting to a different tactic. From its redoubt in Lebanon, Hizballah rained rockets into the north of Israel, and from its base in Gaza, Hamas fired them into the south. In each of these cases, when the Israelis finally responded, they were furiously accused by most of the world of using “disproportionate” force that allegedly resulted in the wholesale “slaughter” of innocent civilians. But Bush would have none of these egregious defamations either. Both in 2006 and 2008, he again affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorist assault, and he worked to fend off efforts by the UN to stop the Israelis before they could finish the job they had set out to do.

...George W. Bush was the first American President to come out openly in favor of a Palestinian state. But he also decided to attach a codicil that was even more novel. “Today,” he declared on June 24, 2002,
Palestinian authorities are encouraging, not opposing, terrorism. This is unacceptable. And the United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure.
To this he added the requirement that they elect “new leaders, not compromised by terror,” which amounted to an implicit demand that Yasser Arafat be replaced.
By the same token, contrary to the claims of those who accused the Bush administration of being in the thrall of 'the neocons' and influenced by Israel, Bush also applied pressure to Israel as well:
Of course, Bush also challenged Israel “to take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable, credible Palestinian state.” Yet he most emphatically did not follow the usual practice of blaming Israel for the persistence of the war against it. Instead, in an entirely unprecedented move, he placed the onus on the Palestinian leaders and the Arab states backing them up. By saying up front that “there is simply no way to achieve . . . peace until all parties fight terror,” he was blaming the absence of peace on the Arab states and the “Palestinian authorities” (who were “encouraging, not opposing, terrorism”), and he was exonerating the Israelis (who were being “victimized by terrorists,” not supporting them).
On the other hand is Obama. Granted, Obama pays lip service to Israel as an ally and reassures Israel that the US is dedicated to its security, but Podhoretz looks behind the rhetoric. While in some matters Obama may be following Bush's lead, when it comes to Israel, that is not the case:
...neither Obama himself nor those of his appointees who will be involved in the “peace process”—his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton; his special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell; his national security adviser, Gen. James Jones; and his Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, although she made the right noises at her confirmation hearing—have ever so much as suggested that it is the Palestinians and not the Israelis who are blocking the way to the holy grail of a two-state solution. On the contrary, Obama and his team are all great worshipers at the shrine of “even-handedness,” which has long served as a deceptive euphemism for pressuring Israel to make unilateral concessions to Palestinian demands.

No wonder, then, that the Obama administration is already reverting to the old pre-Bush assumptions that have repeatedly been discredited in practice: that Israeli “intransigence” is the main obstacle to ending the conflict with the Palestinians; that “restarting” the “peace process” therefore requires putting the onus back on Israel; and that this in turn necessitates forcing Israel back to the 1967 borders. In other words, Jerusalem must be redivided and the major centers of Jewish population in the West Bank that Bush had promised would remain part of Israel must also be evacuated and the West Bank as a whole be made Judenrein.
Read the whole thing.

Maybe we will have a better grasp of where the US and Israel stand vis-a-vis each other after Netanyahu and Obama meet. In the meantime, Obama is still talking about the importance of strengthening relations with the Arab world--and considering the price tag the Arab countries will demand for that, pressure on Israel is only going to increase.

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