“Where hope is unchecked by any experience, it is likely that our optimism is extravagant.” – Charles S. Pierce
Barack Obama has yet to visit Israel, America’s only true ally in the Middle East. Nonetheless, the president is about to visit his third Muslim capital in a year. Without reading too much into Mr. Obama’s heritage or foreign travel priorities, it may be time to remind the president that Israel is a friend also; not simply the only true democracy in the Mid-East, but Tel Aviv is also a unique partner in an otherwise barbaric neighborhood.
Yes, barbaric! Let’s not mince words. Israel is surrounded on three sides by terrorists; Hezbollah, Fattah, and Hamas. These are groups who name buildings, streets, and squares after suicide bombers. Farther North, Israel is threatened with mind numbing regularity by Iran, the oxymoronic “Islamic republic” – a Shiite theocratic menace that minces no words either. Tehran’s threat to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth” is soon to be underwritten by nuclear weapons with which the ayatollahs hope to take the irredentist mantel from inept Sunni Arabs. Indeed, Persia is poised to attempt to do what the Arab world, after many failed attempts, could not: sponsor the next Holocaust.
Against this darkening sky, the Obama White House sent a professional bridesmaid, Joe Biden, to Tel Aviv to jumpstart another oxymoron: the “proximity” talks. Proximity is one of those State Department euphemisms used to describe an adult version of “telephone;” party A talks to party B only through party C. Such charades are necessary because schizophrenic Palestinian Arabs are divided by two warring governing authorities; Fattah on the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.
Do the math. Three players are in search of a “two state” solution. Israel must suffer this madness because the two Arab claimants can not speak with one voice. Vice President Biden, foot ready at the mouth, played the role of intermediary for a few days starting on 8 March in Tel Aviv. With such “partners,” no Israeli Prime Minister could be faulted for looking for the rabbit hole.
While Biden was trying to explain how three goes into two, some numbers of a different sort were tossed into the mix. The Israeli Interior Ministry announced that 1600 additional apartment units would be built in east Jerusalem. Before Air Force II could get its wheels up, Biden and Hilary Clinton launched a fusillade of brickbats at Israel; claiming among other things that the expansion of housing was an “insult” and a “slap in the face.”
You might think that Hilary would have a thicker skin by now. After all, during her husband’s administration, the priapic President was too preoccupied with a young intern in the Oval Office to notice the Taliban taking Kabul (Sept, 1996) for the first time; and Mullah Omar closing every girl’s school in that country. Afghanistan bled while Hilary’s husband dallied – until the Bush administration came along to reopen those schools. Now Mrs. Clinton, yet another “progressive” Secretary of State, finds her integrity under a stack of Jerusalem condo plans.
(Mrs. Clinton seems to be channeling Madeline Albright, her husband’s Secretary of State; hyper sensitive to Israeli behavior and insensate to the worst behaviors among Arabs and Muslims; behaviors that include genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage, stoning, amputations, and a universal terror that targets civilians. Not all Muslims are terrorists, yet nearly every recent terrorist is a Muslim. When should we expect an apology from Islam?)
A pandering media was quick to pile on. First there was MSNBC’s Hardball host, Chris Mathews, suggesting that Jews were racists because President Obama doesn’t fare well in Israeli polls. Then Tom Friedman of The NY Times, never one to miss the opportunity to abuse an opportunity, resurrects the old canard about the omniscience of Israeli guilt. Paraphrasing Biden, he reports:
“What you (Israel) are doing here (building apartments) undermines the security of our (US) troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and endangers regional peace.”
Put aside for a moment the Vice President’s witless confirmation that US Special Forces are doing more than “training” the locals in Pakistan. Biden is using the contemporary rhetoric of anti-Semitism; whenever Muslims misbehave, somehow, somewhere there’s a Jewish connection or liability. Such “progressive” logic would have us believe that Israeli behavior, or American support for Israel, are central motives for Muslim atrocities, no matter where they occur. Such reasoning absolves the barbarians of moral hazard and validates a future of endless, no-fault terrorism.
We should recognize the warped Biden/Clinton and Mathews/Friedman moralizing for what it is: an obscene double standard that now typifies the distortions of the Muslim Right and the American Left. Their indignation is underwritten by the insidious presumption that Israel should put its national development on hold until inept Arab neighbors get their act together.
But, what about Bibi? Is the Israeli government trying to send a message to antagonists and apologists alike? Here, there is more than a little fertile ground for some informed speculation.
On the one hand, we could believe that the Israeli PM was ambushed by coalition partners to his right; religious conservatives who like to remind all takers that the status of Jerusalem is not negotiable. Fair enough. Under Palestinian control, the Temple Mount might be renamed the Khalid Sheikh Mohammed mosque. Now that would be a real insult!
Then there is the possibility that Netanyahu knew about the impending housing announcement and sought to use Biden’s token visit to underscore the certainty of Israeli policy – in contrast to the drift and dithering that passes for strategy in Washington.
And lastly, there is the camel in the tent. Maybe Bibi is laying down a marker, given the flaccid response of America and Europe to the likelihood of nuclear weapons among the Persians. Maybe the Israeli PM is telling the world that he will do what is necessary to insure the prosperity, comfort, and safety of his people. If this is Netanyahu’s purpose, then Joe and Hilary are just bicycle messengers. Bibi’s real audience is Barack Obama. Maybe the Israeli Prime Minister, like Thatcher did with Bush senior, is trying to put a little starch in Barry’s knickers – before the smoldering fuse in Iran becomes a catastrophic Mid-East explosion.
Of course, Binyamin Netanyahu has apologized for any real or imagined indignities that Joe Biden may have suffered while in Israel. But it is unlikely that the PM will change the housing or the strategic plan. A wise leader knows that, in the end, puerile manner is no substitute for prudent policy. The penalties for caution are much more severe than the amends of regret.