Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Israel Trap

So Romney's in Israel and said some stupid things.  They won't be reported as stupid, of course.  For some reason, a whole lot of influential people seem to think the Israelis are our "friends".

The United States doesn't have friends.  There are countries with whom we are allied through various treaty obligations.  There are countries who share certain values with whom we work to further specific ends, not all of which are laudable.  To quote the first part of Benjamin Disraeli's dictum, countries don't have permanent friends (I only quote the first, because Disraeli's full quote errs; nations don't have permanent interests, either).

Going to Israel and saying that Jerusalem is the capital of the country is a horribly stupid, insulting, and dangerous thing to do.  Not least because it damages the furtherance of long-term goals for the region.  Having a President of the United States who states without fear of contradiction that the disputed non-capital of a country is in fact its capital might help him with the anti-Semitic Christian Zionists and the smattering of radical Zionists in America and Israel.  It does absolutely nothing, however, to further what should be the long-term goals for all parties interested in a peaceful settlement of the many disputes in the Middle East.

So, even though he doesn't care, Romney fell into what I have come to think of as "the Israel trap".  The one thing as sure as God made little white bunnies is every four years a major party candidate for President will heap encomiums upon the State of Israel.  Rather than consider our relations with the Israelis through the normal lens of realpolitique, statements to the effect of our on-going special relationship with Israel abound. The lie that it's the only democracy in the Middle East get repeated without correction (I think the Turks and the Iranians might disagree).  The nonsense that they are committed to a peaceful resolution of outstanding issues will be bandied about.  The quite remarkable claim that the United States can be "an honest broker" (to quote Al Gore from one of the 2000 election debates) in the disputes among parties in the Middle East will be repeated.

And all the while, the fires of hatred and war and death rise higher and higher because no one has the balls to stand up and tell the Israelis to knock it off.  I have repeated several times my admiration for Pres. George H. W. Bush, when he told Yitzhak Shamir he either had to dismantle settlements in the occupied territories or the money spigot would turn off.  Shamir thought Bush and his National Security Team were bluffing, even showing up at the White House to demand the US change its policies.  Bush, ever the New England gentleman, smiled and shook his head.  Shamir left the White House in a huff, heading straight to the airport for a flight to Tel Aviv (leaving me, among many other motorists, on the side of the road as their motorcade sped through the city).

And that reminds me . . . Mitt, pay attention:  Tel Aviv is the capital of Israel.  Tel Aviv has been and will continue to be the capital of Israel.  Any attempt to alter this particular bit of the status quo would be an utter disaster for everyone, including the Israelis.

Should the Israelis decide, on their own, to take military action against the Iranians on whatever pretext, the United States should make clear it wants nothing to do with it.  It should work beforehand to prevent it.  We should do everything in our power beforehand to make clear to the world we are not siding with the Israelis in such a cataclysmic screw up.  Instead, we have Mittens saying he won't do anything about it.

Millions of Arabs and Muslims around the world know now, if Romney is elected President, what the score is.  Thoughtful American friends of Israel are banging their heads against the wall reserved for moments when American politicians do and say stupid things that are counter to our own interests as well as the interests of the Israeli people and state.

Virtual Tin Cup

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