As the hordes of ISIS and foot soldiers of Iran stampede across the Middle East, leaving terror, destruction and death in their wake, it would seem that the President has reserved his threats – veiled or otherwise – for our closest and only democratic ally in the region: Israel.
The President strongly hinted in an interview on Israeli Channel 2’s “Uvda” last week that the United States might not veto a UN Security Council resolution being drafted by France and New Zealand that would set an 18-month deadline for the creation of a Palestinian State, since Israel’s actions have made it harder for the United States to defend Israel at the United Nations and against European initiatives.
This shameful stance of convenience over justice disgraces the Office of the President of the United States and our values as a country. From the day it proclaimed its independence on May 14, 1948, siding against Israel has always been the easier and convenient choice. But the United States made the difficult choice then, 11 minutes after the Jewish State’s establishment, to be the first country in the world to recognize the State of Israel and the Jewish People’s right to self-determination, despite all of the pressure not to do so. We made that difficult choice because it was the right one. The message the United States must send to the world is that we will continue to stand by our ally Israel, regardless of the difficulty, because it is the right and principled choice, even if it is not the popular one.
And so, it is not Israel that is losing international credibility, but the President of the United States, when he consistently sides against vital allies and attempts to strong-arm them into making choices based on international opinion, and not what is right.
The President also insisted, once again, on twisting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s stance concerning the establishment of a Palestinian State under his premiership, calling his stance “unequivocal.” This continued distortion begs the question whether the President is intentionally ignoring the full context of the Prime Minister’s words in order to increase pressure on Israel, and if so, to what end?
Let it be clarified once and for all: The Prime Minister did not reject the establishment of a Palestinian State out of hand, not in the interview that has provided so much ammunition for the President to attack the Prime Minister, and not afterwards. In the context of the upheaval coursing through the Middle East, Israel’s fear that the situation in Gaza would be repeated in the West Bank, and the Palestinian Authority’s consistent demonstration of its unreliability as a peace partner, the Prime Minister was expressing his fears – the fears of the Israeli people who democratically re-elected him – that the current conditions would make a Palestinian State a danger to Israel’s security, safety and possibly its very existence.
The President said in his interview, “I can say to the Israeli people: I understand your concerns and I understand your fears.” If that were indeed true, then the President would have understood that Netanyahu’s “many caveats” and “many conditions,” – which he decried as harming Israel’s international credibility – are those of the Israeli people, and that they are legitimate.
Yet, with astounding arrogance, the President brushed aside the very legitimate and real threats facing Israel – from a regionally resurgent Iran and its terrorist proxies emboldened by a disastrous nuclear deal, an unchecked ISIS threat, and from adamant Palestinian refusal to genuinely recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State, a refusal that routinely manifests itself in rockets launched at Israeli civilians – and tried to preach to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israelis that they should not be motivated by the “politics of fear” but instead by the “politics of hope.”
But “hope” is not just a quaint campaign slogan to the Israelis. It is the foundation of their cultural ethos. It was their undying hope of 2,000 years to return to the land of their forefathers which drove the Jewish people to re-establish their state in the land of their forefathers. It is hope that has sustained Israel to this day through decades of unrelenting war, terrorism, and attempts at delegitimization. Zionism is a movement built on hope. It is no coincidence that the country’s national anthem is Hatikva – The Hope.
But Israeli hope should not be confused for the President’s naïveté. Responsible statesmen temper hope with vigilance and caution. Prime Minister Netanyahu understands this. He is not an intransigent war-monger, nor a man “predisposed to thinking peace is naïve.” In addition to being a statesman and leader, the Prime Minister, like the President, is a father. His sons, Yair and Avner, are serving on the front lines in the Israel Defense Forces. More than anyone, he would desire peace so that his sons would be safe and secure. But he also understands the threat to his country and people from a premature agreement with the Palestinians, a threat far more immediately felt in Jerusalem than in the safety of Washington, D.C.
The President’s error, which the Prime Minister refuses to share, is to have turned “peace” from an end-goal into an ideology, thus stripping the concept of all meaning and substance. But peace must be made under the right conditions, otherwise it cannot be sustained. Peace is not arrived at through starry-eyed naiveté and inspiring, but empty, slogans. It is often a cold calculus that takes into account all of the reasons against peace, not one that ignores them. This is how Israel achieved peace with Egypt, and that peace has held. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must undergo the same process, otherwise it will fall apart, to the detriment of both peoples. Our role as the United States must be to encourage peace when the conditions are right, and to help establish those conditions, not to force our ally and friend, Israel, into a deal that would be disastrous for its security, simply because world opinion dictates it to be so.