Friday, August 07, 2009

Well, Now I Am Losing My Patience

Robert D. Kaplan, a correspondent for The Atlantic and an author (*), in a piece in the Atlantic Monthly, suggests that "more than democracy, Washington wants stability in the Middle East. That means leaning against the interests of the Jewish state" which leads to the idea that America (and its liberal elitist Jews I would add) are Losing Patience with Israel.

America’s foreign policy toward Israel, he writes, "been characterized by such an attitude of unsentimental realism."

But, at his conclusion, he becomes quite unreal. Maybe, because "In his book Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, published shortly after 9/11, Kaplan offered the opinion that political and business leaders should discard Christian/Jewish morality in public decision-making in favor of a pagan morality focused on the morality of the result rather than the morality of the means."

Excerpts from his latest piece:

Many, both in the Administration and in the wider Washington establishment, have simply lost patience with what they see as Israeli intransigence over settlements in occupied territories. This may not be fair, or even wholly logical, for the issue of settlements is highly complex. But the reality is that Washington’s quiet passions have turned decidedly against Israel.

...Iran threatens Israel much more than it does America. It may very well be in Israel’s best interest to attack Iran. But it is probably not in America’s for Israel to do so, given America’s exposure in Iraq. And an Israeli attack could destroy President Barack Obama’s efforts to reach out to the Muslim world. If you think the tension between the U.S. and Israel is high now, just wait until there’s a significant spike in casualties in Iraq following an Israeli strike on Iran.

...Israel’s incompetent war in Lebanon in 2006 and its inconclusive one in Gaza last winter have made it look like the boorish regional aggressor. Moreover, in the past, America’s military establishment admired Israel for its military innovation and derring-do. But Israel’s inability to cope sufficiently with unconventional enemies in Lebanon and Gaza has reduced its appeal.

One striking indication of the extent to which Israel has lost American sympathy was the publication in 2007 of The Israel Lobby...the fact that two highly distinguished political scientists—one from Harvard and the other from the University of Chicago, who have contributed significantly to their field in their other works—felt confident enough to go so far out on a limb on this sensitive issue is telling...The Israeli-Palestinian problem is increasingly becoming seen as a leftover irritant from a passing era.

All of this leaves Israel in an increasingly lonely position. With whom can it negotiate? With Fatah, which is relatively moderate, but lacks support among Palestinians themselves? With Hamas, which has support, but which demonstrates no proclivity to make peace?

Both politically and demographically, time is not on Israel’s side. Now that Iran is weakened by domestic turmoil, it may actually be in Israel’s best interests for America, Saudi Arabia, and other moderate Arab states to impose a peace agreement by leaning hard on the Palestinians, as America twists Israel's arm. The result would be the return of almost all of the West Bank to a fundamentally demilitarized Palestinian state, even as many Israeli settlements are dismantled. What other resolution can there be?

Another one, not that I support it, but use it to challenge Kaplan and others, is one we suggested in 1978: first we go through a significant period when the Arab side proves it can fufil its commitments of a peace treaty and then Israel will do what it is to do.

The Egyptian peace was based on "normalization" but no one demanded that first we see what is meant by "normal" by the Egyptians. So, today, we have a cold peace: little commercial business, little cultural exchange, next to no tourism but lots of academic antisemitism.

Mr. Kaplan, what's a "fundamentally demilitarized Palestinian state"? Is it a Hamas fundamentalist state? Islamic Jihad? Hizbollah?

If the issue of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria is "highly complex", as you are convinced, why cannot thinking people resolve it or recognize the justice and necessity of their continued existence? If Bill Clinton read your book on the Balkans but adopted a different policy than that which you might have wished, why give enemies of Israel more ammunition as you have done?


His "Arabists: The Romance of an American Elite" supplies a secondary source of minibiographies sketching the lives of dozens of Protestant missionaries and U.S. State Department officials who worked in the Arab world over the past 200 years. Addressing current concerns, he shows that the opposition of missionaries and Foreign Service officers to Israel's creation--meant to appease the Arabs--led to the various wars in the Middle East and, ultimately, to the Gulf War of 1991...[and] tells how American "Arabists"--diplomats, intelligence agents, scholar-adventurers, Protestant missionaries, military attaches--formed an elitist, expatriate professional caste in the 19th-century Middle East. The Arabists, in Kaplan's ( Balkan Ghosts ) view, carried on a "romance" with exotic Islamic cultures, and many supported pan-Arab nationalism. Blind to what Kaplan deems the inevitability of the birth of Israel in the aftermath of the Holocaust, American Arabists today often see Israel "in only the simplest stereotype," he asserts.

(Kippah tip: AJG)

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