JERUSALEM, Israel -- In the history of Israel's relations with the US, there has been no precedent for the influence that Israeli Minister-without-Portfolio Natan Sharansky has had on US foreign policy. While in the past Israeli leaders have worked closely with their American counterparts, no one other than Sharansky has managed to actually influence the way that American policymakers think about foreign affairs or perceive the role of the US in the world.
Today it is beyond debate that Sharansky has deeply influenced US President George W. Bush's thinking on international affairs. After reading Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy, Bush told The New York Times that Sharansky's worldview "is part of my presidential DNA." This Sharansky-inspired "presidential DNA" posits that the Arab world's conflict with Israel, like its support for global jihad, will end when the Arab world democratizes. In Sharansky's view, once Arabs are governed democratically, they will not wish to sustain the conflict.
If Sharansky and Bush are correct, then the past week has been one of the greatest weeks in the history of the Middle East. Syria's puppet government in Beirut has resigned and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is being squeezed from all directions. He has declared that he will end Syria's occupation of Lebanon and has turned over Iraqi Ba'athists to American forces in Iraq in the hope of stemming the seemingly inexorable demise of his regime. Egypt's dictator, Hosni Mubarak, under attack from Washington and from his democratic opposition ? that for once is being supported by the Western media ? has announced that he will enable other candidates to run against him in the upcoming presidential elections.
Empowered by the support they are receiving from the US, rather than declaring victory and quietly going home, democracy advocates in these countries are ratcheting up their pressure and demands. Damascus's announcement that it would withdraw its forces from Lebanon was met by a Lebanese demand that Hizbullah be dismantled.
In an interview Wednesday with Al-Jazeera, Druse opposition leader Walid Jumblatt said of Hizbullah and its claim that Israel is wrongfully controlling the so-called Shaba Farms on the Israeli-Lebanese border, "What are these [Hizbullah] fighters doing for us? They want the Shaba Farms. Let the Syrians present documentation that the farms are even part of Lebanon. The Israelis say that they were taken from Syria and we have no proof of anything. And what will happen after the Shaba situation? Will Hizbullah's people continue to walk around armed in Lebanon and serve the Syrians?"
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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