From Benghazi to Tel Aviv

Cliff May
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Posted: Apr 07, 2011 11:10 AM

The so-called International Community has justified military intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds: Col. Moammar Qaddafi was threatening mass murder in Benghazi. Fair enough. But for years, Iran has been threatening mass murder in every city, town and village of Israel. So, too, has Hamas, Iran’s client which rules Gaza and has fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel. Fatah, which rules the West Bank, incites terrorism against Israelis while its al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades kill Israelis whenever they get the chance. Would it be unfair to ask: In the eyes of the International Community, are the good people of Benghazi worth more than the good people Tel Aviv?

Of course, Israelis do not want or need foreign military forces to defend them. They would be immensely grateful, however, were the International Community to recognize that Israelis have a right and an obligation to defend themselves.

In December, 2008 Israel defended itself against Hamas. Less than a year later, the United Nations Human Rights Council issued the Goldstone Report, accusing Israel of war crimes. Last weekend, Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist in charge of writing the report, made clear in an essay in the Washington Post that those charges were baseless. Or, as a National Review Online editorial put it, Goldstone offered “the closest thing to an apology that we expect to see from him: an acknowledgment of the incompleteness of the evidence behind his report and an expression of ‘regret’ that his panel did not offer a fuller picture. Reversing himself on the key issue, he now accepts that civilians in Gaza were not targeted intentionally as a matter of policy.” That Hamas intentionally and routinely targets civilians, and uses Palestinian civilians as human shields, too, cannot be disputed.

Would it be unfair to ask President Obama, who has put such stock in the International Community, to demand that the UN now officially repudiate the Goldstone blood libel?

What Obama is doing instead: Telling Israelis he expects them to make more concessions to Palestinian leaders who refuse to make any concessions of their own and who have been unwilling even to negotiate with Israelis as they have during previous administrations, Republican and Democratic alike.

That’s not all: Quoting “normally reliable diplomatic sources,” The Economist reports that Obama is encouraging Europeans to be even tougher on Israel. Why doesn’t Obama just twist Israel’s arm harder all by himself if that’s what he wants to do? According to the well-regarded British journal, Obama has told European leaders that he has “‘too many domestic fires to extinguish’ to risk a bust-up over Israel.” Would it be unfair to characterize that as duplicity directed at an ally in the service of domestic political advantage?

If Obama’s aim is to make America’s only reliable ally in the Middle East feel more insecure, isolated and embattled, he could not have chosen a better time. With the countries around them in turmoil, Israelis are feeling especially uneasy.

On one hand, it’s encouraging for them to see Arab masses at long last rising up against corrupt and oppressive dictators who for generations have blamed every ill -- from economic deprivation to shark attacks in the Red Sea -- on Israelis and/or Jews. On the other hand, few Israelis are confident that, in the end, the pens of Arab moderates will prove mightier than the swords of Arab jihadis.

And is there anyone in Washington or Brussels who can imagine an Arab leader – any Arab leader -- making peace with Israel at this hinge moment in Middle Eastern history? If one were to do so, what are the odds he’d still be in power – or even still alive -- a year from now?

The answers seem obvious to me but apparently they are not to Europeans or to an American administration that regards the Muslim Brotherhood as akin to the Lion’s Club and calls Syrian dictator Bashar Assad a “reformer” at the very moment he is murdering Syrians daring to call for reform.

This, too, should be obvious: Israelis want peace and will make sacrifices to achieve it. But they have learned that the “land-for-peace” formula is a dead end – literally. Israel came into possession of Gaza, southern Lebanon and the Sinai following defensive wars. Israel withdrew from Gaza and it became a base for Iranian-backed Hamas terrorists. Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon and it became a base for Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorists. Israel withdrew from Sinai – and it is too soon to know what that Egyptian territory will become in the uncertain months ahead.

In a historic speech in 2002, President George W. Bush said the United States would support the creation of a Palestinian state -- so long as it was not a terrorist state. Surely, it would not be unfair to ask President Obama if he agrees with that formulation. Because if he does, his policies, like those of the International Community, require serious adjustment.