Victor Davis Hanson

Current American relations with our once-staunch ally Israel are at their lowest ebb in the last 50 years.

The Obama administration seems as angry at the building of Jewish apartments in Jerusalem as it is intent on reaching out to Iran and Syria, Israel's mortal enemies. President Obama himself, according to reports, has serially snubbed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A new narrative abounds in Washington that Israel's intransigence with its Arab neighbors now even endangers U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Obama is pushing Netanyahu's Likud government to make concessions on several fronts, from supplying power and food to Gaza, to hastened departure from the West Bank.

These tensions follow the Obama administration's new outreach to the Muslim world. Obama gave his first interview as president to the Middle East newspaper Al Arabiya, in which he politely chided past U.S. policy on the Middle East.

In his June 2009 Cairo address, the president again sought to placate the Islamic world -- in part by wrongly claiming that Islamic learning had sparked the European Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Lost in all this reset-button diplomacy is introspection on why past American presidents sought to support Israel in the first place. We seem to forget why no-nonsense Harry Truman, against worldwide opposition, ensured the original creation of the Jewish state -- or why more than 60 percent of Americans in most polls continue to side with Israel in its struggle to survive.

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In contrast, most of the rest of the world does the math and concludes Israel is a bad investment. It has no oil; its enemies possess nearly half the world's reserves.

There is no downside in criticizing Israel, but censuring some of its radical Arab neighbors might prompt anything from an oil embargo to a terrorist response.

There are about 7 million Israelis; the Muslim and Arab population in the Middle East numbers in the hundreds of millions.

According to the academic cult of multiculturalism, it is fashionable to see pro-American, democratic and capitalist Israel as a symbol of a pernicious Western culture of oppression; its enemies are seen as underdog liberationists.

No wonder that in the ongoing dispute, most of the world adds up the pluses and minuses and concludes that it is wiser to side with Israel's foes than to become its friend. But why, until now, has America always bucked the tide?


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.