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The Reign of the Fantasists

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak has done it again. Speaking on Wednesday at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, Barak warned that if Israel can't cut a deal with the Palestinians soon, it should consider surrendering Judea and Samaria in exchange for nothing.

Even the diehard leftists in the media had a hard time swallowing his words. After all, when Barak was premier, he oversaw Israel's unilateral surrender of south Lebanon in 2000. Barak promised that by giving Hezbollah south Lebanon, Israel would force the Iranian proxy army to disarm and behave like a Western political party.


Then of course, there is the Gaza precedent.

Ignoring the lesson of Lebanon, Barak's successor Ariel Sharon reenacted his unilateral surrender policy in Gaza in 2005. Like Barak, Sharon promised that once Gaza was cleared of all Jewish presence, it would magically transform itself into a Middle Eastern version of Singapore.


Both Barak and Sharon promised that their unilateral surrender policies would do more than merely transform Hezbollah and Hamas into liberal democrats. They said that by cutting and running, Israel would earn the love of the international community, and winning the love of the likes of Washington and Brussels, they said, was the most urgent item on Israel's agenda.

Apparently Barak was referring to the same imperative when on Wednesday he said that Israel needs to act fast because, "We are on borrowed time. We will reach a wall, and we'll pay the price."

So yes, Hezbollah has taken over not just south Lebanon, but all of Lebanon. And true, there is no one in the Palestinian Authority today who is willing to accept the continued existence of Israel in any borders. But that just means we need the West to love us even more. And the only way to get the West to love us is by imperiling our very existence by handing our heartland over to people who wish to destroy our country.

Given the high value Barak and his comrades place on winning the love of the West, it is worth considering what motivates the West - or more to the point, the US, which leads the Western world.

Unfortunately, the situation is not pretty. US President Barack Obama's policies are just as irrational as the ones that Barak is urging Israel to implement in order to win Obama's support. And Obama's rationales for adopting these policies are just as divorced from reality as Barak's are.

The place where this irrationality is displayed most prominently today is in Obama's policy regarding Iran. As Michael Singh rightly noted on Wednesday in the New York Daily News, under Obama, US policy towards Iran is based on the view "that at the root of the Iran nuclear crisis is US-Iran conflict, and that the root cause of that conflict is mistrust."

THIS VIEW is pure fantasy. No Iranian leader has ever given the US any reason to believe that this is the case. To the contrary, every Iranian leader since the 1979 Islamic Revolution has made clear that the regime is dedicated to the destruction of the US and Israel.

The Iranians do not wish to destroy the US and Israel because they distrust them. The likes of Ayatollah Khomeini, Ayatollah Khamenei, President Ahmadinejad and all of their comrades wish to destroy Israel and the US because they hate us. They hate us because as they see it, both nations represent forces that are antithetical to their revolution's goal of Islamic world domination.

Rather than accept this fundamental, but unpleasant truth, Obama and his advisors base their policy of engaging Iran on fairy tales about nonexistent fatwas that purportedly ruled out the development of nuclear weapons. As Vice Premier Moshe Ya'alon put it delicately this week, the Iranians are "laughing all the way to a bomb."

Ya'alon explained, "During talks with world powers, the Iranians have managed to enrich 750 kilograms of uranium to 3.5 percent, and 36 kilograms of uranium to 20 percent."

And while the Iranians were enriching all that uranium, according to satellite imagery published on Wednesday by the Institute for Science and International Affairs, they were destroying buildings at the Parchin nuclear site.

The buildings in question were suspected of being used to conduct high explosive tests pertinent to the development of nuclear weapons.

And yet, despite Iran's obvious bad faith, and despite the fact that the much-touted sanctions against Iran have done nothing to slow the pace of its sprint to the nuclear finish line, the Obama administration insists on clinging to the fantasy that it can convince the Iranians that they can trust the US and therefore convince them to give up their nuclear weapons program.

Lacking any substantive means of defending this Tinkerbell-fairy-dust policy towards the most pressing threat to international security today, the only thing the Obama administration can tell increasingly distressed Israeli leaders is that we should trust them. They know what they are doing.

Allowing Iran to go nuclear isn't the only price Obama has been willing to pay to fulfill his fantasy of solving Iran's conflict with the US by building trust. He is also willing to destroy any chance of Syria becoming a responsible actor on the international stage.

Obama's willingness to sit on his thumbs for 14 months as Syrian President Bashar Assad has killed as many as 15,000 of his countrymen owes in part to Obama's desire to win the trust of the ayatollahs in Tehran. Since Assad is Iran's client, any US move to overthrow him would weaken Iran. And since as far as Obama is concerned Iran doesn't have anything against the US, but simply suffers from a chronic lack of trust in Washington, it would be wrong to harm Tehran's interests by overthrowing the ayatollahs' Syrian lackey.

Obama's Syria policy is not only a product of his fantasy-based policy towards Iran. It is also a consequence of his fantasy-based policy towards Turkey. Rather than intervene early in the conflict and support pro-Western forces in Syria as an alternative to Assad's tyranny, Obama outsourced the organization of the Syrian opposition to Turkey's Islamic Prime Minister Recip Erdogan.

In Obama's fantasy world, Erdogan is a great ally of the US. The fact that Erdogan has redefined Turkey away from the West and towards Tehran and the Muslim Brotherhood; rendered incoherent NATO's strategic mission; ended Turkey's strategic alliance with Israel; used advanced US arms to kill Kurdish civilians, and threatens war in the eastern Mediterranean over natural gas deposits that do not belong to him is irrelevant. All that matters is the fantasy that Erdogan is America's friend. And since Obama embraces this fantasy, he subcontracted the formation of the Turkish opposition to Erdogan.

Lo and behold, the opposition Erdogan established was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. And now, according to a report by Jacques Neriah from the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, the Syrian opposition is dominated not only by the Muslim Brotherhood, but increasingly by al-Qaida. So whereas a year ago the US had an opportunity to build and shepherd into power a multiethnic, pro-Western Syrian opposition, in the throes of his fantasies about Iran and Turkey, Obama squandered the opportunity. As a result, today we are faced with the grim reality that the world might be safer leaving Assad alone than intervening to overthrow him.

THIS BRINGS us back to Barak, and the Israeli establishment that cannot rid itself of the notion that we need to give away the store to the Palestinians to win the support of the "international community," that is, to win Obama's support. But towards the Palestinians as well, Obama has embraced fantasy over reality. This week the State Department had the bureaucratic equivalent of an apoplectic fit when it learned that US Sen. Mark Kirk inserted an amendment into the State Department funding bill that will require the department to provide Congress with two pieces of information: the number of Palestinians physically displaced from their homes in what became Israel in 1948, and the number of their descendants administered by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, UNRWA.

The Palestinians claim that there are some five million refugees. They demand that Israel allow all of them to immigrate to its territory as part of a peace deal. UNRWA and the Palestinians claim that not only are the Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 to be considered refugees, their descendants are also to be considered refugees.

Estimates place the number of Palestinians alive today who were physically displaced from Israel at 30,000.

All Kirk wants is the information. And for his effort to bring some facts into the discourse about the Palestinian conflict with Israel, the State Department came down on him like a wall of bricks. In a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides wrote that Kirk's "proposed amendment would be viewed around the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the outcome of this sensitive issue."

As far as the State Department is concerned, until the Palestinians and Israel reach an agreement, the US must keep faith with the international community by supporting a policy regarding Palestinian refugees that is both factually absurd and deeply hostile to Israel.

This policy is in perfect alignment with the US policy on Jerusalem. In late March we learned that in the interests of not prejudging the outcome of nonexistent negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians over eastern Jerusalem, the US refuses to recognize Israeli sovereignty not only over eastern Jerusalem, but over any part of Jerusalem. The fact that Jerusalem is Israel's capital is of no interest. The fact that US law requires the US government to recognize that Jerusalem is Israel's capital and to locate the US Embassy in Jerusalem is irrelevant. To appease the international community, the US won't even recognize Israeli sovereignty over western Jerusalem.

So according to Barak and his associates, to prevent Israel's isolation by securing US support, Israel ought to ignore the lessons of the Lebanon withdrawal, the phony peace process with the PLO, and the withdrawal from Gaza and move full speed ahead with policies that will make it impossible to defend the country.

As for the US, to win the support of Europe, Iran and Turkey, Obama has adopted policies that enable Iran to become a nuclear power, make Assad the most attractive leader in Syria, empower the most anti-American forces in Turkey and pressure Israel to renounce its right and ability to defend itself.

Standing alone never looked so good.

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