"Israel has no better friend than America, and America has no better friend than Israel." -Benjamin Netanyahu
In a speech before a joint session of Congress this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed what so many of us know to be true: Israel is the only true friend America has in the Middle East, and we should not take this friendship for granted. Yet this is exactly what it appears President Obama may be doing. After suggesting that renewed peace talks should begin with a return to the 1967 borders, Obama has spent the week attempting to clarify his words and mollify America's Jewish population.
Caveats about "land swaps" notwithstanding, it's unclear why the President would issue a statement so certain to rouse unease among our Jewish allies. If it was an ill-considered attempt at Arab appeasement, the President needs to get real. Aside from denying the legitimacy of the Jewish state and joining the Palestinians in their efforts to push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea, there can be no compromise with anti-Jewish forces in the Middle East. They are not interested in peace, and will never accept a two-state solution. This has been their position for more than sixty years.
Since President Truman became the first Head of State to recognize the Israel, America has been bound by a moral, ideological, and some might say theological commitment to the Jewish people. After witnessing the horrors of the Holocaust – the ghastly climax of centuries of unrelenting discrimination, persecution and ostracism in Europe and elsewhere – the United States came to recognize that the survivors of Hitler's unspeakable terror should be allowed to reclaim a place for themselves in their ancestral homeland.
Our support has been critical through the years, for without it, Israel truly stands alone and vulnerable, surrounded by antagonistic entities hell bent on her destruction. But America's reasons for supporting Israel are not merely sentimental. For those that question the strategic wisdom of the United States continuing its support for Israel in these precarious diplomatic times, it should be acknowledged that no other nation in the region exemplifies western liberal ideals better than Israel. President Obama, like his predecessors before him, often speaks of the flame of freedom that burns within the heart of each person, and the universal right of mankind to exercise this freedom in societies governed by the rule of law. Where can you find such freedom in the Middle East but in Israel? Netanyahu made this point forcefully in his speech to Congress:
My friends, you don't have to . . . do nation-building in Israel. We're already built. You don't need to export democracy to Israel. We've already got it. And you don't need to send American troops to Israel. We defend ourselves. . . . This path of liberty is not paved by elections alone. It's paved when governments permit protests in town squares, when limits are placed on the powers of rulers, when judges are beholden to laws and not men, and when human rights cannot be crushed by tribal loyalties or mob rule. Israel has always embraced this path in a Middle East that has long rejected it. In a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted, Israel stands out. It is different.
Courageous Arab protesters are now struggling to secure these very same rights for their peoples, for their societies. We're proud in Israel that over one million Arab citizens of Israel have been enjoying these rights for decades. Of the 300 million Arabs in the Middle East and North Africa, only Israel's Arab citizens enjoy real democratic rights. Now, I want you to stop for a second and think about that. Of those 300 million Arabs, less than one-half of 1 percent are truly free and they're all citizens of Israel. This startling fact reveals a basic truth: Israel is not what is wrong with about the Middle East; Israel is what is right about the Middle East. Israel fully supports the desire of Arab peoples in our region to live freely. We long for the day when Israel will be one of many real democracies in the region – in the Middle East.
Why President Obama would say or do anything to jeopardize the invaluable friendship that's grown up between American and the Middle East's only true democracy is perplexing. Again, if the reason lies in some ideologically-driven desire to appease volatile forces in Palestine, Syria, and Iran, then the President is guilty of grand naivete, for these entities will not be satisfied with anything less than Israel's complete destruction.
Clearly, the Israel-Palestine conflict is not a simple issue, but the choice between alliance with radical anti-Semetic, anti-American factions and Israel should be an easy decision for the United States. There is nothing to be gained by forsaking our Jewish friends at this critical moment in time. Freedom and democracy will never thrive in the Middle East if America adopts an attitude of indifference towards the relentless campaign of terror being waged against the nation of Israel.