In early April, Vice President Biden was asked if the administration was concerned that Israel might strike at Iran's nuclear facilities. "I don't believe Prime Minister Netanyahu would do that," Mr. Biden replied. "I think he would be ill advised to do that."
A few weeks later, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained the administration's solution to the threat of an Iranian bomb: "For Israel to get the kind of strong support it's looking for vis-a-vis Iran, it can't stay on the sideline with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts ... they go hand in hand."
And on May 10, National Security Adviser James Jones spelled it out further: "We understand Israel's preoccupation with Iran as an existential threat. We agree with that. ... By the same token, there are a lot of things that you can do to diminish that existential threat by working hard towards achieving a two-state solution."
By what reasoning has the administration decided that pushing Israel to permit a new Palestinian state would -- in any way -- diminish the threat from Iran? Do they believe that Iran's (or I should say the Iranian leadership's) genocidal hostility toward Israel is the result of lack of progress toward an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza? Will the Iranian leadership, which has characterized Israel as a "cancerous tumor," declared that "Israel must we wiped off the map," and promised that "Israel is destined for destruction and will soon disappear" is going to change its mind if Israel enters into negotiations with the Palestinians?
"Obama will be a great friend to Israel." So said a Jewish Democrat in a pre-election debate with me. I asked her whether she had any hesitations about someone who had been steeped in academic pieties and Hyde Park leftwing intellectual fashions, and who had tamely absorbed the Rev. Wright's sermons for 20 years? Her response was to mouth some of the platitudes about support for Israel that were to be found on the Obama campaign's website. I wonder if she is having doubts now.
Does it give her pause that Rose Gottemoeller, assistant secretary of state and America's chief nuclear arms negotiator, has called on Israel (along with Pakistan, India, and North Korea) to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? By including Israel on a list of nations known to either have nuclear weapons or be close to acquiring them, the Obama administration is introducing a sinister note of moral equivalence to the problem of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. All previous U.S. governments have implicitly accepted that Israel's nuclear weapons pose a threat to no nation and are maintained only to deter Israel's enemies from genocidal attacks.
Like other liberals, my debate opponent probably believes that Obama's apology tour of global capitals was pitch perfect. Of course, it's one thing for the United States, still the world's superpower, to delude itself that winning international popularity contests will make us safer (though it's a dangerous delusion), but Israel, which always sits inches from the precipice of destruction, cannot afford such fantasies at all.
We have recent history to guide us. In 2000, Israel withdrew from the security corridor it had established in southern Lebanon. The world had long been clamoring for Israel to do this. The Iranian-sponsored Hezbollah movement immediately seized the area -- trumpeting its triumph in driving out the enemy. In 2006, southern Lebanon became the launching pad for Hezbollah's missile campaign against northern Israel.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. The Iranian-backed Hamas movement moved quickly and took control there (not without significant internecine bloodshed with Fatah), and again used the territory not to build a peaceful Palestinian enclave but to launch 10,000 missiles against southern Israel.
Fatah (which is called moderate because it wants to destroy Israel on the installment plan rather than all at once) retains tenuous control of the West Bank. But even Mahmoud Abbas admits that if Israel were to withdraw completely from the area, Hamas would gain control in a heartbeat.
Next week, Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with President Obama in Washington. It is hard to see how this relationship can go well. President Obama has sent abundant signals that his foreign policy is 50 percent wishful thinking and 50 percent leftwing mush. There may not be any easy answers to the problem of a nuclear Iran. But pressuring Israel to take suicidal risks is clearly the worst possible approach. Iran will conclude, as its proxies Hezbollah and Hamas at various times concluded, that force and the threat of force work.