For a brief moment it seemed that US President Barack Obama was moved by the recent events in Iran. On Friday, he issued his harshest statement yet on the mullocracy's barbaric clampdown against its brave citizens who dared to demand freedom in the aftermath of June 12's stolen presidential elections.
Speaking of the protesters Obama said, "Their bravery in the face of brutality is a testament to their enduring pursuit of justice. The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. In spite of the government's efforts to keep the world from bearing witness to that violence, we see it and we condemn it."
While some noted the oddity of Obama's attribution of the protesters' struggle to the "pursuit of justice," rather than the pursuit of freedom - which is what they are actually fighting for - most Iran watchers in Washington and beyond were satisfied with his statement.
Alas, it was a false alarm. On Sunday Obama dispatched his surrogates - presidential adviser David Axelrod and UN Ambassador Susan Rice - to the morning talk shows to make clear that he has not allowed mere events to influence his policies.
After paying lip service to the Iranian dissidents, Rice and Axelrod quickly cut to the chase. The Obama administration does not care about the Iranian people or their struggle with the theocratic totalitarians who repress them. Whether Iran is an Islamic revolutionary state dedicated to the overthrow of the world order or a liberal democracy dedicated to strengthening it, is none of the administration's business.
Obama's emissaries wouldn't even admit that after stealing the election and killing hundreds of its own citizens, the regime is illegitimate. As Rice put it, "Legitimacy obviously is in the eyes of the people. And obviously the government's legitimacy has been called into question by the protests in the streets. But that's not the critical issue in terms of our dealings with Iran."
No, whether an America-hating regime is legitimate or not is completely insignificant to the White House. All the Obama administration wants to do is go back to its plan to appease the mullahs into reaching an agreement about their nuclear aspirations. And for some yet-to-be-explained reason, Obama and his associates believe they can make this regime -- which as recently as Friday called for the mass murder of its own citizens, and as recently as Saturday blamed the US for the Iranian people's decision to rise up against the mullahs -- reach such an agreement.
IN STAKING out a seemingly hard-nosed, unsentimental position on Iran, Obama and his advisers would have us believe that unlike their predecessors, they are foreign policy "realists." Unlike Jimmy Carter, who supported the America-hating mullahs against the America-supporting shah 30 years ago in the name of his moralistic post-Vietnam War aversion to American exceptionalism, Obama supports the America-hating mullahs against the America-supporting freedom protesters because all he cares about are "real" American interests.
So too, unlike George W. Bush, who openly supported Iran's pro-American democratic dissidents against the mullahs due to his belief that the advance of freedom in Iran and throughout the world promoted US national interests, Obama supports the anti-American mullahs who butcher these dissidents in the streets and abduct and imprison them by the thousands due to his "hard-nosed" belief that doing so will pave the way for a meeting of the minds with their oppressors.
Yet Obama's policy is anything but realistic. By refusing to support the dissidents, he is not demonstrating that he is a realist. He is showing that he is immune to reality. He is so committed to appeasing the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ali Khamenei that he is incapable of responding to actual events, or even of taking them into account for anything other than fleeting media appearances meant to neutralize his critics.
Rice and Axelrod demonstrated the administration's determination to eschew reality when they proclaimed that Ahmadinejad's "reelection" is immaterial. As they see it, appeasement isn't dead since it is Khamenei - whom they deferentially refer to as "the supreme leader" - who sets Iran's foreign policy.
While Khamenei is inarguably the decision maker on foreign policy, his behavior since June 12 has shown that he is no moderate. Indeed, as his post-election Friday "sermon" 10 days ago demonstrated, he is a paranoid, delusional America-bashing tyrant. In that speech he called Americans "morons" and accused them of being the worst human-rights violators in the world, in part because of the Clinton administration's raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas in 1993.
Perhaps what is most significant about Obama's decision to side with anti-American tyrants against pro-American democrats in Iran is that it is utterly consistent with his policies throughout the world. From Latin America to Asia to the Middle East and beyond, after six months of the Obama administration it is clear that in its pursuit of good ties with America's adversaries at the expense of America's allies, it will not allow actual events to influence its "hard-nosed" judgments.
TAKE THE ADMINISTRATION'S response to the Honduran military coup on Sunday. While the term "military coup" has a lousy ring to it, the Honduran military ejected president Manuel Zelaya from office after he ignored a Supreme Court ruling backed by the Honduran Congress which barred him from holding a referendum this week that would have empowered him to endanger democracy.
Taking a page out of his mentor Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's playbook, Zelaya acted in contempt of his country's democratic institutions to move forward with his plan to empower himself to serve another term in office. To push forward with his illegal goal, Zelaya fired the army's chief of staff. And so, in an apparent bid to prevent Honduras from going the way of Daniel Ortega's Nicaragua and becoming yet another anti-American Venezuelan satellite, the military - backed by Congress and the Supreme Court - ejected Zelaya from office.
And how did Obama respond? By seemingly siding with Zelaya against the democratic forces in Honduras who are fighting him. Obama said in a written statement: "I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of president Mel Zelaya."
His apparent decision to side with an anti-American would-be dictator is unfortunately par for the course. As South and Central America come increasingly under the control of far-left America-hating dictators, as in Iran, Obama and his team have abandoned democratic dissidents in the hope of currying favor with anti-American thugs. As Mary Anastasia O'Grady has documented in The Wall Street Journal, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have refused to say a word about democracy promotion in Latin America.
Rather than speak of liberties and freedoms, Clinton and Obama have waxed poetic about social justice and diminishing the gaps between rich and poor. In a recent interview with the El Salvadoran media, Clinton said, "Some might say President Obama is left-of-center. And of course that means we are going to work well with countries that share our commitment to improving and enhancing the human potential."
But not, apparently, enhancing human freedoms.
FROM IRAN to Venezuela to Cuba, from Myanmar to North Korea to China, from Sudan to Afghanistan to Iraq to Russia to Syria to Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has systematically taken human rights and democracy promotion off America's agenda. In their place, it has advocated "improving America's image," multilateralism and a moral relativism that either sees no distinction between dictators and their victims or deems the distinctions immaterial to the advancement of US interests.
While Obama's supporters champion his "realist" policies as a welcome departure from the "cowboy diplomacy" of the Bush years, the fact of the matter is that in country after country, Obama's supposedly pragmatic and nonideological policy has either already failed - as it has in North Korea - or is in the process of failing. The only place where Obama may soon be able to point to a success is in his policy of coercing Israel to adopt his anti-Semitic demand to bar Jews from building homes in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. According to media reports, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has authorized Defense Minister Ehud Barak to offer to freeze all settlement construction for three months during his visit to Washington this week.
Of course, in the event that Obama has achieved his immediate goal of forcing Netanyahu to his knees, its accomplishment will hinder rather than advance his wider goal of achieving peace between Israel and its neighbors. Watching Obama strong-arm the US's closest ally in the region, the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab states have become convinced that there is no reason to make peace with the Jews. After all, Obama is demonstrating that he will deliver Israel without their having to so much as wink in the direction of peaceful coexistence.
So if Obama's foreign policy has already failed or is in the process of failing throughout the world, why is he refusing to reassess it? Why, with blood running through the streets of Iran, is he still interested in appeasing the mullahs? Why, with Venezuela threatening to invade Honduras for Zelaya, is he siding with Zelaya against Honduran democrats? Why, with the Palestinians refusing to accept the Jewish people's right to self-determination, is he seeking to expel some 500,000 Jews from their homes in the interest of appeasing the Palestinians? Why, with North Korea threatening to attack the US with ballistic missiles, is he refusing to order the USS John McCain to interdict the suspected North Korean missile ship it has been trailing for the past two weeks? Why, when the Sudanese government continues to sponsor the murder of Darfuris, is the administration claiming that the genocide in Darfur has ended?
The only reasonable answer to all of these questions is that far from being nonideological, Obama's foreign policy is the most ideologically driven since Carter's tenure in office. If when Obama came into office there was a question about whether he was a foreign policy pragmatist or an ideologue, his behavior in his first six months in office has dispelled all doubt. Obama is moved by a radical, anti-American ideology that motivates him to dismiss the importance of democracy and side with anti-American dictators against US allies.
For his efforts, although he is causing the US to fail to secure its aims as he himself has defined them in arena after arena, he is successfully securing the support of the most radical, extreme leftist factions in American politics.
Like Carter before him, Obama may succeed for a time in evading public scrutiny for his foreign-policy failures because the public will be too concerned with his domestic failures to notice them. But in the end, his slavish devotion to his radical ideological agenda will ensure that his failures reach a critical mass.
US President Barack Obama consistently couches his demand that Israel prohibit Jewish people from constructing or expanding our homes and communities in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria in legal-sounding language.
Obama has called settlements "illegitimate." And he has said that Israel "has obligations under the road map," while referring disparagingly to "settlements that, in past agreements, have been categorized as illegal."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell have repeatedly uttered similar statements.
By characterizing its demand that Israel prohibit Jews from building homes in Israel's capital city and its heartland as a legal requirement, the Obama administration portrays Israel as an international outlaw. After all, if building homes for Jews is a crime, and Israel is not prohibiting Jews from building homes, then Israel is at best guilty of enabling a crime to take place, and at worst, it is a criminal state.
It makes good political sense for the Obama administration to make its case against Israel in this fashion. According to a survey of US public opinion published in early 2006 by the Boston Review, whereas only 7 percent of Democrats support going to war to spread democracy - versus 53% of Republicans; 71% of Democrats - versus 36% of Republicans - support going to war to help the United Nations "uphold international law." What this poll shows is that for Obama supporters, the idea that Israel should be treated poorly because it is in breach of international law resonates deeply.
The problem with the Obama administration's characterization of a ban on Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as an Israeli legal obligation is that Israel has never taken upon itself a legal obligation to prohibit such building activities. Israel has never signed an agreement that has characterized any Jewish communities as "illegal."
Moreover, both former prime minister Ariel Sharon's chief of staff Dov Weisglass and former president George W. Bush's deputy national security adviser for the Middle East Elliot Abrams have gone on record stating that Sharon's much vaunted decision to curtail Jewish building in Judea and Samaria (never Jerusalem), in line with the road map negotiating framework, was based on a series of explicit understandings with the Bush administration that spelled out the scope of Jewish building that Israel would maintain for the duration of the peace process. As Abrams wrote on Thursday in The Wall Street Journal, "Not only were there agreements, but the prime minister of Israel relied on them..."
Then, too, since the road map was approved as a mere cabinet decision - as opposed to an international agreement - the Netanyahu government has no legal obligation to actively advance it. Indeed, if it wishes, it can abrogate Israel's acceptance of the document at any time simply by calling for another vote.
More importantly perhaps from the Obama administration's perspective is that the road map itself lacks the force of international law. Although it was adopted by the Security Council, it was not adopted as an internationally binding document under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Consequently, Israel has no international legal obligation to end Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria or Jerusalem.
Like the US, Israel is a signatory to the 1976 International Convention for Civil and Political Rights, which among other things prohibits all forms of discrimination against people on the basis of religion and nationality.
Consequently, Israel is barred from discriminating specifically against Jews who wish to build homes on legally controlled lands in Judea and Samaria. As a binding treaty, this convention takes precedence over the nonbinding road map. Indeed, given the road map's prejudicial position on Jewish building it can be reasonably argued that the road map itself calls for a breach of international law.
Finally, there is always the claim made by Israel's critics that Jewish communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines are illegal by dint of the Fourth Geneva Convention from 1949. That convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring parts of its population to occupied territory. Legal authorities have long disputed whether this convention is applicable to Judea and Samaria, but even if it is applicable, according to Prof. Avi Bell from Bar-Ilan University Law School, it "only proscribes state actions."
Bell explains, "The Fourth Geneva Convention does not purport to limit in any way what individual Jews may or may not do on their legally held property or where they may or may not choose to live."
WHEREAS UPON examination it is clear that the Obama administration is wrong in insinuating that Israel is in breach of its international legal commitments through its refusal to bar Jewish construction in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem, the Obama administration's own policy toward the Palestinians places it in clear breach of both binding international law and domestic US law.
On September 28, 2001, the UN Security Council passed binding Resolution 1373. Resolution 1373, which was initiated by the US government, and was passed by authority of Chapter VII, committed all UN member states to "refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts." Resolution 1373 further required UN member states to "deny safe haven to those who finance, plan, support, or commit terrorist acts or provide safe haven" to those that do.
In 1995, the US State Department acknowledged that Hamas fits the legal definition of a terrorist organization. Today, due to its policies toward Hamas, the Obama administration is in breach of both Resolution 1373 - that is, of international law - and of US domestic law barring the provision of support and financing to foreign terrorist organizations.
According to an internal State Department document cited Wednesday by the Atlas Shrugs Web site, the US has already transferred or is in the process of allocating $300 million dollars to Gaza through USAID and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Since Hamas controls "humanitarian" organizations in Gaza, and Hamas has openly and repeatedly stolen "humanitarian aid," there is little doubt the transfer of funds to Gaza constitutes indirect assistance to Hamas and is therefore prohibited by Resolution 1373 as well as by US statute.
The Obama administration is further in breach of international and domestic US law due to its attempts to coerce Israel into opening international passages between Israel and Gaza to enable trade and commerce with Hamas-controlled Gaza and to end or curtail travel restrictions for people between Gaza and Israel.
Resolution 1373 stipulates that all states must "prevent the movement of terrorists or terrorist groups by effective border controls." Given the fact that the Gaza side of the border is controlled by a terrorist organization, any significant relaxation of Israeli border controls puts Israel at risk of facilitating the movement of terrorists and permitting direct and indirect support to terrorists.
So too, Resolution 1373 requires all states to "ensure that any person who participates in the financing, planning, preparation or perpetuation of terrorist acts or in supporting terrorist acts is brought to justice." Yet rather than calling on Israel to arrest all persons working with Hamas and operating in its territory, the US itself pledged $900m. to rebuilding Gaza. Moreover, it is demanding that Israel allow the importation of dual use materials such as cement into Gaza which will enable Hamas to rebuild its infrastructures that were destroyed during Operation Cast Lead. It is also attempting to coerce Israel into transferring cash to Hamas-controlled banks in Gaza.
Then, too, as Dan Diker reported in a study published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, US-supported Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad recently acknowledged that the US-financed PA continues to pay the salaries of Hamas terrorists.
Multiple news reports in recent days have indicated that the Obama administration is working to facilitate the establishment of a Palestinian government that will include Hamas. US efforts to legitimize the incorporation of a terrorist group in a Palestinian government are a severe violation of US and international law. This is the case since it would clearly involve aiding a designated terrorist organization and helping to provide it with a safe haven.
Hamas is not the only terrorist organization to which the Obama administration is providing assistance - again, in apparent breach of international and US law. The administration is also aiding Hizbullah. Ahead of his June 4 address in Cairo, Obama met with members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood at the White House. He also invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood to be present at his speech at Cairo University.
Shortly before the White House meeting, Egyptian legal authorities alleged that the Muslim Brotherhood provided material support to Hizbullah terrorists in Egypt. These Hizbullah operatives - and their Muslim Brotherhood partners - were allegedly engaged in a plot to commit massive terrorist attacks in Egypt whose goal was the illegal overthrow of the government. That is, the Muslim Brotherhood was allegedly involved in a terrorist conspiracy led by Hizbullah - a designated foreign terrorist organization. Furthermore, the plot was apparently hatched by Iran - which the US State Department has designated as state sponsor of terrorism.
By meeting with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood suspected of providing material support to a designated terrorist organization, Obama was arguably illegally providing indirect assistance to Hizbullah - again in breach of Resolution 1373 and US law.
Then there is the US's direct assistance to the Lebanese military. During the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah, the Lebanese military provided direct assistance to Hizbullah operatives in carrying out their illegal war against Israel. Since then, expanding Hizbullah influence over the Lebanese military has been copiously documented. Consequently, by providing direct US military assistance - including weapons - to the Lebanese military, the US government is arguably in breach of Resolution 1373 and US law.
GOING BACK for a moment to the Palestinians, Hamas of course is not the only terrorist organization that is materially assisted by the Obama administration's policies. As Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook wrote in The Jerusalem Post last month, the US is financing the construction of a Palestinian computer center named for arch Fatah terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who led the 1978 bus bombing on Israel's coastal highway in which 37 civilians, including 12 children and US citizen Gail Rubin, were murdered.
As Marcus and Crook note, the 2008 US Foreign Operations Bill bars US assistance to the Palestinians from being used "for the purpose of recognizing or otherwise honoring individuals who commit or have committed acts of terrorism."
Obama, the former law professor, never tires of invoking international law. And yet, when one considers his policies toward Israel on the one hand, and his policies toward illegal terrorist organizations on the other, it is clear that Obama's respect for international law is mere rhetoric. True champions of law in both Israel and the US should demand an end to his administration's contempt for the US's actual - rather than imaginary - legal obligations.
Have American Jews abandoned Israel in favor of President Obama? This is a central question in the minds of Israelis today.
In a poll of Israeli Jews conducted in mid-June by the Jerusalem Post, a mere 6 percent of respondents said they view Obama as pro-Israel. In stark contrast, a Gallup tracking poll in early May showed that 79 percent of American Jews support the president.
These numbers seem to tell us that U.S. Jews have indeed parted company with the Jewish state.
No American president has ever been viewed as similarly ill disposed toward Israel by Israelis. With only 6 percent seeing the administration as friendly, it is apparent that distrust of Obama is not a partisan issue in Israel. It spans the spectrum from far left to right, from ultra-Orthodox to ultra-secular. But with his 79-percent approval rating among U.S. Jews, it is clear the American Jewish community is quite sympathetically inclined toward Obama.
Appearances of course can be deceptive. And it is worth taking a closer look at the numbers to understand what they tell us about American Jewish sentiments regarding Obama and Israel. First, however, we should consider what it is about Obama that makes nearly all Israeli Jews view him as an adversary.
The Jerusalem Post poll showed a massive divergence between Israeli Jews and Obama on the issue of Jewish building beyond the 1949 armistice line. The Obama administration has refused to budge in its hard-line demand that Israel end all Jewish building in north, south, and east Jerusalem as well as in Judea and Samaria.
For its part, the Netanyahu government has refused to bow to this demand. Seventy percent of Israeli Jews support the Netanyahu government's handling of the issue with the Obama administration and 69 percent oppose a freeze on Jewish building.
Beyond Obama's agitation on the issue of Jewish construction, Israelis are dismayed by what they perceive as the generally hostile approach he has adopted in dealing with the Jewish state. This approach was nowhere more in evidence than in his speech to the Islamic world in Cairo on June 4.
It wasn't just Obama's comparison of Palestinian terrorism to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, the American civil rights movement and antebellum slave rebellions that set people off. There was also Obama's inference that Israel owes its legitimacy to the Holocaust.
It is that claim - Obama repeated it during his visit to Buchenwald - which forms the basis of the Islamic narrative against Israel. It argues that Jews are not indigenous to the Middle East, and that the only thing keeping Israel in place is European guilt about Auschwitz. Not only do Israelis of all political stripes reject this as factually false, they recognize it is inherently anti-Semitic because it ignores and negates 3,500 years of Jewish history in the land of Israel.
With Israeli distrust of Obama so apparent, and so easily explained, two questions arise: How has Obama managed to maintain American Jewish support despite his unprecedented unpopularity in Israel? And what is the likelihood that when push comes to shove, American Jews will stand with Israel against the president they so admire?
Obama's great success in maintaining support among American Jews owes much to the fact that most American Jews do not pick up the same messages from Obama's statements as do Israeli Jews. Whereas Israeli Jews recognize that it is morally obscene, strategically suicidal and historically inaccurate to suggest that Israel has no rights to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and that Jews have no right to live there, American Jews do not intuitively understand this to be the case. Consequently, while Israeli Jews recognize Obama's calls for a total freeze in Jewish construction in these areas as inherently hostile, most American Jews do not.
Beyond this, for the past 15 years, Holocaust education - more so than Zionist education or Jewish religious education - has become the hallmark of American Jewish identity. As a consequence, American Jews may not see anything objectionable in Obama's inference that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust.
If the divergence in U.S. Jewish and Israeli attitudes toward Obama is simply a consequence of a lack of American Jewish awareness of the significance of Obama's positions and policies for Israel, then the disparity in views can be easily remedied by a sustained issues awareness campaign by Israel and by American Jewish organizations. For many of Israel's core American Jewish supporters, such a campaign would no doubt go a long way in energizing them to challenge the administration on its positions vis-à-vis Israel.
But there are other factors at work. According to the American Jewish Committee's 2008 survey of American Jews, some 67 percent of American Jews feel close to Israel. These numbers, while high, are not significantly higher than similar support levels among the general U.S. population. (A survey of general American sentiment toward Israel conducted this month by the Israel Project shows that support for Israel has dropped by 20 percent in the past nine months - from 69 to 49 percent. Presumably, Jewish American support for Israel has also experienced a drop.)
More significantly, the AJC survey showed that in the lead-up to the 2008 presidential elections, only three percent of American Jews said a candidate's position on Israel was the most important issue for them. Indeed, according to survey after survey of American Jewish opinion over the past decade, U.S. Jewish support for Israel, while widespread, is not particularly deep. This sentiment lends to the conclusion that American Jews will not abandon or temper their support for Obama simply because he is perceived as being hostile to Israel.
The picture, then, is a mixed bag. Support for Israel against Obama will likely rise as a consequence of a sustained educational campaign among American Jews about the issues in dispute and their importance for Israel's security and national well-being. But even in that event, it is unclear how dramatic the shift would be. Given the shallowness of U.S. Jewish support for Israel, no doubt many American Jews will not care enough to reassess their positions on either Israel or Obama.
The one bit of encouraging news in all this is the persistence of support for Israel relative to Palestinians among rank and file Americans. Palestinians are supported by a mere five percent of Americans.
No doubt it is this disparity that is motivating leading Democratic politicians - most recently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senator Robert Menendez from New Jersey - to publicly distance themselves from the administration's Mideast policies.
If U.S. Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists can educate just a fraction of the American Jewish community, and motivate them to stand with Israel in a significant way against administration pressure, this will likely motivate still more lawmakers and politicians from both parties to maintain support for Israel against the administration. Certainly it will help convince Israelis we haven't been abandoned by American Jewry. And that in itself would be no mean achievement.
"Could there be something to all the talk of an Obama effect, after all? A stealth effect, perhaps?"
So asked Helene Cooper, the New York Times' diplomatic correspondent in a news analysis of the massive anti-regime protests in Iran published in Sunday's Times.
It took US President Barack Obama eight days to issue a clear statement of support for the millions of pro-freedom demonstrators throughout Iran risking their lives to oppose the tyranny of the mullahs. And after eight days of vacillating and hedging his bets and so effectively supporting Iranian dictator Ali Khamenei against the multitudes rallying in the streets, Obama's much awaited statement was not particularly forceful.
He offered no American support of any kind for the protesters. Indeed, it is hard to say that in making his statement, the American president was speaking primarily as an American.
He warned the likes of Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose goons are currently under orders to beat, arrest and murder protesters, that "the world is watching... If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion."
According to several prominent Western bloggers with direct ties to the protesters, Obama's statement left the Iranians underwhelmed and angry.
But as Cooper sees it, the protesters owe their ability to oppose the regime that just stole their votes and has trampled their basic human rights for 30 years to Obama and the so-called "Obama effect." Offering no evidence for her thesis, and ignoring a public record filled with evidence to the contrary, Cooper claims that it is due to Obama's willingness to accept the legitimacy of Iran's clerical tyranny that the protesters feel emboldened to oppose their regime. If it hadn't been for Obama, and his embrace of appeasement as his central guiding principle for contending with the likes of Khamenei and Ahmadinejad, as far as Cooper is concerned, the people on the streets would never have come out to protest.
By this thinking, America is so despised by the Iranians that the only way they will make a move against their regime is if they believe that America is allied with their regime. So by this line of reasoning, the only way the US can lead is by negative example - which the world in its wisdom will reject.
While Cooper's analysis gives no evidence that Obama's policies toward the ayatollahs had any impact on the tumultuous events now sweeping through Iran, it does make clear that the so-called Obama effect is a real phenomenon. It just isn't the phenomenon she claims it is.
THE REAL OBAMA effect on world affairs relates to the US media's unprecedented willingness to abandon the basic responsibilities of a free press in favor of acting as propagandists for the president. From Cooper - who pretends that Obama's unreciprocated open hand to the mullahs is what empowered the protesters - to Newsweek editor Evan Thomas who referred to Obama earlier this month as a "sort of God," without a hint of irony, the US media have mobilized to serve the needs of the president.
It is hard to think of an example in US history in which the media organs of the world's most important democracy so openly sacrificed the most basic responsibilities of news gatherers to act as shills for the chief executive. Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed adoring media attention, but he also faced media pressures that compelled him to take actions he did not favor. The same was the case with John F. Kennedy.
Today the mainstream US media exert no such pressures on Obama. Earlier this month NBC's nightly news anchorman Brian Williams bowed to Obama when he bid him good night at the White House.
On Wednesday ABC News will devote an entire day of programming to advancing Obama's controversial plan to nationalize health care. Its two prime time news shows will be broadcast from White House. Good Morning America will feature an interview with Obama, and ABC's other three flagship shows will dedicate special programming to his health care reform program.
On the other hand, ABC has refused Republican requests for a right of reply to Obama's positions. The network has also refused to sell commercial advertising time to Republicans and other Obama opponents to offer their dissenting opinions to his plans.
This media behavior has been noted by the likes of Fox News and the handful of other US news outlets that are not in the tank for Obama. But the repercussions of the Obama effect on US politics and world affairs have been largely ignored.
THE MOST IMPORTANT repercussion of the US media's propagandistic reporting is that the American public is denied the ability to understand events as they unfold. Take for instance The New York Times' write-up of Khamenei's sermon this past Friday in which he effectively declared war on the protesters. As Russell Berman pointed out in the Telos blog on Saturday, the Times' write-up was misleadingly selective.
The Times did not mention that Khamenei ascribed world events to a Zionist conspiracy which he believes controls the US. It similarly failed to mention his long rant against the US for the FBI's 1993 raid on David Koresh's Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Had the Times - and other major media outlets - properly reported Khamenei's speech, they would have made clear to their readers that he is not a rational thinker. His view of world events is deeply distorted by his hatreds and prejudices and paranoia.
But then, if Times readers were permitted to know just how demented Khamenei's views of the world are, they might come to the conclusion that Obama's intense desire to sit down with him, and his constant pandering to Iran's "supreme leader" are ill-advised and counterproductive. They might come to the conclusion that it is impossible to achieve a meeting of the minds with a man who calls Americans "morons" and leads his subordinate government officials in chants of "Death to America," "Death to Britain" and "Death to Israel."
And if they came to these conclusions, how could Obama be expected to affect anything?
Sunday, Cooper argued that Obama has changed the course of history in Iran simply by being the US president. In her words, unnamed Obama supporters claim that "the mere election of Barack Obama in the United States had galvanized reformers in Iran to demand change."
And Obama's power as president to change the world is not limited to Iran. As far as his media servants are concerned, his "mere election" is responsible for everything positive that has occurred in the US and throughout the world since last November.
TAKE HIZBULLAH'S defeat in the Lebanese parliamentary elections two weeks ago. As far as the US media are concerned, it was Obama's speech to the Muslim world on June 4 that emboldened the Lebanese to back the anti-Syrian March 14 slate of candidates. Never mind that his speech - which refused to condemn Iran for its support for terrorism and its nuclear weapons program - actually strengthened Hizbullah's position by demonstrating that the US would take no action against its Iranian masters. As far as the US media were concerned, Obama won the election for Hizbullah's pro-Western rivals.
Yet this is not true. According to actual electoral data, what swung the balance towards Saad Hariri's March 14 camp was Hizbullah-allied Christian leader Michel Aoun's failure to convince Lebanon's Christian minority to acquiesce to Hizbullah's takeover of the country. And Lebanese Christian voters did not reject Hizbullah because Obama is President of the United States. They rejected Hizbullah because the Maronite Christian Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir warned them on the eve of the election, "We must be alert to the schemes being plotted for us and thwart the intense efforts which, if they succeed, will change the face of our country."
WHILE OBAMA'S supporters in the US media are certain that Obama's "mere election" is responsible for every positive development on the world scene, they are equally certain that he bears no responsibility for the negative developments that have happened so far on his watch.
For instance, the fact that North Korea chose to escalate its nuclear brinksmanship shortly after Obama took office with a promise of appeasing Pyongyang is considered irrelevant. The fact that he ordered deep cuts in the US missile defense budget as North Korea tested a long-range missile and a nuclear bomb, and that he has maintained these cuts despite North Korea's announced plan to launch a missile against the US on July 4 has gone largely unreported.
Furthermore, the US media were quick to celebrate the UN Security Council's recent resolution against North Korea which calls for inspections of suspicious North Korean ships travelling in international waters as a great Obama achievement. But they failed to inform the public that the resolution has no enforcement mechanism. Consequently, today the USS John McCain, which is tracking a North Korean ship suspected of carrying ballistic missiles, lacks the authority to interdict it and inspect the cargo.
OUR WORLD today is complex and fraught with dangers. Some of these dangers are new, and some are old. All require serious discussion.
In free societies, the media's primary responsibilities are to report current events to the public, place those events into an historical context to enable the public to understand how and why they occurred, and to present the public with the options for going forward. It is due to the media's historic role in maintaining and cultivating an informed discussion and debate about current affairs that they became known as democracy's watchdog. When media organs fail to fulfill their basic responsibilities, they degenerate quickly into democracy's undertaker. For an uninformed public is incapable of making the sorts of decisions required of free citizens.
Obama and his media flacks would have us believe that by speaking of American values and by distinguishing friend from foe, former president George W. Bush raised the hackles of the world against America. Perhaps there is some truth to this assertion. Perhaps there isn't.
What they fail to consider is that by genuflecting to tyrants, Obama has made the US an international laughingstock. Far from sharing their adulation of Obama and his cool demeanor, most of the nations of the world believe that the US has abandoned its leadership role. And unlike the US media, they realize that America has no understudy.
Unfortunately, unless the Obama effect wears off soon, by the time the American people become aware of this fact it may be too late to make a difference.
Israel finds itself in unfamiliar territory today. The revolutionary atmosphere building in Iran presents Israel with a prospect it has rarely confronted: a safe bet. With the Obama administration refusing to back the anti-regime protesters, and the European Union similarly hemming and hawing, millions of Iranians who are on the streets, risking their lives to protest a stolen election and a tyrannical regime, have been cast adrift by those they thought would support them. To date, Israel has joined the US and Europe in rejecting the protesters. This should change.
In refusing to stick their necks out - and so effectively siding with the mullahs against the pro-democracy activists in the streets - US President Barack Obama, like Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Mossad chief Meir Dagan, have all rightly pointed out that Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iran's former prime minister and the titular head of the protest movement, is just as radical and extreme as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whom he seeks to unseat.
Moreover, Western officials and analysts point out that Mousavi's primary backers from within the regime - former presidents Muhammad Khatami and Akbar Rafsanjani - are themselves anything but anti-regime revolutionaries.
What apparently motivates these men is the sense that through Ahmadinejad's heavy-handed attacks against the revolution's "old guard," the presidential incumbent has shunted them aside. They feel slighted. And they are doubly humiliated by the fact that Ahmadinejad has acted with the open support of Iran's real dictator - so-called "Supreme Leader" Ali Khamenei. The likes of Mousavi, Khatami and Rafsanjani don't want to overthrow the regime whose aims they share. They just want to restore their power within the regime.
It is these twin assessments of Mousavi and his backers that stand at the center of Western leaders' decision to give a wide berth both to the presidential race and to the protests that have arisen in its aftermath.
For Israel, the arguments for staying clear of events in Iran align with those informing much of the rest of the Western world. Israel's primary concern is Iran's foreign policy and specifically its nuclear weapons program and its support for anti-Israel terror groups. There is no reason for Israel to believe that a Mousavi government will be more inclined to end Iran's race to the bomb or diminish its support for terror groups like Hizbullah and Hamas than Ahmadinejad's government is. As prime minister in the 1980s, Mousavi was a major instigator of Iran's nuclear program and he oversaw the establishment of Hizbullah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Beyond that, there is the fact that Israel - like the US - is the regime's bogeyman. If Israel is identified with the protesters, the likes of Khamenei will use this connection to justify their brutal repression.
Finally, there is the distinct possibility, indeed the likelihood, that these protests will go nowhere. They will be brutally repressed or fizzle out of their own accord. So what would Israel gain by sticking its neck out?
While reasonable on their face, these arguments for doing nothing all ignore the significance of recent developments. Consequently they fail to grasp the new opportunities that have arisen - opportunities which left untouched will likely disappear in short order.
The fact of the matter is that with each passing day, Mousavi's personal views and interests are becoming increasingly irrelevant. Whether he realized it or not, Mousavi was transformed last Friday night. When Khamenei embraced the obviously falsified official election results as a "divine victory" for Ahmadinejad, Mousavi was widely expected by Western observers to accept the dictator's verdict. When instead he sided with his own supporters who took to the streets to oppose their disenfranchisement, Mousavi became a revolutionary. Whether he had planned to do so or not, a week ago Mousavi became an enemy of the regime.
The significance of Mousavi's decision could not be more profound. As Michael Ledeen from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote Wednesday at the Pajamas Media Web site, last Friday night Mousavi tied his personal survival to the success of the protesters - and pitted his life against Khamenei's. In Ledeen's words, "Both Khamenei and Mousavi - the two opposed icons of the moment, at least - know that they will either win or die."
For their part, by the end of this week, the protesters themselves had been transformed. If last week they were simply angry that they had been ignored, by Thursday they had become a revolutionary force apparently dedicated to the overthrow of the regime. This was made clear by a list of demands circulating among the protesters on Wednesday. As Pepe Escobar reported in Thursday's Asia Times, the protesters' demands include Khamenei's removal from power, the dissolution of the secret police, the reform of the constitution under anti-regime Ayatollah Hossein Montazeri, who has been living under house arrest for the past 12 years, and the installation of Mousavi as president.
These demands make clear where the protesters are leading. They are leading to the overthrow of one of the most heinous regimes on the face of the earth and its replacement by a liberal democracy.
As far as Israel is concerned, this is a win-win situation. If the protesters successfully overthrow the regime, they will have neutralized the greatest security threat facing the Jewish state. And if they fail, Israel will still probably be better off than it is today. For if the mullahs violently repress the pro-democracy dissidents, the Obama administration will be hard-pressed to legitimize their blood bath by embracing them as negotiating partners.
Were Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to publicly announce Israel's support for the protesters, Israel would stand to gain politically in a number of ways. First and foremost, it would be doing the right thing morally and so would earn the respect of millions of people throughout the world who are dismayed at their own governments' silence in the face of the brave Iranian protesters risking their lives for freedom.
Moreover, by acting as the loudest and first democratic champion of the protesters, Israel would catapult itself to the forefront of the campaign for democracy in the Muslim world. Doing so would make it far easier for Israel's representatives throughout the world to defend against false accusations by self-described human rights organizations that Israel is a human rights abuser.
Beyond that, Israel would be building an important alliance with the Iranian people themselves. Contrary to what the mullahs would have us believe, Iranians by and large do not share the widespread hatred of Israel and the Jews that their regime promotes and the Arab world embraces. Over the years, Iranian regime opponents - from the students to the trade unionists to women's rights activists to minority Kurds, Azeris, Ahwaz Arabs and Baluchis - have all appealed to Israel for support. Israel Radio in Farsi, which broadcasts into Iran daily, has more than a million regular listeners.
Were Netanyahu to explain that the same mullahs who seek to disenfranchise and repress the Iranian people seek to destroy Israel with nuclear bombs; were he to call for Iran to stop financing Hamas and Hizbullah terrorists who are reportedly now deployed in Iran to brutalize the protesters, and instead invest in the Iranian economy for the benefit of Iran's people, he would be sending a message that already resonates with the people of Iran.
Finally, Israeli outreach to the Iranian people now struggling to overthrow the regime would expose the Obama administration's effective support for the mullahs against their people in all its absurdity and moral blindness. What's more, the administration would be unable to launch a counterattack. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama would be in no position to attack Israel for supporting Iranian dissidents demanding freedom. And their stammering reaction would make their attacks against Jewish building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria look ever more ridiculous.
Although Israel is far away from Iran, it has significant capacity to help the demonstrators. It could use its communication satellites to break through the communications blackout the regime has attempted to enforce. Its Internet capabilities can be offered to the protesters to reopen closed networks. Israel could temporarily expand its radio broadcasts into the country and allow its airwaves to be used to broadcast events on the ground in real time so that protesters won't have to rely on word of mouth to know what is happening or where things are leading.
Again, it is more than possible that Khamenei will move to crush the dissidents or successfully buy enough of them off to subvert them. But in the meantime, Israel has a clear interest in keeping the Iranian cauldron boiling. The mullahs can only concentrate on so much at once. If they are preoccupied with domestic dissent, they will have less time to devote to Hamas and Hizbullah. If they are busy quelling armed insurrections by Kurds or Azeris or Baluchis, they will have less time to devote to negotiating the purchase of the S-300 anti-aircraft system with Russia, or keeping tabs on their nuclear scientists. Strategically, Israel stands only to gain - either marginally or massively - from the ayatollahs' discomfort.
In an interview this week with National Review Online, Iranian expatriate Amir Taheri explained that Iran suffers from a divided psyche. On the one hand, the mullahs view Iran as a revolutionary vanguard of Islam. They do not see Iran as a nation-state. For them, the normal things that make up a life - economic stability, public safety and the hope that one's children will do better - are of little use as they march forward under the flag of jihad. Israel and the US are necessary enemies.
On the other hand, the vast majority of Iran's people wish to live in a normal and free nation-state. For them, the revolution means nothing but privation, suffering, repression and death. They do not hate America and they do not hate Israel. They do not seek nuclear weapons and they do not support the likes of Hamas and Hizbullah.
As Taheri put it, "When we consider Iran as a nation-state, we see Israel as its natural ally. The reason is that Israel, like Iran, is opposed to an exclusively Arab Middle East. Both want a pluralist Middle East in which there is room for diversity; a Middle East where one finds Iranians, Turks, Kurds, Christians and Jews, as well as Arabs."
If Israel extends a hand in friendship to these Iranian patriots, the worst that can happen is that they fail to overthrow the mullahs and we are left to acknowledge that we wished them well. There is no shame in that.
Indeed, if they fail to overthrow the regime, and Israel is compelled to attack their country's nuclear installations, it is hard to imagine that they will take it personally. Rather, recalling that it was Israel that stood with them first, they would no doubt understand why we were forced to act, and perhaps be inspired to try again to free themselves from the shackles of their hideous regime. Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech Sunday evening at Bar-Ilan University had one goal: To get US President Barack Obama off of Israel's back.
Netanyahu's speech was an eloquent, rational and at times impassioned defense of Israel. For Israeli ears, after years of former prime minister Ehud Olmert's and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni's continuous assaults on Israeli rights, and their strident defenses of capitulation to the Palestinians and the Syrians, Netanyahu's address was a breath of fresh air. But it is hard to see how it could have possibly had any lasting impact on Obama or his advisers.
To be moved by rational argument, a person has to be open to rational discourse. And what we have witnessed over the past week with the Obama administration's reactions to both North Korea's nuclear brinksmanship and Iran's sham elections is that its foreign policy is not informed by rationality but by the president's morally relative, post-modern ideology. In this anti-intellectual and anti-rational climate, Netanyahu's speech has little chance of making a lasting impact on the White House.
If rational thought was the basis for the administration's policymaking on foreign affairs, North Korea's decisions to test long range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, send two US citizens to long prison terms and then threaten nuclear war should have made the administration reconsider its current policy of seeking the approval and assistance of North Korea's primary enabler - China - for any action it takes against Pyongyang. As Nicholas Eberstadt suggested in Friday's Wall Street Journal, rather than spending its time passing UN Security Council resolutions with no enforcement mechanisms against North Korea, the administration would be working with a coalition of the willing to adopt measures aimed at lowering the threat North Korea constitutes to regional, US and global security through its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and its proliferation activities.
But the administration has done no such thing. Instead of working with and strengthening its allies, it has opted to work with North Korea's allies China and Russia to forge a Security Council resolution harsh enough to convince North Korean leader Kim Jung Il to threaten nuclear war, but too weak to degrade his capacity to wage one.
Similar to Obama's refusal to reassess his failed policy regarding North Korea, his nonreaction to the fraudulent Iranian election shows that he will not allow facts to interfere with his slavish devotion to his ideological canon that claims that no enemy is unappeasable and no ally deserves automatic support. Far from standing with the democratic dissidents now risking their lives to oppose Iran's sham democracy, the administration has reportedly expressed concern that the current postelection protests will destabilize the regime. Obama has also refused to reconsider his decision to reach a grand bargain with the ayatollahs on Iran's nuclear weapons program that would serve to legitimize their continued grip on power.
His refusal to make a moral distinction between the mullahs and their democratic opponents - like his refusal in Cairo to make a moral distinction between a nuclear-armed Iran and a nuclear-armed America - makes clear that he is not interested in forging a factually accurate or morally clear-sighted foreign policy.
ALL OF THIS brings us back to Israel - and Netanyahu's speech about the nature and causes of the Palestinian conflict and the conditions that must be met if peace is ever to be achieved. His address aimed in two ways to lower US pressure while averting an open confrontation with a president whose approval ratings remain above 60 percent. First, Netanyahu demonstrated that through their consistent rejection of Israel's right to exist as the Jewish state, the Palestinians - not us - are the side responsible for the absence of Middle East peace.
Second, Netanyahu tried to decrease US pressure on his government by conditionally accepting the idea of a Palestinian state. Clearly, it was Netanyahu's acceptance of the idea of a Palestinian state - albeit a demilitarized one - that was supposed to do the most to fend off US pressure. After all, Obama and his advisers have made the swift establishment of a Palestinian state their primary foreign policy aim.
Irrespective of its impact on the Obama administration, Netanyahu's speech was a positive contribution to the general discourse on the Middle East and Israel's place in it. He made good use of his opportunity to address the nation above the heads of the uniformly leftist media to forge a new definition of the national consensus. Whereas his defeatist predecessors consistently spoke of the people's willingness to make painful concessions for peace, and treated the establishment of a Jew-free Palestinian state as their primary duty as Zionists, Netanyahu recast the national consensus along patriotic lines.
He echoed the sentiments of the vast majority of Israelis when he refused to end building inside of Jewish communities located beyond the 1949 armistice lines; when he asserted that he would make no concessions on sovereignty over Jerusalem; would insist that we retain defensible borders; would refuse entrance of so-called Palestinian refugees to our territory; and demanded Palestinian recognition of our right to exist as the Jewish state.
He stridently and eloquently corrected Obama's false characterization of this country as the product of the Holocaust during his speeches at Cairo and Buchenwald by recalling the 3,500 year old Jewish ties to the Land of Israel. And he made clear that the association Obama made between the Holocaust and this country's founding was a precise inversion of the historical record. It is not Israel that owes its existence to the Holocaust. Rather, the Holocaust was only able to happen because there was no Israel.
NETANYAHU'S SPEECH was a much-needed strong defense. But it was not a perfect defense. It suffered from two flaws that may come back to haunt the premier in the years to come. First, his demand that the US lead the international community in guaranteeing that the Palestinian state is demilitarized provided the Obama administration with a new means to trick Israel into making suicidal concessions.
The only way to ensure that a Palestinian state is demilitarized is to send in forces to demilitarize it. Obviously the Americans won't take such a step. In Gaza, a militarized Palestinian state already exists and the Americans have no intention of demilitarizing it for us. As for Judea and Samaria, today, the only thing the emerging Palestinian state has to show for itself is its US-built army.
The only force that would ensure a Palestinian state (or states) stays demilitarized is the IDF. But by appointing the US the guarantor of its demilitarized status, Netanyahu is inviting the US to lie and so make it impossible for us to take the steps necessary to ensure that the Palestinians lack the means to threaten the country.
In requesting that the US guarantee disarmament, Netanyahu repeated a mistake he made in his first term in office. In 1996 he conditioned his willingness to move forward with peace talks with the PLO on the terror group's amendment of its charter calling for the destruction of Israel in line with its commitment under the initial Oslo agreement. Netanyahu empowered Bill Clinton to judge Palestinian compliance with this demand. In due course, Clinton travelled to Gaza and mendaciously announced that the PLO had in fact amended the charter. No such action had been taken, but Netanyahu was in no position to accuse Clinton of lying.
While his decision to appoint Obama arbiter of Palestinian demilitarization was ill-conceived, things could have been much worse.
Netanyahu ignored the so-called road map peace plan. That plan is one long list of Palestinian commitments that the US is empowered to judge compliance on. From terror fighting to ending incitement, the road map places Israel in the position of being forced to take America's word on issues paramount to its national security. By ignoring the road map, Netanyahu managed to avert the need to call Obama a liar directly.
The other problem with Netanyahu's speech is that by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state, and embracing Obama's fantasy that it is possible to reach a deal with the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu blocked the possibility that Israel will be able to forge a new policy that will move it to a more advantageous status quo in the coming years. That is, Netanyahu's conditional acceptance of Obama's false and ideologically motivated two-state paradigm damns Israel to the position of foot dragger in relation to someone else's policy rather than trailblazer for its own policy.
In fairness to Netanyahu, in light of Obama's ideological commitment to the two-state paradigm which blames Israel for the absence of peace, it is far from clear that he has any choice other than to go along with the president and just play for time. Were Netanyahu to apply Israeli law to the large settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley or establish security zones along Gaza's borders with Israel and Egypt, he would likely instigate a full breach of relations with Washington.
At this point, it is up to the public and our representatives in the Knesset to pave the way for a better policy in the future. This we can do by rejecting the two-state paradigm and conducting a public discourse relevant to our national interests. For Netanyahu, however, buying time with a hostile administration may be the best he can aspire to during his current term in office.
Of course, buying time in and of itself is no great accomplishment. The voters did not elect Netanyahu to lead us simply to buy time. We elected him to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If his speech succeeded in blunting US pressure on Israel - even temporarily - on the Palestinian front, and in light of the results of the Iranian presidential race, Netanyahu has gained the opportunity to act on the Iranian front. If during his current term he prevents Iran from becoming a nuclear power and makes no concessions in Judea, Samaria, Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, he will be remembered as one of our greatest leaders and his speech will be remembered for posterity as a pivotal event.
On the other hand, if Netanyahu sits on his laurels, he will be surprised to see how quickly Obama - desperate for a foreign policy achievement after being laughed out of Teheran and Pyongyang - forgets his happiness at Netanyahu's address. In no time flat, Obama will try to force Israel make him look like he knows what he is doing. At that point, an open confrontation with the White House will become unavoidable.
Q&A on Netanyahu's speech with National Review Online
Q&A: Caroline Glick on Netanyahu & the World [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a much-discussed speech on Sunday, endorsing a demilitarized Palestinian state and responding to Pres. Barack Obama's recent Cairo address, among other things. Caroline Glick took a few questions about it and the Iranian elections this morning.
Caroline is senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post and the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy. She's also author of Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad. Here's the conversation:
LOPEZ: Is it shocking Netanyahu would come out for a Palestinian state?
GLICK: It is not shocking that Netanyahu would set out the conditions under which he would agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state. The Obama administration's obsession with creating one in Israel's heartland as quickly as possible regardless of the character of Palestinian society, Palestinian support for the destruction of Israel, and the close ties the U.S.-sponsored Palestinian Authority shares with global terror groups and state sponsors of terror like Hezbollah and Iran made it necessary for Israel's premier to make it very clear what must happen before Israel will agree to proceed on this path.
LOPEZ: Is this anything remotely like a breakthrough?
GLICK: There are only two ways that Netanyahu's speech can constitute a breakthrough. First, in the unlikely circumstance that the Obama administration actually cares about Israel's concerns, Netanyahu's speech should give the president and his advisors pause before they renew their massive pressure on Israel to make dangerous concessions to the Palestinians.
Second, Netanyahu's speech could empower Israel's supporters in Congress to begin questioning the administration's harsh treatment of the U.S.'s closest ally in the Middle East and so perhaps act as a break on the administration's moves to steamroll Israel. Aside from that, what his speech served to do was expose just how radical the Palestinian and Arab position on Israel is. The Palestinians reacted to Netanyahu's speech with calls to war in retaliation for his demand that they recognize Israel's right to exist. This is not the sort of behavior one might expect from supposedly "moderate" Palestinian political leaders.
LOPEZ: Will the U.S. and Israel agree on settlements? Have we entered a chill in our relationship?
GLICK: Obama and his advisors have made clear that their view on the settlements is not based on facts. It is based on their acceptance of the false Arab narrative of the Middle East conflict. They accept Arab historical revisionism that places the cart before the horse by claiming that Israel's presence in the disputed territories is the cause of the conflict when in fact Israel's presence in the disputed territories is a consequence of their continuous attempts to invade and destroy Israel. Since the Obama administration's view is based on a false assertion, it is impermeable to fact and rational argument and therefore it is unlikely to change.
LOPEZ: Is it significant that Netanyahu responded to Obama's Cairo speech?
GLICK: It is very significant for Israel and world Jewry and perhaps for Israel's supporters that Netanyahu responded to Obama's Cairo speech. That speech was full of distortions of Jewish history and deeply dismissive of the Jewish claims to our homeland. It was absolutely necessary for Netanyahu to respond to Obama's false and hideous assertion that Israel owes its creation to the Holocaust. And in explaining that the Holocaust could only happen because Israel didn't exist at the time and by setting out the true 3,500-year-old Jewish connection to the land Netanyahu provided a necessary corrective to Obama's move to write the Jewish people out of the history of the Middle East. Here too, Obama's position is based on an Arab myth -- most enthusiastically propounded today by the likes of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- that the Jews are interlopers in the region.
LOPEZ: How bad might that be if a new intifada begins? Or a war between Israel and a neighbor?
GLICK: If the Palestinians follow through with their threat to renew their terror war against Israel it will be quite bad. This is so not because Israel will be unable to defend itself. Israel has the means to defend itself. It will be quite bad because, in light of the hostile treatment Israel is suffering at the hands of the Obama administration, and given the central role the U.S. under Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton is playing in arming and training the Palestinian army that will likely be attacking Israeli targets in Judea and Samaria, the U.S. may well side with the Arabs against Israel. The administration is already placing limitations on arms sales to Israel. In this event, Israel will have to move quickly to find other suppliers.
It is unlikely today that Arab states will go to war with Israel, although that could change quickly if Iran acquires nuclear weapons. In that event, the Iranians will be in a position to blackmail Arab states like Egypt and Jordan into abrogating their peace treaties with Israel and opening hostilities against it. Iran would accomplish this task by threatening to overthrow the Mubarak regime and the Hashemite Kingdom. It is this specter -- along with the specter of nuclear attack and chronic terror violence conducted under Iran's nuclear umbrella -- that makes it essential for Israel to move quickly to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
LOPEZ: How nervous is Israel about Ahmadinejad's "reelection"?
GLICK: In a round about sort of way, Ahmadinejad's "reelection" empowers Israel to take the necessary action. By stealing the election, Ahmadinejad now stands in open opposition to the Iranian people. This decreases the likelihood that the public will rally around the regime in the event of an Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear installations.
Ahmadinejad's open hatred of the U.S. and his humiliation of the Obama administration will similarly make it more difficult politically for the administration to prevent Israel from striking Iran. If before the Iranian elections it was easy to see the administration signing on to U.N. Security Council sanctions against Israel in the event of an Israeli strike against Iran, or even shooting down Israeli aircraft en route to Iran, in their aftermath, such prospects seem more unlikely.
Ahead of his current trip to the Middle East, US President Barack Obama's Middle East envoy George Mitchell made what might have been construed as a positive step in Israel's direction. Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mitchell said that he and Obama wish to restart peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians immediately.
The reason Mitchell's pronouncement might have been interpreted as a move in Israel's direction is because until he made his call for negotiations, recent pronouncements on Israel and the Palestinians by the president and his senior advisers have given the uniform impression that the US no longer favors a negotiated settlement of the Palestinian conflict with Israel.
Through their obsessive focus on Israeli building activities in Judea and Samaria, Obama and his advisers have sent regional leaders the message that they define their role here not as mediators, but as agents for the Palestinians against Israel. Consequently, far from giving the sense that they seek a peace deal that will be acceptable to Israelis and Palestinians alike, they have convinced the Israelis and the Palestinians - as well as much of the Arab world - that the US intends to coerce Israel into accepting a settlement that sacrifices Israeli security and national needs on the altar of maximalist Palestinian ambitions.
This is the view that Fatah leader and putative Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas expressed in his interview with The Washington Post last month ahead of his visit with Obama. As Abbas put it, the Americans "can use their weight with anyone around the world. Two years ago they used their weight on us. Now they should tell the Israelis, 'You have to comply with the conditions.'"
Abbas added that he will "wait for Israel to freeze settlements," and that until he receives this and other Israeli concessions, "we can't talk to anyone."
In other words, in light of the administration's apparent hostility and uncompromising stance toward Israel, Abbas sees no reason to negotiate anything with the Israelis.
So, too, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made clear on Tuesday that he sees the Obama administration as a potential ally for his Iranian-controlled genocidal jihadist movement. Mashaal has four good reasons for viewing things this way. First, in his speech in Cairo, Obama accepted the Arab view that Israel is an alien entity to the Middle East which owes its legitimacy to the genocide of European Jewry by Europeans in Europe, and which has the moral standing of white slaveholders in the antebellum American South.
Second, Obama has pledged $900 million in US taxpayer funds to Hamas-controlled Gaza and is pressuring Israel to support Gaza economically in spite of the fact that Hamas continues to attack southern Israel with rockets and to expand and diversify its arsenals.
Third, the Obama administration is abandoning its predecessor's bid to isolate Hamas by pressuring Fatah and Egypt to offer Hamas full partnership in a Fatah-Hamas unity government which would work to cement Hamas's international legitimacy.
Finally, in light of the White House's silence after Sunday's attempted attack on the IDF by a Hamas-affiliated terror group in Gaza, Mashaal is operating under the impression that nothing Hamas does will divert Washington from its collision course with Israel. With Obama in charge, Hamas believes it can attack Israel with impunity.
So with Israelis and Palestinians now joined in their belief that Obama is looking for a fight with Israel rather than a negotiated settlement, it was encouraging to hear that Mitchell is planning on forcing the Palestinians to the negotiating table with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government.
Unfortunately, within hours of his arrival in Israel on Tuesday, it became clear that Mitchell's statements about negotiations were nothing more than spin. He reiterated that the US has no intention whatsoever of budging on its uncompromising positions that no Jewish construction anywhere past the 1949 armistice lines is legitimate; that Israel must begin moving toward a mass expulsion of Jews from Judea and Samaria; and that the IDF must drastically curtail its counterterror operations in Judea and Samaria. That is, Mitchell demonstrated that like the Palestinians and the Saudis, the Obama administration's idea of a resolution of the Palestinian conflict with Israel involves a complete Israeli surrender to all Arab (and now American) demands while trusting our security to the tender mercies of Palestinian terrorists.
MORE DISTURBING than Mitchell's positions are his marching orders from Obama. Unlike previous presidential envoys who have come to Israel every few weeks and then disappeared when reality proved stronger than their peace fantasies, Obama has ordered Mitchell to cast reality to the seven winds and set up a permanent forward command post in Jerusalem directly subordinate to the White House.
To fulfill his writ, Mitchell has appointed four deputies - all known for their open sympathy for the Palestinians and their hostility to the Netanyahu government. They are Mara Rudman, of the George Soros-financed Center for American Progress; Lt.-Gen. Keith Dayton, who is now building a Fatah army in Jordan which he recently acknowledged will turn its American-financed guns on Israel within a few short years if Israel refuses to establish a Jew-free Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria; Fred Hoff, one of the greatest champions of a US-Syrian rapprochement and of an Israeli surrender of the Golan Heights; and David Hale, the architect of the current US policy of rebuilding the Hizbullah-infested Lebanese army. Hale will be permanently stationed in Jerusalem in a large office suite that will house Mitchell's operation.
Aside from overseeing his deputies, Mitchell has also been charged with leading a new administration program aimed at undermining Israel's ability to make independent military and intelligence decisions. Back in 2008, when Obama's National Security Adviser Gen. Jim Jones served as then-secretary of state Condoleezza Rice's special adviser on Israeli-Palestinian security issues, he authored a report calling for the US to assess what Israel's "real" security interests in Judea and Samaria are and to limit US support to Israel to filling those necessarily minimal interests. Jones's report, which rejected all Israeli claims in Judea and Samaria and underplayed the strategic significance of Palestinian rejection of Israel's right to exist, was viewed as deeply hostile toward Israel, and the Olmert government prevailed on the Bush administration to set it aside.
This is not the case today, however. Obama shares Jones's view that Israel's perception of its security needs is exaggerated. As he made clear in his speeches last week at Cairo and Buchenwald, Obama thinks that Israel suffers from a Holocaust-induced paranoia that causes it to wrongly believe that Arabs and Iranians wish to wipe it off the map. In Obama's view, Israel's fears can be dealt with, and a Middle East peace can be wrought through a US takeover of both Israel's security assessments and its military and intelligence operations and policies.
To this end, and in line with Jones's 2008 report, according to last Friday's Yediot Aharonot, the administration is building an apparatus designed to prevent Israel from exercising independent judgments about its tactical and strategic challenges and deny it the ability to secure its interests without US involvement and consent.
The apparatus reportedly includes members of every US security, foreign policy and intelligence body. These officers will be stationed in Israel and will report to Mitchell, who in turn will report to Jones and Obama. Each officer will be assigned to coordinate with Israeli counterparts in mirror organizations, including the IDF, the Shin Beit, the Mossad, the police and every other relevant Israeli body.
Since there is no polite way for Israel to reject this effective US bid to subvert its capacity to make independent decisions, the most urgent dilemma the Netanyahu government must solve is how to handle Mitchell's new supreme headquarters in Jerusalem. To address this issue, the government must be clear about what it wishes to accomplish in its relations with Mitchell specifically and the Obama administration generally.
As the Obama administration's treatment of Israel to date shows clearly, the president and his advisers have no intention of compromising their hardline positions on Israel. The administration is building its supreme headquarters in Jerusalem to enable Mitchell to act like a colonial governor and confront the unruly Jewish natives - not to cut a deal with us.
ISRAEL HAS nothing to gain, and much to lose from an open and prolonged confrontation with Washington. And so Netanyahu's goal in contending with Mitchell must be twofold: He must seek to avoid an ugly fight with the White House, and he must do so while yielding nothing of substance to the Mitchell command post.
Netanyahu clearly hopes to achieve this goal by showing great respect for Mitchell. On Tuesday he reportedly devoted a full four hours of his schedule to talks with Mitchell and his aides.
While understandable, Netanyahu's willingness to humor Mitchell is a recipe for disaster. Netanyahu cannot allow Mitchell to tie him or his senior ministers down for hours at a time in fruitless discussions about Obama's peace fantasies, or about which set of suicidal Israeli "gestures" might assuage the Obama administration's hunger for a confrontation. Bluntly stated, Israel's prime minister has better things to do with his time. Moreover, Netanyahu cannot debase his office by subordinating his schedule to the whims of a mere presidential envoy.
And so, as former US ambassador to the UN John Bolton first suggested in January during his visit to Israel, Netanyahu must elegantly remove himself from Mitchell's orbit.
To this end, in his policy speech at Bar-Ilan University's Begin-Sadat Center on Sunday, Netanyahu should announce that in the interests of fostering cooperation with the US and advancing prospects for peace, he is appointing a special prime ministerial envoy to Obama's special presidential envoy Mitchell. This envoy - and his purposely inflated staff - should be charged with handling all contacts with Mitchell and his staff and reporting all of their suggestions to Netanyahu for his consideration.
Netanyahu's special envoy should be a senior persona whom he trusts implicitly. Prime candidates for the position would be Dore Gold - who served as UN ambassador during Netanyahu's first term as prime minister - and former minister Natan Sharansky - who Netanyahu has nominated to head the Jewish Agency. Either man would be more than capable of respectfully deflecting US pressure on the Palestinian issue away from Netanyahu and so freeing the prime minister to attend to the Iranian threat.
And that's the thing of it. At the end of the day, Netanyahu has three main challenges that he must meet if he is to successfully protect Israel in the coming years. He must prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. He must secure Israel's national and strategic interests in Judea and Samaria and sole Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem. And he must do what he can to avoid an open breach with Washington.
By deploying Mitchell to Jerusalem, Obama is trying to prevent Netanyahu from achieving any of these aims. Only by neutralizing Mitchell will Netanyahu free his schedule to contend with them.
Last week opposition leader and former foreign minister Tzipi Livni published a very odd op-ed in The New York Times. She regurgitated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's position that there is a difference between democratic processes - like elections - and democratic forces, which are dedicated to liberty and freedom. The latter need democratic processes to rise to power and secure their freedom. But both democrats and tyrants can and do make good use of democratic processes, like elections, to gain power.
Livni's article was strange for two reasons. First, throughout her tenure as a senior minister in both the Sharon and Olmert governments, she never distinguished herself as a champion of democratic forces, either in Israel or in the Arab world. As justice minister under Ariel Sharon in the lead up to the mass expulsions of the Jews from their homes and communities in Gaza and Samaria in August 2005, Livni oversaw the enactment of draconian, patently unconstitutional restrictions on the rights of her political opponents to demonstrate their opposition to the government's policies. She approved moves that prohibited lawful protests, arrested without charge and held without bail thousands of lawful citizens simply on the basis of their political convictions and curtailed the freedom of movement and property rights of tens of thousands on the basis of their political views by interdicting private buses and cars on highways and expropriating property.
As for the Arabs, in 2005, Livni had nothing to say in favor of the Lebanese March 14 movement which successfully forced the Syrian military to withdraw from Lebanon. Far from supporting these champions of democracy and freedom, Livni held her tongue and was identified with the Israeli view that we were better off with Syria in charge than with the instability wrought by freedom. By the same token, she also had nothing to say about Syrian dissidents rotting in Syrian prisons for advocating freedom.
Throughout her tenure as foreign minister, Livni never had a word to say about the democratization of Iraq. She never took the time to defend Mithal Alousi, the Iraqi liberal democrat whose sons were assassinated in retribution for his visit to Israel and his outspoken championing of peace between Iraq and Israel.
She never said a word to encourage Egypt's democracy forces or to distinguish between Egyptian liberal opponents of President-for-life Hosni Mubarak's regime and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Finally, and most importantly, Livni never discussed or evinced the slightest interest in democracy among the Palestinians. She did not oppose the Bush administration's decision to permit Hamas to participate in the 2006 Palestinian elections. She never seriously objected to Fatah repression of liberal forces in Palestinian society. She never even credibly objected to the rampant anti-Jewish propaganda put out by Fatah-controlled media, mosques, schools or universities.
LIVNI'S DECISION to pen an article for a major American newspaper about an issue she has never championed was all the more bizarre given the current focus of US-Israel relations. As her article was hitting the presses, the Obama administration had already begun openly denying the existence of one of her self-proclaimed great achievements in office. In recent years, Livni has repeatedly claimed that as justice minister in Sharon's government, she played a central role in convincing the Bush administration to agree to support the permanent retention of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as part of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians.
The agreement with the administration was publicly announced in May 2004 by then president George W. Bush at the White House following his meeting with Sharon and published in a public letter from Bush to Sharon. Bush's letter recognized that Israel would not return to the 1949 armistice lines and that major communities and blocs of settlements in areas within its domestic consensus like the Adumim bloc, the Ariel bloc and the Etzion bloc would remain under Israeli control in perpetuity. The same is true for areas like the Jordan Valley which are essential for ensuring that our borders are defensible.
Sharon upheld the Bush letter as an "unprecedented achievement" in a speech before the Knesset. And he, his chief of staff Dov Weisglass, Livni, and Ehud Olmert all presented it as the payoff for leaving Gaza.
IN RECENT MONTHS, Elliot Abrams, Bush's deputy national security adviser has published several articles making public the fact that Bush's letter formed the basis of a detailed agreement between the administration and Israel relating to construction within the settlement blocs. None of Abrams' colleagues have gone on record to dispute his disclosures.
It was on the basis of both Bush's letter and this more detailed agreement that both the Sharon and Olmert governments agreed to permit the US to act as an arbiter of Israel's implementation the so-called road map peace plan. Based on these side agreements, which were undertaken as formal US commitments, both the Sharon and Olmert governments believed they had secured US backing for further building in Judea and Samaria and the permanent presence of Israeli communities there, even in the event that a Palestinian state is established.
At the time, commentators like myself, and Likud leaders like Netanyahu criticized Sharon, Livni and Olmert as naïve for believing Israel could trust a foreign government - no matter how friendly - to act as a guarantor for its national security. While the Bush administration may have been a trustworthy ally, given the fact that the US is a democracy, there was no way to know that obligations undertaken by the Bush White House would survive Bush's tenure in office. Livni's blindness at the time to the nature of shifting national interests and to the perils of placing our national security in the hands of others bespoke her foolishness.
BUT FAR WORSE than her earlier naïve bravado about her supposed diplomatic acumen is her current silence in the face of the Obama administration's dishonest denials of the existence of the agreements she and her colleagues concluded. Today, in the face of repeated and patently false statements by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserting that no agreements on this issue were ever reached, Livni has opted to say nothing. And here she is not being foolish. She is demonstrating a pernicious opportunism that is frankly dangerous for the well-being of the country.
By refusing to insist on the existence of agreements that just months ago she trumpeted as her great claim to fame, Livni is lining up behind the Obama administration as it seeks to blame the absence of peace in the region on the Netanyahu government's refusal to accept obligations that she herself never accepted. In her bid to destabilize the Netanyahu government in the hopes that by doing so she will advance her own fortunes, Livni is collaborating with an American assault on the democratically elected government of her country in spite of the fact that this assault is predicated on false allegations against her own policies in office.
No less significant than what Livni's perfidious collaboration with the administration against her own government tells us about her character is what the nature of the Obama administration's assault on the Netanyahu government tells us about Livni's central strategic platform.
Both today and during her tenure in power, she has advocated a national security strategy based on subcontracting vital national security interests to outside forces. Just as the US was supposed to act as a guarantor for the settlement blocs, so, from Livni's perspective, Fatah forces and an international force comprised of European and perhaps US military units were supposed to protect Israel from Gaza in the aftermath of withdrawal from the area. This was also her vision for a post-withdrawal Judea and Samaria.It was also her position on how the country should secure its interests regarding Lebanon and Hizbullah. And it is also her position that we should trust the international community to protect us from the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran. As far as Livni is concerned, there is no vital interest that Israel cannot trust outside forces to secure for it.
Both today and during the time she was in office, we have been witness to instance after instance where Livni's strategic rationale was proven wrong. From Hizbullah's postwar emergence not as an international pariah but as a legitimate force in Lebanese politics, recognized by the likes of Britain even as it works to transform Lebanon into an Iranian colony and overthrow the regimes in Egypt and Morocco, to the Obama administration's decision not to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, her view is exposed as folly.
From the administration's acceptance of the Hamas regime in Gaza as manifested by its $900 million pledge of humanitarian assistance to Gaza and Obama's demand that Israel open its borders with the Iranian proxy terror enclave, Livni's position has been a demonstrated failure.
From the US's commitment to building a Palestinian army to its patently mendacious denial of the Bush administration's formal commitments to Israel's rights in Judea and Samaria, Livni's strategic framework has been shown to be not simply foolish, but dangerous to the country.
All of this is important for both the public and the Netanyahu government to bear in mind in the coming days, weeks and months. Today the local print and broadcast media are putting massive, unrelenting pressure on the government to bow to US pressure and come to some sort of an agreement with the Obama White House. Yet what the administration's denial of previous US commitments and the crisis these denials have provoked show is that such deals and accommodations are completely worthless.
Then too, Livni's own behavior towards both the government and the Obama administration tells both the public and the government something very important about her willingness to behave as the loyal opposition. Very bluntly, Livni's silence in the face of the administration's lies about her own record shows that she is more loyal to her parochial political interests than to national interests.
During his visit to Dresden, Obama remarked that with Jerusalem's current governing coalition, it will be difficult for Netanyahu to bow to his will and stop allowing Jewish building beyond the indefensible 1949 armistice lines.
In making this point, Obama was clearly signaling that the White House would be happy to see Kadima join the government and compel Netanyahu to adopt its strategic view that Israel is better off empowering outsiders to secure its national interests. But what Livni has shown - both through her political behavior and her strategic outlook - is that the country and the Netanyahu government are better off without an agreement with the Americans and without Kadima and its leader in the government. Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.
US President Barack Obama claims to be a big fan of telling the truth. In media interviews ahead of his trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt and during his big speech in Cairo on Thursday, he claimed that the centerpiece of his Middle East policy is his willingness to tell people hard truths.
Indeed, Obama made three references to the need to tell the truth in his so-called address to the Muslim world.
Unfortunately, for a speech billed as an exercise in truth telling, Obama's address fell short. Far from reflecting hard truths, Obama's speech reflected political convenience.
Obama's so-called hard truths for the Islamic world included statements about the need to fight so-called extremists; give equal rights to women; provide freedom of religion; and foster democracy. Unfortunately, all of his statements on these issues were nothing more than abstract, theoretical declarations devoid of policy prescriptions.
He spoke of the need to fight Islamic terrorists without mentioning that their intellectual, political and monetary foundations and support come from the very mosques, politicians and regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt that Obama extols as moderate and responsible.
He spoke of the need to grant equality to women without making mention of common Islamic practices like so-called honor killings, and female genital mutilation. He ignored the fact that throughout the lands of Islam women are denied basic legal and human rights. And then he qualified his statement by mendaciously claiming that women in the US similarly suffer from an equality deficit. In so discussing this issue, Obama sent the message that he couldn't care less about the plight of women in the Islamic world.
So, too, Obama spoke about the need for religious freedom but ignored Saudi Arabian religious apartheid. He talked about the blessings of democracy but ignored the problems of tyranny.
In short, Obama's "straight talk" to the Arab world, which began with his disingenuous claim that like America, Islam is committed to "justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings," was consciously and fundamentally fraudulent. And this fraud was advanced to facilitate his goal of placing the Islamic world on equal moral footing with the free world.
In a like manner, Obama's tough "truths" about Israel were marked by factual and moral dishonesty in the service of political ends.
On the surface, Obama seemed to scold the Muslim world for its all-pervasive Holocaust denial and craven Jew hatred. By asserting that Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism are wrong, he seemed to be upholding his earlier claim that America's ties to Israel are "unbreakable."
Unfortunately, a careful study of his statements shows that Obama was actually accepting the Arab view that Israel is a foreign - and therefore unjustifiable - intruder in the Arab world. Indeed, far from attacking their rejection of Israel, Obama legitimized it.
The basic Arab argument against Israel is that the only reason Israel was established was to sooth the guilty consciences of Europeans who were embarrassed about the Holocaust. By their telling, the Jews have no legal, historic or moral rights to the Land of Israel.
This argument is completely false. The international community recognized the legal, historic and moral rights of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel long before anyone had ever heard of Adolf Hitler. In 1922, the League of Nations mandated the "reconstitution" - not the creation - of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel in its historic borders on both sides of the Jordan River.
But in his self-described exercise in truth telling, Obama ignored this basic truth in favor of the Arab lie. He gave credence to this lie by stating wrongly that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history."
He then explicitly tied Israel's establishment to the Holocaust by moving to a self-serving history lesson about the genocide of European Jewry.
Even worse than his willful blindness to the historic, legal and moral justifications for Israel's rebirth, was Obama's characterization of Israel itself. Obama blithely, falsely and obnoxiously compared Israel's treatment of Palestinians to white American slave owners' treatment of their black slaves. He similarly cast Palestinian terrorists in the same morally pure category as slaves. Perhaps most repulsively, Obama elevated Palestinian terrorism to the moral heights of slave rebellions and the US civil rights movement by referring to it by its Arab euphemism, "resistance."
BUT AS disappointing and frankly obscene as Obama's rhetoric was, the policies he outlined were much worse. While prattling about how Islam and America are two sides of the same coin, Obama managed to spell out two clear policies. First, he announced that he will compel Israel to completely end all building for Jews in Judea, Samaria, and eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem. Second, he said that he will strive to convince Iran to substitute its nuclear weapons program with a nuclear energy program.
Obama argued that the first policy will facilitate peace and the second policy will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Upon reflection, however, it is clear that neither of his policies can possibly achieve his stated aims. Indeed, their inability to accomplish the ends he claims he has adopted them to advance is so obvious, that it is worth considering what his actual rationale for adopting them may be.
The administration's policy toward Jewish building in Israel's heartland and capital city expose a massive level of hostility toward Israel. Not only does it fly in the face of explicit US commitments to Israel undertaken by the Bush administration, it contradicts a longstanding agreement between successive Israeli and American governments not to embarrass each other.
Moreover, the fact that the administration cannot stop attacking Israel about Jewish construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, but has nothing to say about Hizbullah's projected democratic takeover of Lebanon next week, Hamas's genocidal political platform, Fatah's involvement in terrorism, or North Korean ties to Iran and Syria, has egregious consequences for the prospects for peace in the region.
As Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas made clear in his interview last week with The Washington Post, in light of the administration's hostility toward Israel, the Palestinian Authority no longer feels it is necessary to make any concessions whatsoever to Israel. It needn't accept Israel's identity as a Jewish state. It needn't minimize in any way its demand that Israel commit demographic suicide by accepting millions of foreign, hostile Arabs as full citizens. And it needn't curtail its territorial demand that Israel contract to within indefensible borders.
In short, by attacking Israel and claiming that Israel is responsible for the absence of peace, the administration is encouraging the Palestinians and the Arab world as a whole to continue to reject Israel and to refuse to make peace with the Jewish state.
The Netanyahu government reportedly fears that Obama and his advisers have made such an issue of settlements because they seek to overthrow Israel's government and replace it with the more pliable Kadima party. Government sources note that White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel played a central role in destabilizing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's first government in 1999, when he served as an adviser to then president Bill Clinton. They also note that Emmanuel is currently working with leftist Israelis and American Jews associated with Kadima and the Democratic Party to discredit the government.
While there is little reason to doubt that the Obama administration would prefer a leftist government in Jerusalem, it is unlikely that the White House is attacking Israel primarily to advance this aim. This is first of all the case because today there is little danger that Netanyahu's coalition partners will abandon him.
Moreover, the Americans have no reason to believe that prospects for a peace deal would improve with a leftist government at the helm in Jerusalem. After all, despite its best efforts, the Kadima government was unable to make peace with the Palestinians, as was the Labor government before it. What the Palestinians have shown consistently since the failed 2000 Camp David summit is that there is no deal that Israel can offer them that they are willing to accept.
So if the aim of the administration in attacking Israel is neither to foster peace nor to bring down the Netanyahu government, what can explain its behavior?
The only reasonable explanation is that the administration is baiting Israel because it wishes to abandon the Jewish state as an ally in favor of warmer ties with the Arabs. It has chosen to attack Israel on the issue of Jewish construction because it believes that by concentrating on this issue, it will minimize the political price it will be forced to pay at home for jettisoning America's alliance with Israel. By claiming that he is only pressuring Israel to enable a peaceful "two-state solution," Obama assumes that he will be able to maintain his support base among American Jews who will overlook the underlying hostility his "pro-peace" stance papers over.
OBAMA'S POLICY toward Iran is a logical complement of his policy toward Israel. Just as there is no chance that he will bring Middle East peace closer by attacking Israel, so he will not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons by offering the mullahs nuclear energy. The deal Obama is now proposing has been on the table since 2003, when Iran's nuclear program was first exposed. Over the past six years, the Iranians have repeatedly rejected it. Indeed, just last week they again announced that they reject it.
Here, too, to understand the president's actual goal it is necessary to search for the answers closer to home. Since Obama's policy has no chance of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, it is apparent that he has come to terms with the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran. In light of this, the most rational explanation for his policy of engagement is that he wishes to avoid being blamed when Iran emerges as a nuclear power in the coming months.
In reckoning with the Obama administration, it is imperative that the Netanyahu government and the public alike understand the true goals of its current policies. Happily, consistent polling data show that the overwhelming majority of Israelis realize that the White House is deeply hostile toward Israel. The data also show that the public approves of Netanyahu's handling of our relations with Washington.
Moving forward, the government must sustain this public awareness and support. By his words as well as by his deeds, not only has Obama shown that he is not a friend of Israel. He has shown that there is nothing that Israel can do to make him change his mind.
The end of America's strategic alliance with Israel?
The following is a short comment I wrote about Obama's speech Thursday for NRO. Mark Levin read it on his radio show yesterday. If you'd like to hear him, this is the link. The recitation starts around 40 minutes into the clip.
FROM AN Israeli perspective, Pres. Barack Obama's speech today in Cairo was deeply disturbing. Both rhetorically and programmatically, Obama's speech was a renunciation of America's strategic alliance with Israel.
Rhetorically, Obama sugar coated the pathologies of the Islamic world -- from the tyranny that characterizes its regimes, to the misogyny, xenophobia, Jew hatred, and general intolerance that characterizes its societies. In so doing he made clear that his idea of pressing the restart button with the Islamic world involves erasing the moral distinctions between the Islamic world and the free world.
In contrast, Obama's perverse characterization of Israel -- of the sources of its legitimacy and of its behavior -- made clear that he shares the Arab world's view that there is something basically illegitimate about the Jewish state.
In 1922 the League of Nations mandated Great Britain to facilitate the reconstitution of the Jewish commonwealth in the Land of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River. The international community's decision to work towards the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in Israel owed to its recognition of the Jewish people's legal, historic, and moral rights to our homeland.
Arab propaganda finds this basic and fundamental truth inconvenient. So for the past 60 years, the Arabs have been advancing the fiction that Israel's existence owes solely to European guilt over the Holocaust. As far as the Arabs are concerned, the Jews have no legal, historic, or moral right to what the Arabs see as Islamic land.
In his address, while Obama admonished the Arabs for their pervasive Jew hatred and Holocaust denial, he effectively accepted and legitimized their view that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust when he said, "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied," and then went on to talk about the Holocaust.
Just as abominably, Obama compared Israel to Southern slave owners and Palestinians to black slaves in the antebellum south. He used the Arab euphemism "resistance" to discuss Palestinian terrorism, and generally ignored the fact that every Palestinian political faction is also a terrorist organization.
In addition to his morally outrageous characterization of Israel and factually inaccurate account of its foundations, Obama struck out at the Jewish state through the two policies he outlined in his address. His first policy involves coercing Israel into barring all Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria (otherwise known as the West Bank), and Jerusalem.
Obama claims that this policy will increase prospects for peace. But this is untrue. As Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas made clear in his Washington Post interview last week, Obama's trenchant campaign against Jewish construction in these areas has convinced the Palestinians they have no reason to be flexible in their positions towards Israel. Indeed, Obama's assault on Israeli construction and his unsubstantiated, bigoted claim that the presence of Jews in Judea, Samaria, and Jerusalem impedes progress towards peace ensures that there will be no agreement whatsoever between Israel and the Palestinians.
After all, why would the Palestinians make a deal with Israel when they know that Obama will blame Israel for the absence of a peace agreement?
Even more strategically devastating than his castigation of Israel as the villain in the Arab-Israel conflict is Obama's stated policy towards Iran. In Cairo, Obama offered Iran nuclear energy in exchange for its nuclear-weapons program. This offer has been on the table since 2003 and has been repeatedly rejected by the Iranians. Indeed, they rejected it yet again last week.
Obama must know that his policy will not lead to the hoped for change in Iran's behavior. And since he must know this, the only rational explanation for his decision to adopt a policy he knows will fail is that he is comfortable with the idea of Iran becoming a nuclear power. And this is something that Israel cannot abide by.
The only silver lining for Israelis from the president's speech in Cairo and his general positions on the Middle East is that Obama has overplayed his hand. Far from bending to his will, a large majority of Israelis perceives Obama as a hostile force and has rallied in support of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu against the administration. This public support gives Netanyahu the maneuver room he needs to take the actions that Israel needs to take to defend against the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran and to assert its national rights and to defend itself against Palestinian terrorists and other Arab and non-Arab anti-Semites who wish it ill.
Last night I was honored to received Guardian of Zion Award from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar Ilan University. The ceremony was held at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. Play the Audio here:
The following is the full text prepared for delivery of the lecture I presented at the dinner. I titled it "Jerusalem, the Eternal Frontline."
It was a beautiful evening, one that I daresay I will always remember.
Good evening. Minister Landau, Members of Knesset, President Moshe Kaveh of Bar Ilan University, Professor Benzion Netanyahu, past Guardian of Zion award winners Prof. Elie Wiesel and Arthur Cohn, and honored guests, thank you all for coming here today. I would also like to thank some very important people who made a special trip to join me here this evening. Thank you to my parents, Sharon and Gerald Glick who came here from Chicago. Thank you to Frank Gaffney, the President of the Center for Security Policy in Washington and my dear colleague, and his wife Marisol for flying in from Washington to be here. Thank you to Professor Avi Bell from Bar Ilan University Law School, my friend and intellectual sounding board for delaying your flight to New York where you'll be presenting a paper at a law conference tomorrow, to be here with me tonight. Thank you to Prof. Joshua Schwartz from the Ingeborg Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar Ilan and your staff for organizing this event. And finally and most importantly, thank you Mr. and Mrs. Ira and Inga Rennert. Thank you for bringing my parents and the Gaffneys to Jerusalem for this event. Thank you for your extraordinary support for my work. And thank you for being such amazing Jews who give of yourselves everyday for Israel, for Jerusalem and for the Jewish people throughout the world. I am privileged to know you and we are blessed as a people to have you among our leading lights.
I TAKE ENORMOUS satisfaction from receiving this award. For nearly as long as I can remember, the image of the watchman on the gates of Jerusalem has been the singular image of Jewish strength for me. It is has always been to the Jewish watchmen, ever vigilant, to whom we have owed our lives, and our survival as a people. Today these watchmen preserve our freedom in our land. For fifty generations in exile, it was the memory of those Jewish Centurions, manning the barricades that inspired us to keep faith with our traditions, our God, our law, and our land. I believe that it is an honor beyond measure that Bar Ilan University and the Rennert Center would deem it proper to cast me among the ranks of our greatest defenders and champions. I know I do not deserve this distinction. I certainly do not believe that I have earned it. But I do know that since childhood I have strived to emulate the image of the watchman - or watchwoman -- on the walls of Zion. And I pledge that I will continue throughout my life to strive to earn the distinction you bestow on me tonight.
THE WATCHMAN at the gates is a powerful image. But of course the defense of Jerusalem does not begin at the gates. And guarding Jerusalem is not simply a matter of physical strength. It requires spiritual commitment and wisdom as well. Indeed, defenders of Zion require a greater mix of physical and spiritual strength than any defenders of any spot on earth. Both our recent and ancient history as a people is one continuous testament to this truth. And it is this aspect of Jerusalem - the eternal and temporal front line of the Jewish people - that I wish to discuss with you tonight. If you drove to Jerusalem this evening from Tel Aviv, as the coastal plain suddenly ended 25 kilometers from the city at Shaar Haguy or Bab el Wahd, you reached the starting point of the siege of Jerusalem from 1947. It was from this gauntlet that the British-commanded Jordan Legion sought - with the help of the Arabs of Jerusalem and surrounding villages - to cut the Jews of the city off from the rest of the country and so to conquer the nascent Jewish state. As you began ascending through the hills to Jerusalem you could see the remnants of some of the most fearsome and bloody battles of the war. They came in the form of the reverentially preserved hulks of armored personnel carriers used by Haganah and Palmach units sent in front of the Jordanian snipers in a continuous attempt to bring reinforcements and food to the besieged Jews of Jerusalem. As the hills -- covered on both sides by JNF forests -- rose to meet you, you passed the Latrun fortress on your right. It was the British decision to transfer control over Latrun - with its command over the road below - to the Jordan Legion, that all but guaranteed the fall of Jerusalem by preventing reinforcements from aiding its undermanned defenders. Wave after wave of Jewish soldiers threw themselves against the guns of the Jordan Legion in a desperate attempt to break its chokehold on Jerusalem.
If you came to this hotel from the center of town, you may have gone by Davidka Square. There you would have passed by one of the primitive mortars used by the Harel Brigade in the battle for Jerusalem. The Davidka was grossly ineffective as a killing machine. But between its thunderous noise and the rumor mill, it proved an effective tool of psychological warfare against the enemy. Even more than in traditional conflicts, the psychological aspect of the War of Independence played a pivotal role in determining its outcome. The Jews, who just three years before had been incinerated in European crematoria were an object of wonder no less than hatred for our enemies. Like the phoenix rising from the ashes, for many Arabs there was a sense that supernatural powers were at work as the new Jewish state rose from the ruins of Jerusalem. For their part, schooled in the martial traditions of Joshua and Gideon, the Jews of 1948 blended seamlessly the psychological and the metaphysical with armor and steel. The Davidka monument is just as much a reminder of what this uniquely Jewish military doctrine can achieve as the unwalled city of Jericho.
If you came this way from the Old City, you most likely walked through the Jewish Quarter. It was to the 1,700 Jews who lived there in 1948 and their 150 defenders that the eyes of the citizens of nascent Jewish state were turned. The future security of the country was dependent on their ability to withstand the Arab siege. They had to be assisted and they had to hold their ground if the war was to end in a resounding victory for the Jews. Tragically, the spiritual strength that sustained us 61 years ago was not matched by sufficient physical strength to hold the city. As Jerusalem commander Dov Yosef instructed the starving and desperate Jews within the walls about the nutritional benefits of various leaves that they could eat in the absence of food, and as wave after wave of Jewish fighters fell to their deaths on the roads ringing the city -- at Latrun, the Castel, Har Adar and Gush Etzion - in their bid to relieve the Jerusalemites -- the British-commanded Jordanians delighted in our suffering. Arab snipers picked off any Jew within range. In the end, the Jews of the Old City held out for 6 months. Last week marked the 61st anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem on May 27, 1948. Of the Jewish Quarter's 150 defenders, only 43 survived until the Hurva synagogue was destroyed by the Jordan Legion. It was the destruction of the venerable old synagogue that finally forced the hands of the rabbis within the walls. After the Hurva was destroyed, the rabbis began negotiating the surrender of the Old City to the Arabs.
If you walked to the King David Hotel today from the Old City, and exited through the Jaffa Gate, you certainly took note of the gentrified neighborhood of Mamila. Today, as you walk through the new upscale shopping plaza, it is hard to believe, that from May 27, 1948 through June 7, 1967 Mamila was Israel's frontline. It was Sderot and Kiryat Shemona of its time. The Jews of the neighborhood lived in constant fear of Jordanian snipers who took pot shots from the walls of the conquered city at the Jews down below. The buildings you passed were once surrounded by sandbags. The Jews who lived inside them would run, not walk across the street. Any hesitation could spell their death. But then, on the third day of the Six Day War, their long nightmare ended. After 19 years, the IDF succeeded in liberating the capital city. Paratroopers from kibbutzim danced with yeshiva buchers as they stood in awe before the remnant of the Second Temple. In June 1967, the proper balance between our spiritual and physical defenses had finally been struck. After 2000 years, we were again a free people.
EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, on May 27, 1991, the 43rd anniversary of the fall of Jerusalem, and the 24th anniversary of its liberation, tens of thousands of Jews from Ethiopia were airlifted to the Jewish state. As then prime minister Yitzhak Shamir said, the Ethiopian aliyah marked the first time in history where Africans were liberated from slavery by being taken out of Africa. The entire country celebrated the arrival of these Jews, who had maintained their allegiance to Zion for thousands of years often in complete isolation from the rest of the people of Israel. The next day, May 28, 1991, I stepped off an El Al plane at Ben Gurion Airport, and before reaching the passport check, I walked up the stairs of the old terminal building to the Ministry of Absorption's offices and officially made aliyah. A friend picked me and my massive immigrant suitcases up and a few hours later, I began my new life in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem that greeted me 18 years ago was almost entirely free from fear. It was hard for me to imagine that the city had ever been endangered as I rode the buses, walked along the streets, sat in cafes, hiked in the forests, shopped in supermarkets and clothing stores. As I moved without fear through Arab neighborhoods, and traversed the old and new city, it rarely occurred to me that I was walking on contested ground. The Palestinian uprising, which had begun in 1988 and had instigated a period of self-segregation and renewed hostility towards Israel among the city's Arab residents, had been defeated in the wake of the Gulf War. But unbeknownst to me and to my fellow Jerusalemites, all of this was set to change just two years later. When, as part of the implementation of the Oslo peace process with the PLO, the government of Israel allowed for an Arab armed force to be deployed on the outskirts of the city, fear returned to Jerusalem. Within just a few weeks of the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Jerusalem again became the front line of the country as terrorists from Ramallah, Hebron, Beit Lehem and beyond converged on Jerusalem to terrorize its people in shooting attacks and suicide bombings. What the people of Sderot experience today was first suffered by residents of Gilo. I moved away from Jerusalem at the end of 1991, after I joined the army. I returned to the city in 2002. By that time, the sense of safety I had felt here during my first months in the country had been obliterated. Every day brought a new atrocity or attempted atrocity. My own street became the scene of carnage as a bus was bombed just a half a block from my front door. My neighbors' mangled bodies were strewn before me as I ran out of my home with some vague notion that I could help someone. While there was no hunger among the city's residents in 2002 as there had been during the siege in 1948, the chronic, continuous sense that at any moment you could be killed filled the air with similar dread and foreboding. It was only after the government finally unleashed the Israel Defense Force in Judea and Samaria that a semblance of normality returned again to the city. It was only after Operation Defensive Shield returned our soldiers to the streets of Ramallah, Beit Lehem, Shehem, Jenin, Kalkilya and Hebron, and vastly curtailed the powers of the Palestinian armed forces, that we could feel safe going out to dinner and riding the bus again.
DURING THE YEARS THAT Jerusalem came under physical threat, it also became politically threatened. Israel's acquiescence to the PLO's military presence on the outskirts of the city began a process of unraveling Israel's own claim to the city. As Yassir Arafat ordered his forces to march on Jerusalem, and denied that the Jewish people have any rights to the city, successive Israeli governments found themselves on the diplomatic defensive. Just as our leaders allowed Jerusalem's physical wellbeing to be threatened, so they enabled its political unity to come under assault. Rather than insist that the world recognize our sovereign rights to our capital, at best, our leaders spoke of the strategic importance of Jerusalem to our physical security. The element of metaphysical power embodied by the tactically worthless Davidka was absent from discussions of how Israel needed Tzur Bahar and Jabel Mukaber to defend Armon HaNatziv or how our control over Shoefat and Beit Hanina is necessary to defend Ramot, Neve Yaakov and Pisgat Zeev. Happily today Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat have abandoned this defensive posture and are waging strident campaigns against all who demand that we again surrender our eternal capital. But for much of the past 15 years, the full expanse of Jewish history and identity was narrowed to a discussion of isolated neighborhoods, as if they were what this is all about. Jerusalem's importance is far greater than the sum total of its neighborhoods. In ignoring this basic truth, our leaders did more to imperil the city's neighborhoods than legions of our enemies could hope to accomplish.
Even more devastating than what we said to the world is what we said to ourselves. For much of the past 15 years, our national leaders scornfully and contemptuously worked to limit our expectations and accused us of being greedy for assuming we had a right to our capital. When did King David live in Abu Dis, they sneered. Why were we needlessly upsetting the Arabs by moving back to Ir David, they hissed. The underlying message was clear. We were provoking our enemies by asserting our rights, which we were told, were unimportant. In general, since 1994, to greater and lesser degrees, our leaders abandoned Jerusalem as our metaphysical frontline and reduced the rationale of our control over our eternal capital to a security argument. This argument is fine for as far is it goes. We explained - correctly - that without Israeli control over Jerusalem, the entire country would be under threat. And this is true. Indeed it has always been true. Among other reasons, King David chose Jerusalem as his capital city because of its strategic importance. Were foreign forces to take control over Jerusalem and surrounding areas today, everything from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv to Beersheva to Tiberias would be placed under threat.
As Shaar Haguy in 1948 and Beit Jalla in 2000 showed, with foreign forces on the outskirts of the city, Jerusalem is cut off from the rest of the country. To secure the city is to secure the country. And to abandon the city - whether by surrendering control of the road to Tel Aviv or by relinquishing Judea and Samaria -- is to imperil the country. Specifically, placing foreign forces in Jerusalem or on its doorstep would mean importing Gaza into the heart of the country. Jerusalemites would find ourselves living in bomb shelters like our brothers and sisters in Sderot. Tel Aviv would find itself, like Ofakim, within range of enemy rockets. Terrorists with simple portable weapons could sit on the hills of Jerusalem and shoot down civilian jetliners landing at Ben Gurion airport. In wartime, terrorists with primitive artillery could shut down the country's vital traffic arteries, preventing reservists from reaching the fronts to defend the state. Although inarguably accurate, Israel's security arguments for its sovereignty over Jerusalem have fallen on deaf ears. Neither the Americans - who demand that we cease asserting our sovereignty over eastern, northern and southern Jerusalem, not to mention Judea and Samaria -- nor the Arabs consider Jerusalem primarily a military issue.
The Americans prefer to ignore the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of the city's frontline status as they push for an Israeli retreat to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. For them, the issue of Jerusalem is no more than a petty real estate squabble. But our enemies know better. For them the question of who controls Jerusalem is rightly recognized as the core issue - as the issue upon which Israel rises or falls as a state and as a people. Earlier this month, this point was made clearly by one of Israel's sworn enemies. In a television interview on May 7, the PLO's Ambassador to Lebanon Abbas Zaki explained that from the PLO to the Iranian mullahs, Jerusalem is seen as the metaphysical key to Israel's wellbeing. As he put it, "With the [implementation of the] two-state solution, [involving an Israeli relinquishment of Jerusalem], in my opinion, Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made - just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward."
As a wayward Jew once said, "The truth will set you free." We owe the likes of Zaki -- and the Iranians who call their most prestigious terrorist unit the Jerusalem Brigade - a big thank you for reminding us of who we are and what we need to survive. For even as our leaders tried to forget what we as a people have always known, our history - both ancient and modern - is testament to the truth of Zaki's statement.
WE MARK THE END of Jewish control over the Land of Israel as having occurred not with the Roman invasion in 63 BCE, nor from the defeat of Bar Kochba's rebellion 182 years later in 135. We mark the hurban, the destruction of our sovereignty as having occurred with the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE. And why is this the case? It is because people do not fight for strategically significant hilltops. They fight for ideas like freedom. They fight for symbols, for abstractions like flags. They fight for their beliefs. They fight for their way of life. They do not fight for strategic advantage. We Jews know this better than any other people. We were the first people to self-consciously define ourselves at Mt. Sinai as a nation committed to an abstract principle of an invisible God, an abstract code of law, and an abstract, yet-to-be-seen promised land. Josef Trumpeldor is not remembered as a great hero for having said, "It is good to die for strategically significant hilltops," - although that is what he died defending. Trumpeldor is remembered as a great hero for declaring, "It is good to die for our country." Even further back, we remember that the only reason the Kingdom of Judea did not suffer the same fate as the Kingdom of Israel in the end of the 8th century BCE is because as the ten tribes of Israel were expelled into oblivion, King Hezkiyahu saved Jerusalem from the Assyrians. Due to his failed attempt to purge Judea of Assyrian influence, Hezkiyahu lost Lachish and Gat and dozens of other cities and villages and was forced to fall back on Jerusalem. There, against all odds, Hezkiyahu kept Jerusalem free. He breached the Assyrian siege by digging his famous water tunnel under the city. Assyrian King Sennacherib, who destroyed the Kingdom of Israel and deported the ten tribes, went home empty-handed. His conquest of all the other cities and villages meant little without Jerusalem. By saving Jerusalem, Hezkiyahu saved Jewish independence and through it, he saved the Jewish people.
As Isaiah had promised in Chapter 37, verses 32-35: לב כִּי מִירוּשָׁלִַם תֵּצֵא שְׁאֵרִית, וּפְלֵיטָה מֵהַר צִיּוֹן; קִנְאַת יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת, תַּעֲשֶׂה-זֹּאת. לג לָכֵן, כֹּה-אָמַר יְהוָה אֶל-מֶלֶךְ אַשּׁוּר, לֹא יָבוֹא אֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת, וְלֹא-יוֹרֶה שָׁם חֵץ; וְלֹא-יְקַדְּמֶנָּה מָגֵן, וְלֹא-יִשְׁפֹּךְ עָלֶיהָ סֹלְלָה. לד בַּדֶּרֶךְ אֲשֶׁר-בָּא, בָּהּ יָשׁוּב; וְאֶל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת לֹא יָבוֹא, נְאֻם-יְהוָה. לה וְגַנּוֹתִי עַל-הָעִיר הַזֹּאת, לְהוֹשִׁיעָהּ--לְמַעֲנִי, וּלְמַעַן דָּוִד עַבְדִּי. "From Jerusalem and Mt. Zion the people will be renewed. And so God said to the King of Assyria, you will not enter this city, you will not shoot your arrows upon it, you will not breach its defenses, your cannons will not reach it. You will go back the way you came. You will not enter this city, God decreed. I defended this city to save it for me and for David my servant."
Our history as a people - both ancient and modern - has always been tied to Jerusalem. On Hanukah we remember the Maccabean revolt in a very telling way. The Maccabees began their revolt against the Greeks in 167 BCE. The fighting lasted for 23 years until Jonathan was crowned king. But we remember the revolt for an event that occurred two years into the fighting. We celebrate the revolt not because it established the Maccabean dynasty. We celebrate it because in 165, Judah Maccabi liberated the Temple and so reinstated our sovereignty as a nation and our hope for national renewal. Again - from Jerusalem and Mt. Zion, the people were renewed. Just as Zaki, Arafat, Nasrallah, and Ahmadinejad remind us every day, from the outset of our nationhood here in Israel four thousand years ago, throughout the centuries of our dispersion and to this day, our fate as a nation - both physically and spiritually - has always been tied directly to our control, or lack of control over Jerusalem. Jerusalem has always been our front line both physically and spiritually. Rabbi Akiva knew, as he gazed at the destroyed Temple from Mt. Scopus that one day our control over the city would be restored and so our national wellbeing would be renewed. This is why he laughed as he watched foxes entering and exiting the Holiest of Holies. Perhaps if he had known then that it would take nearly 2,000 years for that to happen, he would have joined his colleagues in their tears instead of shocking them with his laughter and gaiety. But still, today we know that Rabbi Akiva was right. Our return to Jerusalem did presage our national rebirth with the renewal of our sovereignty in 1948 and 1967. The modern Zionist movement, which officially began with Hovevei Tzion in 1882, came after the Jewish repopulation of Jerusalem. By 1850, Jews again comprised the majority of the city's population. And it was our strong presence here that emboldened the early Zionists to believe that a mass return to Zion was finally possible. It was because we had returned again to Jerusalem that our hope and so our strength were finally renewed after 2000 years of stateless wandering and persecution.
LET US RETURN for a moment to 1967. There were many glorious events that occurred during those six days in June. I said before that it was only in 1967 that we wrought the proper balance between physical and spiritual strength. I would like to consider that statement at somewhat greater length. In June 1967, Israel was transformed from a threatened, vulnerable Jewish statelet into a mighty state to be reckoned with. But who celebrated -- then or since -- the conquest of Gaza and Kalkilyah? Who remembers the great battles in the Sinai or even the Golan Heights? The images of that war that have entered our collective consciousness - never to leave - are the images of our paratroopers on the Temple Mount, of Mota Gur crying "Har Habayit b'Yadeinu!" "the Temple Mount is in our hands!," of our young soldiers praying at the Western Wall. The convergence of Jerusalem as our frontline of physical security and spiritual security was palpable in those days.
In honor of Yom Yerushalayim this month, a documentary was aired on Israel Television about the signals battalion in the Paratroopers Brigade. The battalion played a major role in the fighting - first taking over the Rockefeller Museum, then the Temple Mount, then the Kotel, then the walls of the city. In the documentary, the heroes who liberated Jerusalem were brought together forty years later to celebrate its renewal and to recall their fight. They told a stunning story. After the city was liberated, they situated themselves in the abandoned Jordanian police station just inside the Jaffa Gate. The same station now houses the Israel police. In one of the rooms, they found a large quantity of musical instruments. Apparently, a Jordanian police band was stationed at the site and stored its instruments there. The men took one of the drums and climbed up the walls of the Old City overlooking Mamila. There the Jews had been huddled beneath the streets in their bomb shelters for several weeks. As they ascended the walls, the paratroopers began pounding the drum. It must have been a terrifically strange noise since they all claimed to have had no idea how to play the drums. As the men told it, and as a woman who had been hiding in the shelters with her family recalled, the civilians became perplexed at the new sound that replaced the familiar staccato pop of gun bursts and cannon fire. Slowly, they began emerging from the shelters to find out what was happening. There above them, they saw the flag of Israel flying. They saw Jewish watchmen on the walls, beating the drums of victory in a half-mad boom, boom, boom. And at the site of the Guardians of Zion above them, the Jews of Mamila began to dance as in times of old. They danced and danced, and walked to the walls, first tentatively, and then with a massive convulsion of joy and relief, of hope and ecstasy as for the first time in 2000 years the city was secured. The Jews were free of fear as we returned to the Temple Mount, to Mt. Zion, to Jerusalem from whence our strength was renewed.
OUR ENEMIES are right in choosing their targets. They are right because they know who we are. We are the children of Jerusalem, of Zion. Our physical and spiritual survival is dependent on our willingness to dedicate our lives in every generation to guarding both the physical and spiritual walls of this city. It is only by guarding Zion, that we guard its people. I am humbled and honored beyond words to have been chosen from among so many of my fellow Jews for this singular honor of being named a Guardian of Zion. For me, more than anything, what this means, is that people I respect for their defense of our people accept me as a loyal daughter of this eternal city. It is all I have ever wished to be. It is all I wish for my children to become. And with God's help, it is something I will be blessed to remain all the days of my life. Thank you. God bless the people of Israel and our eternal capital city.