I’ve finally had time to read and consider the piece Trunk posted a few days ago by Caroline Glick of the Jerusalem Post called “Washington’s Betrayal.” Glick argues that President Bush has betrayed Israel by forcing Ariel Sharon to endorse the road map for peace. She contends that, as a result, “the president’s credibility as a friend and an ally of [Israel] is necessarily in doubt” and thus that “we can no longer blindly trust [his] intentions.” Glick concludes that “as presently constituted, the Bush administration’s Middle East policy is hostile to the national security interests of the State of Israel.” Glick’s column can be found here.
Is Glick correct? In part, I think she is. The Bush administration has pressured Israel into actions that Israel would not otherwise be taking and that are not the actions that maximize the security of its citizens. The administration has done so largely in the pursuit of what it perceives to be the U.S. interest in placating certain Arab states and Arab public opinion in general. Thus, it has shown not only a willingness to place U.S. diplomatic interests above Israeli security interests (as it might be expected to do), but also poor judgment about where U.S. interests lie. Glick is correct, therefore, that Israel should not blindly trust President Bush’s intentions – it should never blindly trust the intentions of any U.S. leader or politician. And she is also correct that the president’s credibility as a friend is subject to doubt – no one can be certain what positions he will take (and pressure Israel to take) as the parties proceed down the bunny trail that is the road map.
I disagree, however, with Glick’s claims that Bush administration policy is hostile to the national security interests of Israel and that the administration has, in fact, betrayed Israel. If Bush insists on specific Israeli concessions that jeopardize Israel’s security while Palestinian terrorism continues unabated, then Glick’s claims will have merit. So far, that hasn’t happened and, although the State Department would no doubt advocate such a betrayal, I do not assume that Bush will accede; indeed, my guess is that he will not. In short, there has been no betrayal and it is impossible to know at this point whether one will occur. Glick’s concerns are justified but overstated.
Glick raises one particularly troubling point, however. She notes that Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (upon whom Bush’s hopes for peace seem to rest) has made it clear that he will not take any action against the terrorist infrastructure. Instead, he hopes to persuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad to cease its violence against Israel for the time being. The fear, of course, is that these terrorist groups will use the cessation of hostilities to grow stronger and then, after a Palestinian state is established, renew their attacks on Israel. Personally, I question whether (a) Mahmoud Abbas will be able to so persuade Hamas and Islamic Jihad and (b) a new Palestinian state would promote or countenance attacks against Israel that could cause Israel to attack it. However, Glick’s scenario cannot be discounted completely, and it is another reason why I think Bush is wrong to be pushing the road map. At the same time, I believe that most Israeli Jews would settle for two years of freedom from terrorism followed by the creation of a Palestinian state, even with some risk of renewed hostilities thereafter. Although for me and for Glick that deal is not good enough, I don’t think President Bush can fairly be accused of betraying Israel for promoting a plan that creates a risk most Israel Jews probably are willing to accept.
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