George Will was the featured speaker this past Monda at the Claremont Institute dinner celebrating the Claremont Review of Books at which Will received the Salvatori Prize in the American Founding. Rick Richman reports that Will gave a masterful speech including political insight, conservative philosophy, humor and baseball stories.
Rick quotes Will’s response to a question following his speech that led Will to reflect on a portion of President Obama’s Cairo speech. Will found the Cairo speech demonstrating Obama’s apparent belief that disharmony among nations results from misunderstandings subject to cure by dialogue and communication (and the force of his own personality) — a view that Will characterized as reflecting a 1930s approach to foreign policy. Rick’s post includes the transcript and audio of Will’s response as follows:
We’ve seen this in his treatment of Israel in that remarkable speech, the atmospherics of which were fine, the specifics appalling.
I mean, in the 61 years since Israel was founded on one-sixth of one percent of land in that area described as land of the Arab world, there has not been a moment of peace for Israel, not as peace is properly understood.
How many Americans understand that when Israel was founded in 1948, no Palestinian state was invaded, no Palestinian state was destroyed? There had not been a Palestinian geographic entity since between the departure of the Romans and the arrival of British rule.
How many know that the West Bank, referred to by the President as “occupied territory,” inferentially as occupied Palestinian territory, is under international law [an] unallocated portion of the Palestine Mandate rightfully occupied by Israel, because it occupied it in repelling aggression that came from that territory in 1967. [Applause].
How the President believes that if we return to the 1967 borders, the antipathy to Israel, which predated the 1967 borders, will disappear, I do not know.
It would help if he . . . spent some time [there]. George W. Bush, for all his defects, went to Israel shortly before he was elected and was squired around by another rancher named Arik Sharon. He took him up in a helicopter, to where Israel was at one point nine miles wide, and George W. Bush came home and said “My God, in Texas we have driveways longer than that.” [Laughter]. He sort of got the picture.
I remember — if I could go back to an autobiographical moment — in 1979 I was invited to talk to the B’nai Brith of Beverly Hills – not a nest of conservatives – and they said “Who should be the Republican nominee?” And I said, pick Howard Baker, George Bush, Ronald Reagan. And they said “Well, who would be best for Israel?” And I responded “Of course it would be Ronald Reagan.” They said “Why?”
I said — “Two reasons: he believes in aircraft carriers. He believes in the projection of American power. Second, he is a romantic. He’s got the story of Israel, plucky little Israel.”
You need both. You need aircraft carriers and you need to appreciate the fact that Israel is an embattled salient of our values in a bad neighborhood. [Applause]. It is unworthy of the United States to aspire to be even-handed between those who would destroy and those who would preserve the only democracy in that region. [Applause].
PAUL adds: Bush flew on the helocopter with Sharon, but by his second term he too was attempting the “even-handedness” for which WIll properly attacks Obama. And Sharon himself was not the same hard-liner who accompanied Bush on that famous ride.
Obama, I should add, never suggested that a Palestinian state existed when Israel was founded. He spoke only of the “displacement” of Palestinians, which is undeniable. There is a debate over the extent to which that displacement was caused by the actions of Jews, as opposed to the actions of the Arab states that invaded Israel (in my view, it was the latter that caused most of the displacement). Obama took no position on this question, which is quite peripheral, though not entirely irrelevant, to the “two-state solution” issue.
I would be pleased if American presidents educated the American public about some of the facts Will mentions. But Obama is hardly the only American president not to have done so.