President Bush’s address in the Knesset yesterday was an excellent (if imperfect) speech. In parts it was great. Among these parts is its introduction setting forth the deep identification of the American people with the state of Israel:
The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: “Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.” The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state.
Israel has built a thriving democracy in the heart of the Holy Land. You have welcomed immigrants from the four corners of the Earth. You have forged a free and modern society based on the love of liberty, a passion for justice, and a respect for human dignity. You have worked tirelessly for peace. You have fought valiantly for freedom.
My country’s admiration for Israel does not end there. When Americans look at Israel, we see a pioneer spirit that worked an agricultural miracle and now leads a high-tech revolution. We see world-class universities and a global leader in business and innovation and the arts. We see a resource more valuable than oil or gold: the talent and determination of a free people who refuse to let any obstacle stand in the way of their destiny.
Bush looked beneath the surface of the bond between America and Israel:
We believe in the matchless value of every man, woman, and child. So we insist that the people of Israel have the right to a decent, normal, and peaceful life, just like the citizens of every other nation. (Applause.)
We believe that democracy is the only way to ensure human rights. So we consider it a source of shame that the United Nations routinely passes more human rights resolutions against the freest democracy in the Middle East than any other nation in the world. (Applause.)
We believe that religious liberty is fundamental to a civilized society. So we condemn anti-Semitism in all forms — whether by those who openly question Israel’s right to exist, or by others who quietly excuse them.
We believe that free people should strive and sacrifice for peace. So we applaud the courageous choices Israeli’s leaders have made. We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to its destruction. (Applause.)
We believe that targeting innocent lives to achieve political objectives is always and everywhere wrong. So we stand together against terror and extremism, and we will never let down our guard or lose our resolve. (Applause.)
The fight against terror and extremism is the defining challenge of our time. It is more than a clash of arms. It is a clash of visions, a great ideological struggle. On the one side are those who defend the ideals of justice and dignity with the power of reason and truth. On the other side are those who pursue a narrow vision of cruelty and control by committing murder, inciting fear, and spreading lies.
Bush posits a weak theological argument with the terrorist enemies of Israel and the United States, but more importantly he rejects Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran as the joint enemies of both Israel and the United States: “[T]hey reserve a special hatred for the most ardent defenders of liberty, including Americans and Israelis.” Bush expanded on their joint hatred:
And that is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the “elimination” of Israel. And that is why the followers of Hezbollah chant “Death to Israel, Death to America!” That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that “the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.” And that is why the President of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map.
Understanding Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran to be the sworn enemies of the existence of Israel and the United States, Bush rejects the notion that some conciliatory action can appease them:
There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain away their words. It’s natural, but it is deadly wrong. As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century.
Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: “Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.” We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history. (Applause.)
Some people suggest if the United States would just break ties with Israel, all our problems in the Middle East would go away. This is a tired argument that buys into the propaganda of the enemies of peace, and America utterly rejects it. Israel’s population may be just over 7 million. But when you confront terror and evil, you are 307 million strong, because the United States of America stands with you. (Applause.)
Barack Obama and his many friends in the mainstream media have projected Obama into Bush’s speech, alleging that Bush made a veiled reference to him as a supporter of appeasement. From Hamlet we learn that the play’s the thing wherein to catch the conscience of the king. Bush’s “play” in Jerusalem was not about Obama. Yet Obama purports to see himself as an object of its critique of appeasement. Bush’s speech treats Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran as common enemies with whom negotiation is impossible. Obama purports to distinguish Iran from Hamas and Hezbollah, rejecting unconditional negotiations only with the terrorist groups.
Obama’s protestations against Bush’s speech make up his own play-within-the-play. They don’t serve to prick a conscience, but rather to obscure the senator’s inability to offer a rationale distinguishing between the terrorists and their state patron.
Via Bill Kristol.
UPDATE: The New York Sun also considers Bush’s speech and the Democratic reaction to it in an excellent editorial.
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