Feature

Bush’s Israel Policy

An end to evenhandedness.

Our relations with Israel have taken a bold turn, said Michael Abramowitz in The Washington Post. For decades, whenever shells started flying between the Jewish homeland and her neighbors, the United States would quickly step in to mediate, urging both sides to cool off. Not this time. For the Bush administration, the current battle with Hezbollah 'œis not just a crisis to be managed.' It's also an opportunity to change the dynamics of the Middle East. So Bush has deliberately stalled talk of a cease-fire while allowing Israel to 'œinflict the maximum damage possible' on Hezbollah's strongholds in Lebanon. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it, 'œI have no interest in diplomacy for the sake of returning Lebanon and Israel to the status quo.'

This stance should hardly come as a surprise, said Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard. Publicly, Bush has been saying for years that Israel has 'œa right to security' and 'œa right to defend itself from terror.' Privately, he's given the Israelis even greater encouragement, assuring them that the U.S. won't reprimand them for assassinating terrorist leaders. Finally, the U.S. has an Israel policy that makes sense, said Victor Davis Hanson in National Review Online. For decades, Israel's cowardly enemies have killed its civilians and soldiers with suicide bombs and rockets, then cried 'œcolonialism, Zionism, and every other '“ism' when Israel responded. Time and time again, the West—out of fear of terrorism or oil shortages or out of simple enmity toward Jews—would rush in to stop Israel from defending itself. No more. If the U.S. 'œreally cares about human life and future peace, then we should talk ad nauseam about 'restraint' and 'proportionality,'' while letting the Israelis teach Hezbollah and Hamas—and their sponsors in Syria and Iran—a humiliating lesson.

There's just one problem, said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times. An innocent country is being destroyed. 'œA year ago, the administration was pledging to support Lebanon's fragile and hard-gained democracy.' But now the White House is standing by as Beirut is blown to smithereens. We're not doing Israel any favors by sitting this out, said Bob Herbert in The New York Times. Israel's anger at Hezbollah is understandable, but it's making a huge mistake by killing hundreds of noncombatants. Our inaction will only inspire a new generation of revenge-minded, radicalized martyrs. If the U.S. were really the Israelis' friend, we'd take them aside and whisper, 'œThe carnage has to cease. We'll find a better way.'

We'd better do so fast, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. 'œHezbollah and Israel have been tossing lighted matches back and forth in a region soaked with gasoline.' The rest of the world is waiting for the only remaining superpower to provide some 'œrobust diplomacy.' If we don't offer it soon, this conflagration could really blow up. One ugly possibility: Iraq's Shiites, already soured on the U.S., may be moved by their sympathy with Hezbollah to launch a full-blown insurgency of their own in Iraq. That would almost certainly lead to 'œa decisive American defeat there.'

Fred Kaplan

Slate.com

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