Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections
(Page 2 of 2)

Israel's false friends

U.S. presidential candidates aren't doing the Jewish state any favors by offering unconditional support.

January 06, 2008|John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt | John J. Mearsheimer is a professor of political science at the University of Chicago. Stephen M. Walt is a professor of international affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. They are the authors of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Given this grim situation, one would expect the presidential candidates, who claim to care deeply about Israel, to be sounding the alarm and energetically championing a two-state solution. One would expect them to have encouraged President Bush to put significant pressure on both the Israelis and the Palestinians at the recent Annapolis conference and to keep the pressure on when he visits the region this week. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently observed, settling this conflict is also in America's interest, not to mention the Palestinians'.

One would certainly expect Hillary Clinton to be leading the charge here. After all, she wisely and bravely called for establishing a Palestinian state "that is on the same footing as other states" in 1998, when it was still politically incorrect to use the words "Palestinian state" openly. Moreover, her husband not only championed a two-state solution as president but he laid out the famous "Clinton parameters" in December 2000, which outline the only realistic deal for ending the conflict.

But what is Clinton saying now that she is a candidate? She said hardly anything about pushing the peace process forward at Annapolis, and remained silent when Rice criticized Israel's subsequent announcement that it planned to build more than 300 new housing units in East Jerusalem. More important, both she and GOP aspirant Rudy Giuliani recently proclaimed that Jerusalem must remain undivided, a position that is at odds with the Clinton parameters and virtually guarantees that there will be no Palestinian state.

Sen. Clinton's behavior is hardly unusual among the candidates for president. Barack Obama, who expressed some sympathy for the Palestinians before he set his sights on the White House, now has little to say about their plight, and he too said little about what should have been done at Annapolis to facilitate peace. The other major contenders are ardent in their declarations of support for Israel, and none of them apparently sees a two-state solution as so urgent that they should press both sides to reach an agreement. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former U.S. national security advisor and now a senior advisor to Obama, noted, "The presidential candidates don't see any payoff in addressing the Israel-Palestinian issue." But they do see a significant political payoff in backing Israel to the hilt, even when it is pursuing a policy -- colonizing the West Bank -- that is morally and strategically bankrupt.

In short, the presidential candidates are no friends of Israel. They are like most U.S. politicians, who reflexively mouth pro-Israel platitudes while continuing to endorse and subsidize policies that are in fact harmful to the Jewish state. A genuine friend would tell Israel that it was acting foolishly, and would do whatever he or she could to get Israel to change its misguided behavior. And that will require challenging the special interest groups whose hard-line views have been obstacles to peace for many years.

As former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami argued in 2006, the American presidents who have made the greatest contribution to peace -- Carter and George H.W. Bush -- succeeded because they were "ready to confront Israel head-on and overlook the sensibilities of her friends in America." If the Democratic and Republican contenders were true friends of Israel, they would be warning it about the danger of becoming an apartheid state, just as Carter did.

Moreover, they would be calling for an end to the occupation and the creation of a viable Palestinian state. And they would be calling for the United States to act as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians so that Washington could pressure both sides to accept a solution based on the Clinton parameters. Implementing a final-status agreement will be difficult and take a number of years, but it is imperative that the two sides formally agree on the solution and then implement it in ways that protect each side.

But Israel's false friends cannot say any of these things, or even discuss the issue honestly. Why? Because they fear that speaking the truth would incur the wrath of the hard-liners who dominate the main organizations in the Israel lobby. So Israel will end up controlling Gaza and the West Bank for the foreseeable future, turning itself into an apartheid state in the process. And all of this will be done with the backing of its so-called friends, including the current presidential candidates. With friends like them, who needs enemies?

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|