Are American soldiers dying because those damned Israelis won’t make peace with the Palestinians?
“The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel,” General Petraeus said in a report to the Senate committee last week. Today, Secretary of Defense Gates backed Petraeus, telling reporters that “lack of progress toward Middle East peace clearly is an issue that is exploited by our adversaries in the region.”
The comments from Petraeus have ignited the expected firestorm, with pro-Israel supporters (notably the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman) criticizing the general, and Israel-bashers like Mondoweiss rubbing their hands in glee (not to mention the usual assortment of anti-Semitic bottom-feeders oozing out of the Internet). Now Petraeus is saying that his comments were taken out of context. He told an audience in New Hampshire today that there are a whole bunch of extremist organizations, some of which by the way deny Israel’s right to exist. There’s a country that has a nuclear program who denies that the Holocaust took place….So we have all the factors in there, but this is just one, and it was pulled out of this 56-page document, which was not what I read to the Senate at all.”
I think Petraeus was quoted out of context by the Israel-bashers. The general is one of our sharpest, and if the chief of Central Command can’t fix those little spats in Afghanistan and Iraq, you think he really wants to dive into the West Bank?
This fracas is almost a tempest in a teapot, except for what it portends for the blame game in Afghanistan and Iraq. There are already dark murmurings that the Jews Israel somehow conned the U.S. into Iraq (as if Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld needed much conning to go to war). Now some will try to say that the road to making friends with the Muslim world runs through Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The best way to judge the validity of an argument is whether it explains reality. If Al Qaeda is fueled by Israeli settlements, then one would expect Bin Laden to attack Israel. He hasn’t. If the Palestinian cause was dear to the hearts of their Arab brothers, then one would expect them to be welcomed with open arms. Instead they are denied citizenship and confined to refugee camps. And which better explains the rise of Iranian influence: the existence of Israel, or the destruction of a strong Iraq that blocked Iranian expansion?
Peace between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world would be good for everyone concerned, including the United States. But it will not fix the debacles in Afghanistan and Iraq. Linking these conflicts is tempting because it offers a convenient scapegoat. It’s not American diplomatic and blunders that created this mess. It’s those intransigent Israelis. An argument that is wrong, counterproductive and ultimately futile.