Novak Critical of America's Pro-Israel Role

 

Too Close for Comfort on Israel

By ROBERT D. NOVAK

From the Washington Post

July 20th, 2006

When I expressed commiseration to an Israeli diplomat over the “bad news” in the Middle East, he expressed hope that “good news” – a “new paradigm” – is on the way. He added: “The problem is that we have been too soft.” In other words, Israel had erred in not moving earlier against Hezbollah‘s military capability in southern Lebanon and was determined to do so now.

Using military force to achieve the “new paradigm” wins either enthusiastic or tacit support across America‘s ideological spectrum. Apart from hesitant pleas for Israeli restraint from President Bush and his administration‘s officials, the U.S. political community has been cheering on the punishment of Hezbollah. Sen. Chuck Hagel, second-ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is a voice in the wilderness suggesting U.S. policy is dangerously isolated by the Israeli alliance.

Never before have the United States and Israel been so close, and never before has support of Israel been so universal among American politicians. That inhibits the leverage Bush is able to exercise, on behalf of his country, as an honest broker seeking a peaceful solution in the Middle East. He is seen as Israel‘s uncritical supporter. Members of Congress, normally free with their comments about everything, have been silent about the economic carnage that could result from the current escalation in the Middle East (including a prospective epidemic of suicide bombings in Israel).

The U.S.-Israel alliance was transformed after the Six-Day War of 1967, when the United States replaced the Soviet Union and France as Israel‘s patron. In 1988, a joint memorandum designated Israel as a “major” American ally. But it was not until 2001 that the current intimacy between the two governments was reached. Stratfor, the private intelligence service, reported on the day of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: “The big winner today, intentionally or not, is the state of Israel.” I wrote then: “Whatever distance Bush wanted between U.S. and Israeli policy, it was eliminated by terror.” Engaged in both Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush stepped back from the drudgery of promoting Israeli-Palestinian accommodation.

Nearly two decades before 9/11, American politicians had learned how dangerous it was to be at odds with Israel. American supporters of Israel focused on two longtime Illinois Republicans – Rep. Paul Findley in 1982 and Sen. Charles H. Percy in 1984 – and defeated both for re-election. Since then, few office seekers have dared criticize Israel.

That is especially true of anybody harboring Presidential ambitions – including Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden and Republican former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. They are critics by nature but were markedly uncritical of Israel when they appeared together on NBC‘s “Meet the Press” Sunday. “I think it‘s a secondary question whether Israel‘s gone too far,” said Biden. A few moments later, Gingrich asserted: “It is ex