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'Tough Love' for Israel?

'Tough Love' for Israel?

Latest push for pressure to sustain futile peace process has little to do with reality.


In the wake of Barack Obama's trip to Israel, Republicans and Democrats wasted no time tilting over the meaning of every word uttered by the man whom Democrats will nominate for president this year.

But amid all of the partisan debate, one prominent analyst thought both sides of that argument had it all wrong.

According to Nicholas D. Kristof, The New York Times op-ed columnist, the problem wasn't whether or not Obama was supportive of Israel. Notwithstanding the differences he might have with Republican John McCain, it was Obama's recitation of many of the time-honored clichés of pro-Israel rhetoric that was, in Kristof's view, unfortunate.

In his July 24 column "Tough Love for Israel?," which echoed "The Two Israels," an earlier piece published on June 22, the Times' resident human-rights advocate opined again that what Israel needs from the United States is the sort of intervention that friends and family of an alcoholic would employ: It must be stopped from destroying itself.

The 'Good' and the 'Bad'

Kristof sees the Jewish state as a sort of schizophrenic country split between its good and bad sides. In his formulation, the "good" Israel is the country of local human-rights groups and journalists who sympathize with the Palestinians, and defend them against the nation's security establishment in the courts and the media. The "bad" Israel is composed of settlers who supposedly "steal land" from the Arabs, with an army and government that abuses them with checkpoints and barriers that divide their communities from those of Jews.

What Kristof wants is for American presidential candidates to stop pandering to the "Israel lobby," and instead "clarify that the [Israel] they support is not the oppressor that lets settlers steal land and club women but the one that is a paragon of justice, decency, fairness — and peace."

What makes this latest push to "save Israel from itself" truly absurd is how divorced it is from the facts on the ground.

People like Kristof cannot be dismissed as Israel-haters, as some on the Zionist right might like to do. Nor can Jewish groups like the Israel Policy Forum, Americans for Peace Now and the new left-wing lobbying group J Street be labeled as closet backers of Hamas. When it comes to their support for Israel's right to exist, they deserve to be taken at their word when they say they want only what's best for the country.

But good intentions notwithstanding, the point of this push for "tough love" is support for a troubling campaign to force Israel to make more unilateral concessions to the Palestinians, no matter what the actual conditions on the ground would dictate as rational policy or what the people of Israel think is prudent.

The goal of Kristof — and the Jewish groups that seem to agree with him — is to splinter the bipartisan coalition that has remained Israel's ace in the hole in the United States. They may not subscribe to every chapter and verse of John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's controversial treatise The Israel Lobby, but they share the revulsion those two authors have for the ability of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its allies to rally Congress and the vast majority of the American people to head off attempts to strong-arm Jerusalem.

The notion that any American ought to think themselves better qualified than Israel's democratically elected government to decide matters of life and death for that nation is, at best, a curious one.

But what makes this latest push to "save Israel from itself" truly absurd is how divorced it is from the facts on the ground.

Israel has, after all, spent the last 15 years steadily retreating from a maximalist position on territory and security issues. The Oslo accords gave the Palestinians self government. Oslo collapsed due to a Palestinian refusal to end terrorism or accept a state alongside Israel, but three years ago, Israel withdrew every settler and soldier from Gaza. Instead of peace, the Palestinians — under the leadership of the Hamas terrorist group E2 have answered with rockets, missiles and bloodshed.

The "moderate" Palestinian Authority, which Israel and the United States still hopes to use as a negotiating partner, is itself compromised by support for terror. But even if one takes its stand on peace at face value, it is a weak, unpopular structure whose sway only extends to those parts of the West Bank that remain effectively under the control of the Israel Defense Force. It hasn't the will or the ability to make peace.

Under the current circumstances, any land handed over will simply become yet another Hamasistan terror base.

Americans tempted to embrace the "tough love" thesis need to remember that the overwhelming majority of Israelis are already prepared to hand over most of the West Bank to a Palestinian state that will live in peace with them. If there is ever a reasonable chance for peace, they will be the first to seize it. But Israelis know that under the current circumstances, any land handed over will simply become yet another Hamasistan terror base.

But none of that seems to matter to Kristof or the true believers in the peace process. For them, the only obstacle remains the presence of Jews in parts of the West Bank and in those areas in Jerusalem that were occupied by Jordan prior to the city's unification in June 1967.

Indeed, Kristof used his column to chide those who rightly pointed out that in the absence of Israeli sovereignty, Jews would (as was the situation prior to June 1967) be unable to even visit holy places in Jerusalem or Hebron. For him, Jews and even Christians have no such right. The only thing that appears to be sacred in his view is the 1949 armistice line, which the late Abba Eban famously dismissed as "Auschwitz" borders because they placed Arab armies and terrorists in position to destroy the state.

Kristof acknowledges Israel's security barrier has stopped the flow of suicide bombers. But in spite of the lives it has clearly saved, he thinks it does more harm than good because it inconveniences Palestinians.

The columnist's preferred policy would be for Israel to negotiate "more enthusiastically" with Syria (the current pace of talks to give back the Golan Heights being too slow for his taste); talk with the Saudis on the basis of their peace proposal, which is predicated on a so-called Palestinian "right of return" (which means the end of a Jewish state); expel Jews from those places that were Judenrein prior to June 1967; and halt their anti-terror security checkpoints. And what he wants is an American president who will try to force Israel — for its own good — to do exactly that.

For the "tough love" crowd, only Israel has the ability to engender peace. Palestinian intentions, and their culture of terror and hatred for Israel and Jews, are mere details to be ignored.

It's far from clear exactly what an Obama or McCain administration would mean for Israel in the next four years. But the one thing that friends of Israel should not hope for is a president who thinks he understands things better than the Israelis themselves.

Unlike those who intervene with addicts to give them "tough love," it is Kristof, and those Jewish groups who mimic his position, who are the ones with a tenuous grip on reality.

August 2, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 18

(18) Moshe, October 21, 2008 7:45 PM

"You can lead a horse to water..."

My Beliefs have ALWAYS taught me to "Do The Right Thing, The FIRST TIME." Regardless of ramifications.So, I take exception to this Article.
Israel does not need "Tough Love".
We need RESPECT.
As I see it, We are just "Taking care of Biz".
Since nobody else will do "Their Part".

(17) Yaacov, August 27, 2008 6:47 AM

Sad about Israel's leadership

I'm truly disappointed at Olmert's way, releasing dangerous terrorists in exchange for two israeli soldiers corpses was unacceptable for me, will only incentive more terrorist attacks. To be honest, I agree with saving Israel from itself when it comes to get rid of politicians who don't know what they're doing. Some of them are making me feel ashamed of Israel, by doing such enormous mistakes.

(16) Anonymous, August 12, 2008 3:11 AM

Dear Aish, Mr. Tobin has made some forceful points about whose policy for Israel is best for Israel. Naturally, it would seem that that Israelis live with facts on the ground more vividly and more continuously than politicians from America who come for a visit and state their continued support for Israel. It is true that the peace process, such as it is, has so far meant that Israel gives up something real in return for largely empty Arab promises to play nice. It is also true that many Arab politicians are in need of an intervention themselves if they ever expect to end their cycle of self-pity mixed with tolerance and encouragement for barbaric behavior against civilized people. Having said this, one cannot paint all Arabs with the brush of revulsion. Mr Tobin acknowledges the realization of the vast majority of Israelis that a future Palestinian State will comprise the territory of the West Bank. And he also seems to see the difference between Hamas and Fatah – or does he? Mr. Tobin claims that "under the current circumstances, any land handed over will simply become yet another Hamasistan terror base." How curious a pronouncement. We all know the Gaza situation. We all know that Israeli good will toward that benighted region three years ago resulted in the area becoming a Hamas cesspool. That does not mean that concrete actions toward peace that fail should preclude any further action. And to claim that the territories under the sway of Mahmoud Abbas will be "Hamasistan" terror bases is not dealing with the proverbial facts on the ground. Look at the events of just the past few days – armed Palestinans (Fatah) fleeing into Israel for protection against other armed Palestinians (Hamas). Both Israel and the United States lean toward Mr. Abbas as a person they can deal with – someone who acknowledges that peace is accomplished through good will and negotiation, not carved out of your enemy's corpse with a bloody knife. Abbas does not have the mindset that afflicted Arafat, namely, that peace between Israel and the Palestinian people will render him irrelevant. If we fail to support his efforts, we will see him replaced by yet another Arab despot who equates murder and terrorism with "resistance". Is Mr. Abbas ideal? Hardly.(His desire to toss back the Fatah fighters who escaped Gaza is strong evidence of disquietude among Fatah factions) Is Mr. Abbas strong? Only as strong as we are willing to make him. Does he need to make compromises toward Israel as Israel has done toward the Palestinans? You bet. The Palestinian whine that Israel holds all the cards is, frankly, bullshit. They have some very important cards. To wit: They have to come to the realization that if they had practiced the sort of civil disobedience that convinced Britain to leave India in 1947, they would have had a state 60 years ago. They have to come to the realization that whipping up Jew-hatred among their people is no palliative for corruption, nor a lack of civil service, religious tolerance and democracy. They have to realize that being stooges and proxies for Iranian schemes of evil intent just makes them fools – and dead ones, at that. It is refreshing to read Mr. Tobin's acknowledgement that those who agree with Nicholas Kristof actually want to see Israel survive and thrive. All too often, I have read articles on that take an extremist right wing view that dismisses the Israeli center and left as traitors who would feed Israel to their enemies. How many articles have you posted that scream that the Israeli Air Force must immediately bomb Iran into the stone age? How many articles have you posted that demand that Judea and Samaria are to be made Arab-rein? This is not reality. This is not helpful. The path to Israel's happy future lies in the middle – No rants about no peace with Arabs. And no blind support for Palestinian complaints that do not acknowledge their obligation to behave like a civilized people. No further settler developments on land that has to be eventually returned to achieve peace. No denial by the world that Syria is an Iranian puppet state. No being seduced by Saudi proposals of "return" that would effectively be the end of Israel. No more condemning of all peace efforts as useless. No more calling reunification "occupation" - especially where Jerusalem is concerned. Israel has made some very hard decisions toward peace lately. The example of trading murderers for the bodies of kidnapped Israeli soldiers is a prime example. There will be other difficult decisions in the future. They should not be one-sided. The sacrifice made by Sadat is a positive example that peace is achievable if people of good will on both sides believe it. If Tobin believes that Kristof's pace for discussing the Golan with Syria is too hasty, then what pace suits him? I am happy to see that has evolved to a stance more based on realpolitik. Abba Eban's opinion of the 1949 armistice line is correct. It should only be the basis for the negotiation of future livable borders. Rejectionism on both sides will make that impossible. Throughout all that has gone before, Israel shows every day by its military strength, its prosperity and its tzedakah toward even its enemies that it has not lost its essence. In this are the seeds of Israel's survival. It shows that Israel is tough enough to give love as well as receive it.

(15) Anonymous, August 12, 2008 3:06 AM

Jonathan Tobin is a well rounded columnist, I value his output tremendously, What I am not familiar with, or perhaps what I don't understand, is the willingness of the world to accept the lies fabricated by the likes of Arafat, and now, the folks at The New York Time! It isn't the Jewish presence that is the occupiers, it is the Arabs who have disguised themselves under the misnomer of a "Palestinians" people", who are occupying Israel! There is NO such thing as a Palestinian people! They never existed! That is the biggest lie ever to be told, and my concern is for those who do not know that fact! Arafat invented the 'Palestinians" after the ancient enemies of the Israelites, the Philistines, he followed Rome in that same deception, as they renamed Israel "Palestine"...The only right tenants are the Jews! G-d has given His land to the Jewish people, not to anyone else! and certainly, not to His enemies! This entire scenario, is right out of Psalm: 83 where Israel enemies and G-d's enemies swore to destroy Israel and G-d's Mashiach! Oh! Would the world know and learn the truth! It isn't Israel who is "The Bad Guy" it is her enemies, under any disguises! Thank you for sending these treasures, wisdom abound in, keep up the good work, if only we could make the entire world understand the hatred these people (including some of her own) have for the Jewish people! This hatred never stop, some hatred comes under strange policies, one would think that after the holocaust, mind sets would change, it has gotten worst, that scares me, as it should scares every Jews out there! Who can understand such a hate? (I personally believe that comes from the adversary himself, the one called it is his religion..Islam..hateful against the Jews, Christians and anyone who do not follow a illiterate, pedophilic mad man by the name of "Mohamed". No I do not hate the Muslims, only those who calls for the destruction of my people and my homeland and these I fear! Keep up the good work Aish, we need more articles to shed the light on unwarranted .hatred. Respectfully yours, (an avid reader of :) PS: Sorry for the length, I needed voicing my concerns (C.W.)

(14) Steffen Lauge Pedersen, August 11, 2008 4:00 AM

The "tough love" article is in my opinion very clear and
very relevant.
What we all need is a clear answer from Israel and from
Israel's friends to the question : what can be done in or-
der to support the peace-loving palestinians in their mo-
re or less desperate, mute position in the grip of despe-
rate terrorists ?
In 1938 my school-teacher wept with joy, when she
heard Neville Chamberlain's talk "Peace in our time".
My father said to me : "I'm afraid a war will break out
very soon !".
How right he was !

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