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Monday, July 30, 2012

About That Special Relationship

Romney has landed in Jerusalem and Obama is threatening to visit Israel in his second term. This seems like good news for Americans, but presidential and pre-presidential visits are often bad news for Israelis.

Romney's trip itinerary covering the UK, Israel and Poland is a clever road map critique of Obama's foreign policy. Kerry and Obama both campaigned on a promise to fix America's broken relations with its allies. Romney is subtly doing the same thing, paying a visit to allies alienated by the last three years.

When Obama first visited Israel the contentious Democratic primaries had just wrapped up and Jewish voters and organizations had thrown their support to Hillary Clinton. Obama had Jewish leftists, but he didn't have more middle-of-the-road Jewish Democrats. And additionally paying a visit to the home of the Little Satan was a way of dispelling suspicions about his Muslim roots.

Obama hasn't bothered with a visit to Israel, but he hasn't bothered appearing in person at the NAACP either. And that's all for the best. Israel needs a visit from Obama about as much as it needs more of the "mysterious fires" being set as part of the Arson Jihad.

A presidential visit to most other countries is a formality while a presidential visit to Israel is an unpleasantness. Presidents who visit Israel must also stop off for a visit with the terrorist leaders. Presidents don't just stop by, have a pita, smell the flowers and do some handshakes. Instead they arrive tasked with peacemaking duties and then they task everyone else with their peacemaking.

There is something intriguing, though little good, about Putin's visit to Israel, because it at least has the air of unpredictability. Presidential visits to Israel however are painfully predictable. There is never anything new that comes out of those trips and nothing good either. They are a lot like family reunions, pleasant in theory, but uncomfortable in practice. Both have a special relationship that they can never quite define and the visits always carry with them an aura of disappointment.

A Presidential visit has the air of a boss coming downstairs to check up on a lazy employee. On arrival, there are the customary expressions of a hope for peace. In private whatever Prime Minister is in office will be upbraided for still not having achieved peace. At a joint press conference in a capital that the United States still doesn't recognize,  after the usual formalities about the special relationship and the commitment to Israel's security, the President will tell reporters that more sacrifices are needed for peace.

"And next time I talk to you there had better be peace," is the unspoken message always left hanging in the air.

The pre-presidential visits are less of a chore, but no more significant. Candidates stop by Israel the way that they do any other state. They visit a few significant places, have their picture taken there, get a brief tour from local officials and fly over the narrowest point in Israel's border as a demonstration of just how strategically precarious the situation is.

Like all practiced politicians they are very understanding of the problems that their hosts have, whatever those problems might be. They emphasize that unlike the last guy from the other party, they will not pressure Israel to make more concessions. And then a few years later they are disembarking from an airplane and frowning at the lack of peace on the airport tarmac. "Where is that damn peace already? I ordered it last week."

Israel would be best served if the next American President forgot that Israel even existed or decided that it was a small country like Slovenia or Fiji, and need not be bothered with. A great month would be a month that passed without any State Department statements on Israel or a single question or answer from the White House Press Secretary about that small country wedged in between much bigger countries where frankly more interesting things are going on right now.

Instead no one ever forgets Israel. It's the one country that the Western world and the Muslim world are equally obsessed with. Asia is mystified by that obsession and has been ever since the days when it was being flooded by Nazi propaganda about the Jews controlling the world, even while penniless Jewish refugees were showing up in China and Japan.

The Jews not only don't control the world, they don't even control their own borders or get to name their own capital. And not a day passes by without some pundit putting paws to iPad and pounding out some turgid prose about the hopes for peace that can only be realized when the warmongering Israelis get over the Holocaust and help the terrorist gangs of Fatah and Hamas have their own state.

Other countries have art, science, historical marvels and gleaming beaches. Israel has those things but they don't exist in the official narrative. The backbreaking labor of nearly a century is nothing more than a minor mention in yet another news story about Israeli checkpoints preventing pregnant women and suicide bombers from reaching Jerusalem quickly enough.

The dark cloud of the eternal peace process overshadows everything that Israel is and does. And it defines its relationship with American leaders who on their initial visits may see Israel as a place but on their succeeding visits see it as a problem in need of a Two-State Solution.

The American-Israeli relationship began when the United States began running out of Muslim allies in the Middle East. It began to decline when the United States pulled Egypt out of the Soviet camp. It has gone up and down each time administrations have gone looking for long term relationships in the Muslim world. The American and Israeli governments have been like a couple that had to settle for each other because they have no one else.

Israel lost its French paramour and the United States never found a Muslim Middle Eastern country that was reliably friendly and whose leaders didn't need the US Marines to protect them from their own people. Despite its best diplomatic efforts, the United States has never found anyone else, but that doesn't stop it from constantly lecturing Israel on its shortcomings and reminding it how their special relationship is preventing the United States from getting any of the gorgeous Muslim states it could have had.

Obama was the best bid for landing a special relationship with the Muslim world, but despite his best efforts, no such relationship has materialized. But the blame for that, as usual, doesn't go to Obama, it goes to the Israelis for scaring away all the potential dates. In Washington D.C. the diplomats brood over their latest plans for landing Iran or fixing Egypt so that they can dump Israel for good, and the Israelis try to flirt with China or Russia; but in the end they all have to go home together because there is no one else.

Israel and America are stuck with each other. America needs a reliable partner in the Middle East whose government won't suddenly fall and be replaced by Jihadist maniacs and Israel needs a friend whose leaders don't openly talk about how much they hate it. It's not exactly a match made in heaven, but for two democracies with a certain amount of shared history and shared problems, it's all they have.

There's not much special about the visits back and forth by American and Israeli leaders. Mostly they sound like an old married couple having the same argument for the thousandth time  "Make peace with the Palestinians!" "Do something about Iran or I will." And then with nothing accomplished everyone goes home with gritted teeth.

There are high hopes that a new president will be different and that this time the cycle will be broken but then a few years later we are right back where we started and usually worse off. After a while all the headlines run together in smears of ink, the broadcasts full of earnest reporters standing against some dark background somberly reporting about another blow to the hopes of peace all seem the same no matter how many fashions have changed and how many decades have passed.

The United States expects Israel to fix its problems with the Muslim world by completing the peace process. But the problem with this Two-State Solution is that Israel isn't the source of the problems in the Muslim world. America's problems with Islam come from the same place as Russia's problems with Islam and as everyone else's problems with Islam.

Nevertheless the thinking goes that when Israel finally builds its own special relationship with the Muslim world, the United States will be able to build its special relationship with the Muslim world too. And when every president sits down at the table and is given his briefings, those briefings place Muslim violence in the context of Israel. And Israel becomes the Zionist Knot that has to be cut to untangle the hostility of 1 billion Muslims.

It's easier to cut up Israel than it is to deal with the possibility that Islam's internal conflicts and external hostilities might not be solvable. That they are something that we have to deal with without any easy short cuts through Jerusalem. And politicians are nothing if not fans of the easy way out. Presidential candidates may come and go, they may fly over and look at how narrow Israel is, meet with generals and soldiers in the field, and farmers and ranchers in their own fields, but when they leave then the Jewish State, that small elongated strip of land, becomes the knot that must be cut to make the Muslim world stop the killing and love America.

 (a shortened version of this article appeared previously at Times of Israel)

14 comments:

Empress Trudy said...

Obama is more of a MacGuffin. He's the briefcase in "Pulp Fiction" that glows but is never shown to the audience. He's whatever people want to project on to his blank slate. He's like the alien artifact in the movie "Sphere" that makes real any thought that pops into your dream. Like Nixon he believes in nothing and will say and do anything to get what he wants. Presidents come and go Israel persists.

SabaShimon said...

Is Romney better than Obama? Of course he is, but I wouldn't get too carried away with him visa vie Israel.
Does nobody remember when he refused to honor the murdered Munich athletes on the 30th anniversary in Salt lake City?
They are all two-faced hypocrites.

Keliata said...

It's a pity that Israel doesn't reject international intervenution (?intrusion) and just tell its allies that they appreciate the support and will call for their a aid if it is needed.

Then let Israel and the Mustlims work things out, by whatever means Israel must in order to survive

Anonymous said...

Place the blame where it belongs - on Israel's rotten politicians.
We're the ones that continue this BS peace process, it's Israeli politicians constantly babbling about ''peace'' ....
If Israel had any real leaders, we would renounce Oslo, renounce any of the two-state BS, & annex Judea & Samaria (at least Area C & B + the Jordan Valley).

mindRider said...

The problem for American presidents is that the real world runs on money and even though the world always depicts the Jews of having all the money it happens to be the Arabs that, thanks to our industry's demand for oil, have most of it. Morals have always been bent by cash and one regrettably can not expect even rather decent human beings, like American presidents mostly are, to say NO to the lifeblood of a successful presidency and the society he presides over.

Rita said...

Dear Sultan Knisch, I can hear a certain despair in your voice here, and who could blame you.

I think, if at all possible, Israel should let go of her patience with her would-be pimps of the "West" and her would-be killers of the Arab Hexenkessel.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Knish this is a very well written thread by you. Up until the Six Day War, most news media did not have a regular correspondent or writer permanently stationed in Israel. Instead they relied upon “stringers” i.e. local Israeli journalists for news. After the Six Day War the number of news people stationed in Israel ballooned to the point that after Washington D.C., London, and Moscow, Israel was 4th in the mixed blessing of journalists stationed there. Some were excellent, most however (think The New York Times, BBC, CBS) were ignorant. The sad part is that these news people need to earn their living so they went under every rock in Israeli society to write about discrimination against non Ashkenazi, religious tensions between Orthodox and secular, municipal strikes, ad nauseum. The old saying that Jews are news certainly applied and no aspect of Israeli life and society warts and all was off limits. The New York Times decades ago came out with the shockingly breathless discovery that Tel Aviv actually had prostitutes! Of course they never picked through Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, or Palestinian society nearly as much as they did Israel. At least once a year 60 Minutes lead by Mike Wallace, (and now Bob Simon) would have a hit piece directed against Israel). I, like you, wish that Israel would be ignored by the media.

Penny said...

May I add to what Anonymous above said about the reporters and their ignorance?
These days it is stringers from the other, islamicist, side that are used. I consider their use to be accountable for a lot of the success of anti-Israel reporting, and the change in Western attitudes towards Israel, especially when compounded with the huge muslim immigration numbers in Western states.
One doesn't need to look far. The shameful CNN, BBC and other alphabet 'news' agencies use moslem stringers in order to survive the threats and consequences of not using them and reporting the arab viewpoint. This is well documented, but under-reported, naturally. It can be instructive to note the reporter's names on the bylines.

SoCal Observer said...

Well said, Sultan. However, a large part of the problem is that ignorant American and Israeli politicos never learned what Chamberlain learned the hard way: It takes two or more to make peace, but only one to make a war. There must be a willing partner for Israel to have peace. When the annointed partner is that Nobel prize winning man of "peace" Arafat (graduate of the Patrice Lumumba International Peace University in Moscow, AKA Terror U)it is easy to see why things turn out like they are ("peace comes from the barrel of a gun"-who said that, mao or lenin?).
I will correct you on one matter Sultan. The US has been trying to have a muslim/arab friend since there was a US. We tried trade and bribes. We ended up sending the Navy and Marines ("from the halls of montezuma to the shores of tripoli") to deal with our "friends" who would rather pirate ships and abduct sailors for torture, murder, slavery, and ransom. As far as I am concerned, we need to dump our oil rich "friends" and go back to being energy independent. I can hear the howls from big oil and contractors like Bechtel now...

Will48 said...

Sultan - that's __fake__ and seemingly easy shortcut. But mainly __fake__.

mindReader - that money is poison. Arab money have been propping up the mountain of American debt for decades, better crush from lower highs. (shorter people live longer, have you noticed?)

Also, if someone's offered millions of dollars to do a crime, would it be in their *interests* to do it? All that money, would it be their lifeblood, or would it turn their life into poison?

Anon - Israel's rotten politicians are half bought, and quarter threatened by the USA/CIA and their agents in the leftist elite. ( Three quarters of Baltic politicians in the early 1940 were controlled by the Soviets.)

Remember Gallant? Gantz was brought in over his head in 3 weeks massive media assault campaign, now he's "against the strike". Gee, I wonder who's bidding he's doing, and whose agents in the press had put him into office. The evidence is plain to see.

Will48 said...

SoCal - have you confused Arafat with Abu Mazen. It was Abu Mazen who received Phd from Lumumba U in early 1980s, not coincidentally for a dissertation in Holocaust denial, proving the real number of Jewish victimes was 600,000 and Zionists pumped up the numbers to better oppress the Arabians pretending to be Philistinians in Judea.

He also had dedicated the said dissertation to the memory of the accursed Mufti ymmah shmo, and pledged to continue "his struggle".

Anonymous said...

Excellent essay. Thank you.

I do hope you are wrong however in implying that Romney will be little different to the rest of those presidents in waiting, only too happy to tell Israel all it wishes to hear, before the US elections..

Only time will tell, that's if snake oil salesman Obama doesn't get back in for 4 more years of trampling over Israel whilst professing his undying love for it.

SoCal Observer said...

Wil-I think you are right. I think I reversed Arafat and Abu Mazen in my mind. After listening to the flim flam and hot air from those two, it all sounds the same and easy to confuse them. I bet their swiss bank accounts are not confused. :)
Thanks.

gsw said...

Best possibility for a lasting peace would be for the so-called western countries, i.e. those not yet a theocracy, to put pressure on the oil rich countries of the east to take back their citizen from Gaza and the west bank.

Once Israel had defensible borders and a country large enough for its people, everything would be good.

Well, ok, but it is as good a solution as any the American president came up with, and he got a Nobel Peace Prize for his daft ideas.

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