The all-time record for lengthy conflicts has long been the Hundred Years War, fought between England and France in the late Middle Ages. However as the state of war, hot and cold, between Israel and its Arab neighbors approaches a sixtieth anniversary with no end in sight, that record may be in jeopardy. Just about as old as the war is the endlessly futile “Middle East Peace Process” that it spawned. Generally what the “peace process” has been about is efforts to compel Israel to give back at the peace table those lands which the militarily incompetent Arabs had lost on the battlefield during their three failed invasions of Israel (1948,1967, and 1973).
Not surprisingly, Israel has been reluctant to give back anything, since the Arabs are not even willing to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
Americans came to know a lot about the Middle East conflict because during its first forty years it was a major arena in our Cold War struggle with the Soviet Union. That contest has long been over but the problems in the Middle East remain as intractable as ever.
What has changed in recent years is the attitude of many participants in this long-running tragedy. In earlier days Israel could count on support from not just the U.S., but also the region’s former colonial powers Britain and France, and in fact most members of the United Nations. Today the U.N. is the absolute epicenter of anti-Israel sentiment, and Britain and France along with many other Western nations have decisively tilted away from Israel and toward the Arabs.
What explains this strange transformation? Has Israel become more villainous in its stubborn insistence on a right to exist? Have the Arabs become sympathetic nonviolent paragons of sweet reason? No, none of the above.
What has happened is a truly strange cultural-political transformation of Western elites so striking that they would be utterly unrecognizable to their counterparts of say, 1960.
Henry Clay famously said “My country, right or wrong”. Today, Western elites have flat-out reversed that to read “My country, always wrong.” In the U.S. this attitude is well exemplified by prominent Democrats and other left-wing luminaries who have fawned over a series of tinpot Latin dictators from Castro, to Daniel Ortega, and most recently the clownish Hugo Chavez.
In the Middle East context, Bill Clinton established a moral equivalence between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization by inviting the arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat to the White House; a little later Hillary was giving Mrs. Arafat a big hug at the U.N. Of late Jimmy Carter went Clinton one better in declaring Israel to be an “Apartheid State”.
In post-Christian Europe the loathing for Israel is even more pathological and often indistinguishable from outright Anti-Semitism. Recall the French ambassador who described Israel as “a sh____ little country”.
All of which brings us to the recently concluded Middle East summit at Annapolis, Maryland, sponsored by the U.S., which the elites instantly transformed into another festival of Bush-bashing. Why had he “waited seven years” to hold a summit? “Why hasn’t he done more?”
In the view of the elites, U.S. policy should have but one goal: strong-arm Israel into conceding everything to the Palestinians.
Actually President Bush has done quite well. Early on he concluded that strong support for our only reliable ally in the Middle East was a no-brainer and he therefore refused to have any dealings with the terrorist Arafat, who died pining for a White House invitation that never came.
This support enabled Israel to effectively defend itself against the Intifada, and ultimately it provoked a useful split in the Palestinian ranks between irreconcilable fanatics (Hamas) and a group that would at least talk to the Israelis.
No peace process in history has succeeded unless “conditions on the ground” were favorable to that result. The best and most moral position for the U.S. is continued strong support of Israel while we await the emergence of such conditions.
Sustaining a slavish adherence to the illusory Middle East “peace process” is a charade that risks the ruin of Israel and a mortal blow to U.S. interests throughout the region.
Long before being Colorado Education Commissioner (1997-2007) , Dr. Moloney did graduate work in Russian and world history at Oxford and the University of London.