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McCain Advisers Say He’d Lay Off Israel By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, September 26, 2008

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency has reported that two advisers to John McCain—Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations and Richard Williamson, the Bush administration’s special envoy to Sudan—told the Washington Institute for Near East Policy during a retreat last weekend that a McCain administration would be reserved and cautious toward either an Israeli-Palestinian or an Israeli-Syrian “peace process.” (That formulation takes into account Max Boot’s subsequent complaint that the JTA report misrepresented what he said.)


At the same event Richard Danzig—secretary of the navy under Bill Clinton and an adviser to Barack Obama—said Obama’s approach would be the opposite in both regards, and that he would likely designate a special envoy to deal with the Palestinian issue.


Boot, for his part, said there were several crises in the world needing more attention than the Israeli-Palestinian sphere and also—according to JTA—that the Bush administration’s promotion of a renewed “process” between these two parties has been a mistake.


As for talks with Syria, Boot’s own amended version of what he said is: “What proponents of a deal with Syria don’t mention is the price we would have to pay—which likely would include the return of the Golan Heights and the betrayal of Lebanon’s democracy movement. And what would we get in return? Some nebulous promise not to support terrorism that Damascus could surreptitiously violate?”


He added: “It’s up to Israel whether it gives up the Golan, but John McCain is not going to betray the lawfully elected government of Lebanon.”


Although pre-election statements by advisers to members of a think tank cannot, of course, be taken as the last word, if Boot’s forecast is accurate—provided McCain gets elected—it would be a most welcome development.


It would also be a break from an involvement by the last three administrations, particularly on the Palestinian issue, so heavy that it was sometimes—at least in effect if not in intent—contemptuous of Israel’s status as a sovereign country and particularly when conservative Israeli leaders were in power.


As when, for instance, Secretary of State James Baker of the first Bush administration “invited” Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to the Madrid Conference in an offer the conservative, rationally skeptical Shamir couldn’t refuse because of Israel’s dependence on the U.S. The conference, which paired off Israel against various Arab parties—including the Palestinians and Syria-Lebanon—in a transparent push for Israeli land giveaways, indeed led nowhere but eventually fostered “backchannel” negotiations that produced the failed and bloody “Oslo process.”


By 1996 after the first wave of Oslo terror had killed about 200 Israelis, the country elected conservative Binyamin Netanyahu over Osloite Shimon Peres as prime minister—to the dismay of President Clinton whose disdain for Netanyahu was well known. Clinton proceeded to brutally pressure Netanyahu into continuing the “process” he had been elected to end or seriously slow down, culminating in the Wye Agreement under which Netanyahu was supposed to hand still more land to Yasser Arafat.


In 1999 when there were new elections between Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, Clinton went so far as to dispatch his own spin doctors James Carville, Stanley Greenberg, and Robert Schrum—in a move that would have been unthinkable with an ally like, say, Britain or Australia—to help Barak win. It worked, and Barak, whose Palestinian and Lebanese policies precipitated both the Second Intifada and the Second Lebanon War, became what George Will called “perhaps the most calamitous leader any democracy has ever had.”


But by the time Barak and Clinton had been replaced, respectively, by Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush, the latter—despite his vaunted friendship toward Israel—was decidedly frosty toward Israel’s need to defend itself against the renewed and even larger-scale terror, prompting Sharon’s angry “Israel will not be Czechoslovakia” press conference. Then in 2003 Bush along with the Quartet drew up the “road map to peace” and forced it on Israel over the grave reservations of Sharon and other Israeli leaders.


Though with a more dovish and pliant Olmert government to deal with, the push for the “two-state solution” has continued to this day with the U.S. training Palestinian forces to take over West Bank cities despite the opposition of the Israeli defense establishment, pressuring Israel—via the indefatigable Condi Rice—to remove West Bank checkpoints, and the like.


Considering that the results of this “involvement”—with various Israeli governments being pushed along, leading the way, or somewhere in between—have encompassed drastically increased terror and empowerment of terror including Hamas, intensified hate-education for a generation of Palestinians, severe Palestinian economic decline, and the demoralization of a once proud and confident Israel, a McCain administration that would finally respect Israel’s sovereignty, and not destructively try to work wonders in a deeply problematic part of the world, would indeed be a huge improvement.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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