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Leaning on Israel By: Ralph Peters
New York Post | Wednesday, July 29, 2009


You've sacrificed all your family had to build your modest dream home by a lake. Now a wildfire races toward you.

A former friend phones from his mansion across the water, ordering you not to call the fire brigade -- he's sending a servant to discuss things with the flames. Meanwhile, your rich buddy insists you tear down the tree-house you built for your kids: It annoys the local thugs he wants to befriend.

That's Israel's position today. Iran blazes with nuclear ambitions. Key leaders in Tehran have called, without cease, for the "Zionist entity's destruction." And Israel's former ally, the United States, implies that the situation isn't that serious.

No, what's most important to the Obama team is a total freeze on Jewish settlements on anything the State Department's Bureau of Politically Correct Geography decides is Arab land. Preventing a long-established settler from building a new room for a growing family is more important than halting Iran's weapons program.

It's true: Iran might not use the nukes it intends to acquire. But if you were raising your children in Tel Aviv, how would you like your chances?

Pick an arbitrary number. Say the odds are only one in five that Iran would actually launch nukes at Israel. In Washington, that might seem like a reasonable calculation. In Jerusalem, the "only" part would sound like pure irony.

President Obama's position may evolve as he comes to grips with reality (his views on Russia are already maturing, if Joe Biden can be believed). But he appears to have come to the Oval Office with an anti-Israel chip on his shoulder -- put there by left-wing associates over the decades.

What our president presents as even-handedness toward the Palestinians not only ignores countless facts and the lessons of history but also encourages Arab intransigence. Why compromise, when Washington's backing away from Israel?

The road to peace -- if there is one -- doesn't lead through tolerance of those who want every Jew dead.

Yesterday, Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited Israel. For six hours. A very good man thrust into an uncomfortable spot, the SecDef must have spent much of his time "explaining" the new Obama doctrine as expounded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week.

Clinton test-marketed the administration's willingness to accept a nuclear-armed Iran. Instead of trying to prevent Tehran's acquisition of such weapons, she told our regional allies (real or imagined) that we'd respond by extending a "defense umbrella" to negate the effects of Iranian nukes.

Except that it wouldn't. What good would such a defense umbrella be to Israel after its destruction?

And one suspects that, with Tel Aviv a wasteland, "cooler heads would prevail" and there would be no response in kind, that we'd all just "deplore" what happened and hold conferences to insure it "never happens again."

Apart from its bewildering reluctance to try to understand Iran's leaders on their own terms, this administration clearly doesn't grasp the dynamics of nuclear proliferation among rogue regimes.

When one more bad actor gets nukes, the increase in the threat of nuclear war isn't plus-one-more, but exponential. While I doubt that the majority of Iranians want to risk launching nuclear weapons at Israel, wars aren't unleashed by the masses, but by determined leaders. And for all its other weaknesses, Iran has tough guys at the top: After all, ruthlessness is what's kept them in power for 30 years.

Our government's shift from the position that a nuclear-armed Iran is unacceptable to the stance that a nuclear-armed Iran can be handily deterred could prove to be the most dangerous error the United States ever made in the Middle East -- a high standard, indeed.

Our president is good at sending signals -- not least, when he sends the wrong ones. When he spent several days in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, lavishing praise on Islam and slyly comparing Palestinian misfortunes with the Holocaust, he sent one signal.

When he sent Secretary Gates to calm down those troublesome Israelis, he sent another.

This administration must stop living in a fantasy world in which monstrous fanatics will do what we want because we're suddenly nice to them. You don't deter butchers who believe they're on a mission from their god by complimenting them on their rich history.

The only hope -- albeit a slim one -- for peace in the Middle East is to make it clear that our support for Israel is steadfast and unwavering, that Israel will endure and its enemies must accept its existence.

The current rift between the Israeli government and the Obama administration isn't about expanding settlements in the West Bank. It's about declining courage in the West.


Ralph Peters is a New York Post Opinion columnist and the author of "Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World."


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