On the very eve of the massive U.S. counterattack against Afghan terrorist bases, who should step forward to denounce the Bush administration for "appeasement" but Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Despite a grumpy non-apology a few days later, the Sharon smack in the American face at a time when the administration is trying to build a fragile house of Arab cards to sustain our counterattack was particularly ill-timed.
"Do not try to appease the Arabs at our expense," Mr. Sharon blustered. "Do not repeat the dreadful mistakes of 1938, when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient solution. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia." Of course, no one was asking Israel to be Czechoslovakia. All that anyone asked was that Israel try for once to behave like an ally with a common purpose and cooperate with the coalition of states the Bush administration is trying to construct.
Mr. Sharon's bellowing was certainly ill-timed for American and Western interests, but not necessarily for those of Israel. What made him angry was not only the administration's effort to stroke reluctant Arab allies by endorsing the concept of a Palestinian state the day before his outburst but also the administration's general refusal to embark on a global crusade against all of Islam and the entire Arabic world and thereby to fight Israel's conflict for it.
It was that demand that lay behind Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's recent statement to Congress that we should "end states that support terrorism." It is that demand that animated the open letter signed by some 40 supporters of Israel published in the neo-conservative Weekly Standard on October 1 demanding that the United States remove Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and make war against Iran and Syria if they refuse to abandon support for terrorism. It is that demand that lies behind Weekly Standard editor William Kristol's attacks on Secretary of State Colin Powell as somehow "selling out" or subverting the total war supposedly favored by President Bush.
And it is that demand that lies behind the Big Lie being purveyed by virtually all of Israel's journalistic fifth column inside the United States that the Sept. 11 attack had nothing to do with US support for Israel and the Palestinian issue but was driven by Osama bin Laden's hatred of "democracy," the "West," or just plain hatred pure and simple – "the haters need no reason to hate us," columnist Paul Greenberg glibly assures us. By denying that US support for Israel plays a major role in precipitating terrorism against American targets, they hope not only to divert attention from Israel but also to arouse and manipulate American counter-hate against Israel's regional enemies.
The truth is that the claim is a lie blatantly contradicted by almost every public statement and communiquй from bin Laden himself, including his statement after the US air raids against Afghanistan this week. Bin Laden and his henchmen never hesitate to make plain that there are three major reasons for their war against America: US military bases in Saudi Arabia, "the land of Mohammed," as bin Laden calls it; US policy against Iraq and the devastation of its people; and US support for Israel and the repression of the Palestinians. To enumerate these reasons is not to endorse them as being morally or factually correct, but only to emphasize that they are the reasons bin Laden himself offers – and he could hardly offer them if they had no resonance in the Arab world.
The evidence is that the Bush administration, wisely, is not even thinking about doing what Israel and its choirboys in the American press demand. Despite the ferocious rhetoric in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, actual administration policy has been measured – intended to secure the collaboration of strategically essential but internally fragile Arabic or Muslim states such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as the Muslim states of the former Soviet Union to Afghanistan's north, and the quiescence of potential enemies like Iraq, Iran and Syria. The velvet glove the administration is wearing in one part of the Middle East is diplomatically crucial for the iron fist that hammered the Afghan bases this week.
What the Israeli lobby is demanding is nothing less than another world war – the United States, isolated except for an alliance with a limping micro-state surrounded by enemies, against what would soon turn into an alliance of every Muslim and Arabic state from Rabat to Jakarta. It would be a war that even the world's last superpower would lose, and the biggest loser of all would be the very state whose leader was sneering "appeasement" last week because his strongest and oldest ally has the good sense not to start it.