The Obama administration recently warned Israel that it is becoming “increasingly isolated” in the Middle East and must take “risks for peace.” However, it is the very policies of the administration that are undermining Israel’s ability to take such risks and have served to increase Israel’s vulnerability in a hostile region.
Historically, strong American support has enabled Israel to make tough, risky decisions. For example, Israel unilaterally withdrew Israeli Defense Forces and uprooted settlements from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, knowing that it had the unwavering support and commitment of the United States. In fact, unwavering support for Israel has long been a core tenet of U.S. foreign policy, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike.
|Netanyahu meets with Obama.
I am proud of my consistent record of standing with our friend and ally Israel throughout my public service. As governor of Virginia and in the U.S. Senate as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I vigorously promoted and encouraged close cultural, economic, educational and strategic ties between the freedom loving people of our two nations.
I have long believed that Israel and the United States share an unshakable bond, and the United States must stand with Israel in the face of these burgeoning threats.
Unfortunately the Obama administration sees it differently. In less than three years President Obama’s attempts to create a distance between the United States and Israel while accommodating Israel’s enemies have severely undercut our relationship in a very public way, leaving Israel increasingly vulnerable and isolated while emboldening their enemies.
In speech after speech, Obama has distanced the United States from Israel, castigating Israel over housing projects in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, even making a dangerous and unprecedented call to start negotiations based on the pre-1967 borders that made Israel’s security vulnerable in the first place.
Perhaps the Obama administration believed that creating distance with Israel would improve U.S. standing with the Palestinians and that the Palestinians in turn would be more accommodating for peace. In fact, the opposite has occurred. Israel has received more rockets from Iranian-supported Hamas in Gaza, including missiles fired at school buses. And there are concerns about shoulder-fired missiles from Libya getting into Gaza.
Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas has rejected Obama’s pleas not to move forward in the United Nations with the Palestinian statehood resolution. The fallout of this rebuke and of a vote, which will fail in the Security Council (where we will have to veto it) but will pass in the General Assembly, will be detrimental for the United States and for Israel.
While a General Assembly resolution will not confer statehood, it is a step up the ladder to that of “observer state,” sufficient to confer a misplaced sense of legitimacy to aggressive anti-Israel elements everywhere. It also will give Abbas the green light to bring war crimes charges against the Israeli government and military officials in the International Criminal Court.
The fallout extends beyond the U.N. processes in New York City. Israel is dealing with stepped-up violent attacks and unraveling diplomatic relations at home. Long-standing good relations with nearby Muslim Turkey have fallen apart over Israel’s interception of a ship in a Gaza-bound flotilla last year.
Moreover, with Arab Spring in full bloom, changes in leadership in Egypt and other countries increase uncertainty for Israel. A series of terrorist attacks in August near the border with Egypt left eight Israelis dead. And last month’s deadly attacks on the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the targeting of Israel’s embassy in Amman, Jordan, do little to instill confidence that long-standing peace treaties will continue to be honored.
Egypt and Jordan are the only members of Arab League that have full diplomatic relations with Israel; reneging on these treaties would destroy the delicate regional diplomatic balance that has kept peace for over three decades.
If the Obama administration expects Israel to take “risks for peace,” Obama should stop the reckless policy of undercutting the position of our only reliable friend and partner in the Middle East and instead stand up to terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah, which seek Israel’s destruction, along with their sponsors Iran and Syria.
The following five steps will put us back on the road to better relations with Israel:
- Publicly affirm that Israel must have safe and secure borders and is not bound by the pre-1967 borders.
- State that Israeli settlements are a final status issue that should be negotiated between the parties, not a precondition to negotiations.
- Urge the PA to abandon the push for a statehood resolution at the U.N. and instead return to direct negotiations with Israel or risk losing U.S. aid.
- Stress to leaders in Cairo and Amman the importance of honoring their respective peace treaties with Israel. Make it clear to Cairo that American recognition of, and support for, any future Egyptian government will depend upon this adherence.
- Stand up to a belligerent Iranian regime which has declared the United States and Israel as enemies since 1979, and is now dangerously emboldened after almost three years of being allowed to attack U.S. and Israeli interests with impunity.
Israel remains our only reliable democratic ally in a very hostile region in the world. The world is watching; friend and foe alike need to know that America’s bond with Israel remains unbroken.
George Allen is former governor of Virginia and senator, running for U.S. senate this year.
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