Morton A. Klein, National President
Dr. Daniel Mandel, Director
Center for Middle East Policy
Zionist Organization of America
Recently, we see with increasing frequency the canard that U.S. servicemen in the Middle East – mainly those in Iraq and Afghanistan – are endangered by a stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Barack Obama has said it; so too did Vice-President Joseph Biden; and so did General David Petraeus, before withdrawing the implication of his words.
Now, former PLO spokesman and Columbia University academic Rashid Khalidi was invited to support this assertion by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who then restated it as a question for his viewers: “Do you think that U.S. soldiers are in greater danger in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse?”
This misleading question subtly conveys the actually farcical suggestion that Muslims take up arms against America in Afghanistan and Iraq, not because they wish to institute Islamist regimes there and expel U.S. troops that prevent them doing this, but because of events occurring hundreds of miles away on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea.
The truth is that the Taliban and al-Qaeda would not lay down their arms in Iraq or Afghanistan if there was no Israeli-Palestinian impasse. They would not do so even if there was an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement – on the contrary, they would declare any such an agreement an outrage and heresy.
Zakaria’s seemingly innocent question about an “impasse” does not exist in a vacuum. It is being asked in a specific context: the Obama Administration’s pressure and public criticism of Israel for that impasse. This permits Zakaria to insinuate the idea that Israel acts as some sort of force multiplier to jihadist aggression.
Unacknowledged by either the Administration or Zakaria is the fact that the impasse is the product of Palestinian refusal to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state – not Israeli refusal to make concessions to Palestinians.
It follows that Palestinian hostility to Israel – and Arab and Muslim anger about Israel, including the anger of jihadists attacking Americans – stems from Israel’s existence, not its size or conduct.
Thus, although Israel has continued offering unilateral concessions to the Palestinians – accepting future Palestinian statehood, removing roadblocks and implementing a 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank – the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority (PA) refuses to negotiate with Israel. PA president Mahmoud Abbas and other senior PA officials have repeatedly and explicitly refused to accept Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
The PA continues incitement to hatred and murder against Israel in its media, mosques, schools and youth camps. It glorifies terrorists – like Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who led the 1978 coastal road attack that saw 37 Israelis slaughtered. PA prime minister Salaam Fayyad recently paid a condolence call on the families of three terrorists who were killed after deliberately murdering an Israeli civilian.
Nonetheless, the Obama Administration is ignoring all this and acting as though Israel is responsible for the impasse.
Thus, at first, the Administration said nothing about the PA honoring Mughrabi. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally did, it was only to falsely and shamefully assert that the Mughrabi ceremony was the initiative of a Hamas-run municipality that had nothing to do with the PA. In short, PA incitement and extremism is being ignored, finessed and down-played.
Conversely, Israel’s concessions have been also largely ignored, finessed and down-played by the Obama Administration. Secretary Clinton initially called the construction freeze “unprecedented,” but then the Administration condemned an announcement of Israeli construction in eastern Jerusalem, which was explicitly excluded from the scope of the freeze. Moreover, in a January interview, President Obama spoke as though Israel had made no “bold gestures.”
The adoption by Obama Administration of the view that Israeli intransigence is responsible for an impasse that allegedly endangers Americans will not protect U.S. troops or interests, because these remain endangered regardless of what Israelis and Palestinians say or do.
Even if there was an Israeli-Palestinian peace, Islamists would still wage war against America and its allies: jihadists would still shed the blood of Hindus in India, Buddhists in Thailand and Catholics in the Philippines.
U.S. support for Israel – which can be made to mean anything short of cutting off diplomatic and trade relations with it – can always be used to supply a spurious alibi for further conflict and the continued elusiveness of Arab and Muslim warmth for America.
It follows that U.S. efforts would be more wisely directed at getting Arab and Muslim states to pressure the Palestinians to accept Israel. Arab and Muslim states could also play their part in bringing peace by, for example, fighting anti-Israel terror groups, cutting off sources of funds to them and putting an end to the lurid anti-Jewish and anti-Israel propaganda that infests their media.
When that happens, Palestinians may see virtue in making peace with Israel. But that will not happen because the Obama Administration treats Israel as the author of an impasse that sends jihadists in different hemispheres to kill American troops.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America. Dr. Daniel Mandel is Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy.