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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Will Israel learn the lessons of Georgia?

Writing in Wednesday's Boston Globe, columnist Jeff Jacoby recounts a list of American friends who have been abandoned when push came to shove.

HENRY Kissinger used to say that while it can be dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, to be a friend is fatal. The people of South Vietnam learned that bitter lesson when the United States abandoned them in 1975. The Poles learned it after Yalta, the Hungarian freedom fighters learned it in 1956, the Cubans learned it at the Bay of Pigs. And tens of thousands of Iraqis learned it in 1991, when at the urging of George H.W. Bush they rose against Saddam Hussein, only to be slaughtered when American support never materialized.

We can now add Georgia to that list.

The current President Bush has been a vocal champion of the young democracy in the former Soviet republic. He lauded the Rose Revolution that swept Mikheil Saakashvili to power, backs Georgia's bid to join NATO, and traveled to Tbilisi in 2005 to give his "pledge to the Georgian people that you've got a solid friend in America." In return, the Georgians firmly aligned themselves with the United States, sending troops to fight alongside ours in Iraq and Afghanistan and even naming a main road in Tbilisi after Bush. At the White House in March, Saakashvili effusively thanked the president for having "really put Georgia firmly on the world's freedom map."

Yet last week, when Russia contemptuously wiped its boots on that map, sending tanks and bombers to smash and kill their way across Georgia's frontier, Bush's response was feckless.

Are we - Israel - any different than Georgia or any of the other American 'friends' listed above? Should we expect the US to come to our defense automatically if we are - God forbid - attacked? The precedent is not good.

In the War of Independence, Israel was on its own. The British did everything possible to help the Arabs win, and the rest of the world was silent.

In 1956, after a lightning victory over the Egyptians, the Eisenhower administration forced Israel to give back the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for 'guarantees' that we would not be attacked again. But when Egypt's President Nasser ordered UN troops out of the Suez Canal area so that he could blockade it eleven years later, the troops left immediately.

After the 1967 War, Israel would have given away the territory it liberated in a New York minute, but no one was willing to take it, and in the forty years since, many Israelis have become accustomed to the idea of having those territories and will not give them up so easily. The war itself ended too quickly for international interference.

In 1973, the Nixon administration restrained Israel from a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and Syria and then nearly waited too long to stop an arms embargo.

In 2006, the unusually feckless Olmert-Livni-Peretz government blew the daylight they were given to destroy Hezbullah and attack Syria by an unusually generous American administration, and ended up having UN Security Council Resolution 1701 shoved down their throats.

Does anyone think the next war will be different? The Bush administration has done nothing to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons to attack us - with Russia's help. It has done a lot to prevent Israel from attacking the installations producing those weapons, and soon Iran may be beyond the point of no return. Is the Olmert-Barak-Livni-Yishai government listening? All indications are that it is not.

Otherwise, how can we explain Israel's cutoff of weapons to the Georgian government (whether it's only of 'offensive weapons' or of all weapons) in that country's time of need? What if we were in that same position? It could - God forbid - happen. In fact, it did happen in 1973. Can we be sure it won't happen again?


At 7:37 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I will be blunt.

Israel should not count on the US to fight its war, back its defense, provide weapons, funds, or any sort of support.

It saddens me to say this, but it is true.

While my countries leaders and presumptive nominees to become leaders swear they value the friendship with Israel, understand that in the realpolitik game, Israel is viewed as an expendable piece.

Yes, it is wrong headed. Yes it is bad.

Israel needs to be capable of standing entirely upon its own in all aspects, without any sort of approval/disapproval from the US.

My free advice to Israel is to seek membership in NATO, in the EU, and other fora. Don't rely upon the US, our leaders appear ready to go back on their words as quickly as they issue their words.

The people of the US stand with the people of Israel against terror and for productive and modern societies, human rights, dignity of all. Yet my leaders seem willing to compromise ideals in order to 'secure' their goals.

At 9:05 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Israel's government has become a proverbial byword for Jewish stupidity. No one is ever going to say: "We're all Jews now." The Jews are different from the Georgians. Nations have interests not a sense of conscientious obligation. And they pursue those interests without regard for what the rest of the world thinks. If Israel were as brazen as the Russians, she'd be a lot better off today.

At 2:13 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

For the same reason Israel can't rely on the US, it can't rely on its own current political leaders.

The US and these leaders have other priorities.


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