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Friday, June 22, 2012

How we Israelis see our world

Elliott Abrams does a good job of capturing how we Israelis see our world and yours.
Enter wistfulness. The Israelis know their security is tied to the United States, and no country in the world roots with more energy than Israel for American success and American power. So when we refuse to use it, they shake their heads and wonder why, what does it mean, what are the causes, where does it lead? You could stop the killing in Syria in a week, they say. Think of the lives you would save—and it would hurt Iran and Hezbollah. What is Washington thinking? And of course they wonder what is the meaning for Israel if its champion and key ally thinks itself lacking the power to stop this mass slaughter. They read some of our official statements, and our leaks about how hard it would be to do anything useful in Syria ("the air defenses are so strong" and "the army is large and well-equipped") and shake their heads. About Syrian air defenses and the full capabilities of the Syrian Army they know a lot, and they know these statements are excuses for inaction rather than careful judgments backed by hard intel.

And then there is Iran. Here is a Washington story: When Gen. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited Israel, the Israelis had found out that he was a Frank Sinatra fan and had two young soldiers with good voices sing “New York, New York,” just like after every Yankee game. When the Israeli chief of staff visited Washington, Dempsey arranged for a dozen young soldiers with fabulous voices to sing the award-winning song "Jerusalem of Gold" for him. This is a metaphor, one Israeli official told me: We do what we do well, but you guys are so much bigger, you have so much more: singers, bombers, missiles, everything. And when he spoke of Iran this official was, well, wistful: Israel can damage them, we can set them back, really. But if we had the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force, well, they would come to the table and give up their program or they would lose it in 24 hours. And, as with Syria, when Israelis read statements by American officials, and worse yet Pentagon leaders, expressing doubt about how much America could accomplish with a strike on Iran they shake their heads. After all, one retired general told me, if you really threatened Iran, if they believed Obama would strike, they would negotiate a deal, but with those statements you are undermining yourselves. I don't get it, he said, we all want the talks to succeed, maybe there would be a chance if they were deeply afraid you would strike. They are afraid of you, but they are not enough afraid of us, he added … wistfully.


bout the Palestinians relatively little is said—and never wistfully. None of the Israelis with whom I spoke expect President Abbas to sign a final status agreement, ever, leading some to be less outraged than you might expect about his expected formation of a "technocratic" or "national unity" government with Hamas. In the typical Israeli view, Hamas has Gaza and Fatah has the West Bank and none of these Palestinian political shenanigans will change that in the foreseeable future. The stated purpose of the unity government will be to prepare for and hold elections; I met not one single Israeli official or former official who believes those elections will take place. So their shrugs about a new Fatah-Hamas accord reflect the view that things are going nowhere anyway and American hopes for progress in peace negotiations this year or next are foolish.
We love the United States. But sometimes, we just don't get you. Especially in the last three and a half years.

Read the whole thing.

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At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We love the United States. But sometimes, we just don't get you. Especially in the last three and a half years."

There are a lot of Americans in the US who say the same thing about their fellow Americans, ever since Obumbler sat on his throne.

At 5:06 PM, Blogger michael said...

Carl: You should know how uncomfortable with being a (and now THE) world power Most Americans are. It's not just the Democrats and the left. Most conservatives are also isolationists at heart. So I would argue that BHO differs mostly in scale. Lets not forget the bullying of Bush 43 for useless peace talks.

At 7:33 PM, Blogger Herb Glatter said...

"One of the problems with Americans is that they are a decent people and they expect other people to be decent." Rabbi Meir Kahane


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