Jewish World Review May 20, 2002/ 9 Sivan, 5762

Marianne M. Jennings

Marianne M. Jennings
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Some passion about Israel | Americans do not sally forth into Middle East policy. There's geography idiocy involved. Many believe they visited the Gaza Strip the last time they were in Vegas.

They also apply the Hatfield/McCoy and Montague/Capulet factor. With such irreconcilable differences, they reason, only internal folly or tragedy can resolve it.

There is an unspoken sartorial block. The last head coverings Americans tolerated were Jacqueline Onassis's pillbox and Minnie Pearl's floral straws. Backwards baseball caps anger us. Nuns frighten us. Sheiks and crown princes wear more colorful habits, but we are not fooled. Head covers breed distrust here.

However, the longstanding dismissal of the Mid-East as something as far away as China (the geography thing again) is no more. Daily talk radio and conversation fodder include pledges of support for Israel. The most geocentric among us understand the injustice of President Bush's Middle East policy, and his dropping poll numbers are a direct result. Even those who believe that ANWR is near the Suez Canal understand why our Israeli friends feel betrayed.

We, who invaded Afghanistan because a band of Muslim Mafiosos determined to do us in had taken up residence there, now insist, via our president, that Israel restrain itself even as it experiences near daily Sbarro or bus bombings.

President Bush and Colin Powell have donned Nehru jackets and Yoko Ono shades as they chant, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." We didn't settle for a good tongue lashing when it came to Osama, but we allow Israel to dish up nothing more to Arafat. Mr. Bush, who demanded a universal commitment against terrorism, has now slipped into a je ne sais quoi foreign policy, glibly dismissing suicide hoodlums.

Arafat emerged from seclusion, or whatever he was doing, spouting off about Nazis. Americans' blood boiled, more so when Geraldo got an interview with this loon. Loonies abound in the Middle East. Israel stands alone as the hot spot of sanity, stability and democracy in a region doomed to autocracy and Third World status, despite our pumping a chunk of our GNP to Arab states for oil we could get from ANWR if we could just grasp that it's in Alaska, not Egypt, and that the moose there, coping with mosquitoes the size of wrens, would be happy to see us with our Off! plop down a pipeline or two.

Israel, with its mighty dignity, begs us to understand its position as we did in the days and weeks immediately following September 11. Israel's position was once our position: that there is no dealing with these folks. They cannot be trusted with treaties. Their negotiations carry a subcutaneous agenda. Some policy experts theorize that Arafat's flare-up is orchestrated to buy the Saddam segment of the axis of evil time to gin up more weapons of destruction.

There is a certain arrogance that has descended on every president from Nixon through W (Reagan excepted) that makes each believe he is the one leader who can crack the Middle East peace code. The State Department creates this presidential conceit.

Secretary Powell has been swept up in the culture of a government agency dominated by flower children of the 1960's "make love, not war." In1996, State Department employees donated $22,650 to the Clinton campaign, making them his 13th largest donor, ahead of Chrysler and PaineWebber and just behind Time Warner and Raytheon. In 2000, they donated $42,000 to the Gore campaign, making them his 19th largest donor, ahead of most law firms and only $8,000 behind Morgan Stanley. The State Department employees are not on either the Dole or Bush donor lists.

The only player more leftist and liberal in the Middle East policy battles than the State Department is the UN. Their financing of Jenin, fertile grounds for suicide bombers, is daft. The bulk of UN financing there comes from the U.S, courtesy State Department policy. Career officials at the State Department convince commander-in-chief after commander-in-chief that they have the solution. Feeling the common man's hesitation about the Middle East, our presidents succumb. The State Department lures with the glory of the Nobel.

There will be no peace or Nobel without Reaganesque blunt force. Communism's tyranny was defeated, not with negotiations, but with a show of military strength coupled with clear oratory. Why the belief that tyranny by terrorists is any different?

Mr. Bush, like his father before him, has gone wobbly in the Middle East. He has been blessed with Israeli moral clarity in this iteration of a centuries-old dispute. Yet he waffles in his support. If he has a grander scheme, he must tip his hand soon.

The average American has never been up-to-speed on the Middle East, but does understand right from wrong. Israel is right. Arafat is wrong. Mr. Bush's current Middle East policy lacks the passion the American people now have for Israel.

JWR contributor Marianne M. Jennings is a professor of legal and ethical studies at Arizona State University. Send your comments by clicking here.


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© 2002, Marianne M. Jennings