Saturday, September 20, 2003

Best Friends

I'm sure you've heard it.  Israel has never had better friends in Washington than the Bush Administration.  Really.  If being with you at the start when very few would stand at your side has any meaning, then it would seem Harry Truman was a pretty good friend.  And wouldn't you think Menahem Begin felt the same about Jimmy Carter and Yitzhak Rabin about Bill Clinton, both of whom used Camp David, not to mention their personal capital, to broker peace, albeit with mixed results?  So let's translate.  The far right administration in our country is in tune with the ultra right government in Jerusalem.  So, too, the Administration's fundamentalist Christian friends with Ariel Sharon's fundamentalist Jewish friends on the West Bank.  I only hope this kind of friendship doesn't ultimately kill the Jewish State, not to mention the dreams of ordinary Israelis and Palestinians.

To be sure, the conflict between Israel and its neighbors is rooted in the days of the founding, but I would think my father's friends David Ben Gurion, Moshe Sharret and Golda Meir would be horrified at the sharp right turn, politically and religiously, taken by their successors.  After all, it was large a group of Jewish secularists and religious modernists who made Israel a reality.  Many of the Orthodox, aside of imposing their will on religious practice – liberal rabbis couldn't function – were on the fringes, and the ultra-Orthodox, unlike Truman, didn't much recognize the State's validity or authority.  The West Bank emerged as their key to taking hold of the conversation and, as of today, of Israel's destiny.

George Bush and company are hell-bent on establishing a Moslem stronghold for democracy in the region.  And, of course, they want to obliterate terrorism.  And now they've spent our considerable capital in seeking that transformation in Iraq.  Imagine if you will, that they had opted to make only a fraction of that investment in transforming the West Bank into a Palestinian State, a parallel democracy to its Israeli neighbor?  What if troops, minus the devastating bombs, had been landed right where that self-defeating wall is being erected?  The fact is that no peace in the Holy Land is likely to come without proactive and sustained intervention by a third party or parties.  Talking of road maps is all well and good, but it's clear that someone has to patrol the path, a truly honest broker with force behind the words.  Just as I am dubious about our ability to achieve a democratic Iraq, I am convinced that with a similar effort we could achieve it in Palestine.  And the dividends would be huge and immediate for the parties on the ground, for ourselves and for the world at large.  Settling this dispute addresses one of the core causes of global terrorism.  To do so would be to bypass symptomatic relief of a malignancy in favor of producing remission and ultimate cure.

I had written these words before setting out to attend an event for Howard Dean.  I'll confess, as anyone who reads these blogs will know, that Dean has increasingly been at the top of my list of Democratic candidates.  But I went wanting that gut feeling to be sustained by some substance, and not entirely sure it would be.  Howard Dean, it turns out, is a very much what I had hoped and sensed.  Unlike what the press and neo-Cons would have you believe, he is not a George McGovern but a result oriented fiscal conservative with a down-to-earth rather that pie-in-the-sky agenda, economic, social and foreign policy.  He's a liberal – "if that means balancing a budget rather than running up record deficits, I'm proud of the designation."  He was, and is, opposed to the current Iraq war brought on by dubious arguments about non-existent WMD's and unproved terrorist links.  Conversely, he supported the first Gulf War pushing back an illegal invasion and that of Afghanistan which retaliated for 9/11.  He is not opposed to being strong or using force, simply using it unjustly.  He thinks we're in real trouble, trouble that can be addressed, but real trouble.  I agree.  And, in answer to a question on Israel, he said more or less what I stated here.  How could I not like the guy?  But in a less flippant context, his words were heartening because obviously there are others who are beginning to think out-of-the-box on a subject mired in truisms a cliché "patriotism".  Perhaps there is some hope in these terrible times.  By the way, he wasn't wearing one of those American Flag pins.  I guess, like me, he must think his words and deeds are enough to prove that he is loyal to and loves his country.

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