Sadat’s uncommonly candid quip encapsulates the inbuilt imbalance of the Mideastern equation. In every set of negotiations, it’s Israel which is required to sacrifice real assets – strategic as well as the core of its historical heartland. Moreover these assets – small, apart from the ceded Sinai, and hardly the immense empire that prevalent propaganda portrays – were all acquired as the result of a defensive war forced upon it by genocidal enemies in 1967.
These enemies’ heirs, seeking explicitly to weaken Israel as it persists in its self-preservation struggle, are at the very most expected to supply a piece of paper – and even that doesn’t come easily. They are blunt enough not to as much as promise to accept our legitimacy in their vicinity. That, despite the fact that no real risks are demanded of them, nothing tangible, nothing which cannot be undone by a capricious and erratic regime.
If recent upheavals in the Arab world show us anything, it’s that all the regimes which surround our lone democracy are volatile and essentially untrustworthy. Why should we literally risk our lives and the future survival here of our children for pieces of paper issued by despots who might not be around tomorrow and whose veracity cannot be taken for granted? No population anywhere would inflict such perils upon itself, were it encircled by neighbors like ours with their proven records of mass murder and mendacity. Yet this is precisely what other democracies, facing nothing like what we face, exhort us to do – regardless of the mayhem in Arab streets and the demonstrated unreliability of Arab potentates.
No bother. No skin off their safe noses. Only ours.
The word hypocrisy comes to mind. In his Devil’s Dictionary (initially published as The Cynic’s Wordbook), now-forgotten American author and satirist Ambrose Bierce (1842- 1913) defined hypocrisy as “prejudice with a halo.”
He further defined prejudice as “a vagrant opinion without visible means of support.”
Only recently various EU leaders hosted Muammar Gaddafi and feted him. He was lauded for having become the free world’s faithful chum, for having backtracked from terror and nuclear weapons ambitions. Now the very same statesmen/women paint him as a madman detached from reality. But surely no psychosis manifests overnight. If Gaddafi is today deemed monstrous, he should have been persona non grata everywhere before Beduin tribes slugged it out for supremacy in the vast oil-soaked Libyan spaces (63 times Israel’s size for a smaller population.) But the same Mideast Quartet members who now egg Israel on to put its head in the noose, allowed Gaddafi to hold sway in the UN Human Rights Council, dictate criteria for equity and pillory Israel’s self-defense. The injustice robbed no Quartet power of its composure.
Far from it, condemning Israel became de rigueur, with the likes of Gaddafi leading the sanctimonious chorus. He accused Israel of everything from assassinating JFK to carnage in Sudan.
It would be semi-comforting if any Quartet meddler were to express even belated mild contrition and ponder what Arab marauders would do (if they could) to the Israelis they abhor, seeing how viciously brutal they are to their own brethren. If the Quartet were really focused on decency, this would be uppermost in its discourse.
Instead, however, the Quartet claims to discern “a new state of urgency,” mandating that the moribund negotiations with the Palestinians be kicked into high gear. The Quartet’s envoy, Britain’s erstwhile premier Tony Blair, was dispatched here, doubtlessly eager to garner another scrap of glory at our expense.
In several days US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are due to chinwag in Brussels about our “core issues.”
Not beating around the bush, the Russians have spelled out what’s in the offing. After meeting with Ashton in Geneva, Lavrov announced that the Quartet will attempt to “draw border lines between Israel and a sovereign Palestinian state.”
No less. There won’t even be a semblance of direct negotiations but a solution imposed from on high by players who are anything but morally upright.
All this, we’re told, is done with our best interests in mind – to bless us with peace, even if not of the sort we hanker for, not of the sort that would allow us to sleep calmly at night.
The US, Quartet member and still ostensibly leader of the free world, exudes even greater alacrity to put anyway vulnerable Israelis even more in harm’s way. While reluctantly denouncing those Mideastern despots who couldn’t hold on to power, the Obama administration appears inexplicably intent on appeasing the baddest bad-boy of all – Syria’s Bashar Assad.
His Iranian-lackey dictatorship looks sturdier than other Arab tyrannies. Tehran’s ayatollahs have too much invested in Assad, in his hegemony over next-door Lebanon and his collaboration in the rearming of Hezbollah.
Assad’s army, controlled by his Alawite minority loyalists, fears bloody vendettas against all Alawites should Assad be deposed.
Hence he’s assured of forceful backing. Moreover, ordinary Syrians likely recall that Bashar’s dad, Hafez, suppressed a rebellion in 1982 by slaughtering 30,000-40,000 residents in the city of Hama. The world stayed incredibly silent. Different strokes for different butchers.
Does the international community care about recent reports that the Iranian-backed Syrian nuclear program has been revived at several locations (including near the reactor Israel is said to have bombed in 2007)? Not really. Assad rejects International Atomic Energy Agency inspections except for a non-suspect civilian chemical facility at Homs.
Nonetheless, no murmurs of protest are heard in the capitals that count. No skin off their noses. Only ours.
And so Obama, while posing as the anti-autocracy bulwark, fondly embraces Assad in the name of pluralist tolerance for non-democracies.
Not only has Obama announced the return of an American ambassador to Damascus (after a five-year absence), he’s now impatient to restore heretofore barely existent negotiations between Israel and Syria too.
Israel needn’t even be consulted. It needs only obey and assume risks.
This is the project entrusted to Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, a frequent guest in Damascus (five visits in two years). A worthy undertaking indeed, especially as it’s no skin off his nose. Only ours.
Do we want to be left with a piece of paper signed by Assad and leave Syria holding the Golan? This is no time to allow ourselves to be bullied, bamboozled or beguiled by international busybodies, to say nothing of regional strongmen.
This is time to doubt them – profoundly.
Our lives literally depend on it. To quote the razor-sharp Bierce: “Where doubt is, there truth is. Doubt is truth’s shadow.”