Another Tack: Galling like de Gaulle

To those among us with some historical memory, these tense days might be reminiscent of days no less tense on the eve of the Six Day War. Then too Israel was beset by existential threat.

Egypt had blockaded the Tiran Straits, kicked out UN forces from Sinai and filled our airwaves with bellicose bluster about annihilating the Jewish state, a.k.a. the loathsome “Zionist entity.” Four and a half decades later, we are threatened by Iranian nukes and all around us is regurgitated the bellicose bluster about annihilating Israel, a.k.a. the loathsome “Zionist entity.” To those of us who still remember, the vehement vows to obliterate us sound eerily similar.

But the comparables hardly end here. Our nervous systems are today mercilessly put through the wringer – but not for the first time. Yesteryear too, our very existence seemed to equally hang in the balance during a protracted waiting period of uncertainly, compounded by the realization that somewhere, behind closed doors, life-and-death decisions are being weighed by pressured individuals tugged in contradictory directions and bearing unenviable burdens. We didn’t know back then, in 1967, about Yitzhak Rabin’s breakdown but plenty of us felt at the end of our own tether.

And as our white-knuckle ride on history’s roller coaster tumbled and tossed us 45 years ago, the world watched with apathetic aplomb. Our grueling anxiety was no skin off assorted foreign noses. It was our misfortune and none of their own. Just as now.

Already back in 1967 what concerned the august statesmen of fellow democracies was hardly our welfare and survival. What they feared most was an Israeli preemptive strike. That, they warned sternly, would grievously upset the international apple cart.

What they counseled was that we just learn to live with the very potent threats to our continued presence on the face of this planet. We should embrace our endangered species status and count on their diplomats to powwow as per polite protocol. Perhaps they can win us a smidgen of extra time, but only on condition that we don’t fly off the handle.

Sound familiar? It should.

What US President Barack Obama fears most, as he campaigns for reelection, is not the Iranian bomb but Israeli action against that bomb – especially if the dreaded Israeli preemption occurs before the race for the White House concludes. That would really be a political killjoy. And so Obama and his diverse mouthpieces – some in uniform – issue severe and unsympathetic admonitions against Israeli adventurism.

They prefer us diminished, demoralized, dependent on their good will, and, most of all, no trouble during a close electoral showdown. While we compliantly cower in our assigned corner, they could lay it on real thick and announce that they’re our devoted friends. Our fate and future must be entrusted to their superior judgment because Obama knows best. He often tells us so.

This bears uncanny resemblance to the attitude of another omniscient friend – French president Charles de Gaulle. Indisputably, Obama appears the more likable of the two but his policy bottom line is just as galling as de Gaulle’s.

Back in 1967 many of us still convinced ourselves, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that de Gaulle was our best bud. There was no American aid back then but France occupied a warm spot in Israeli hearts. In its earliest days Israel came to regard France as an ally, which it literally was during the 1956 Sinai Campaign, but it also offered military and scientific collaboration (which begot our nuclear reactor in Dimona). France was Israel’s premier weapons retailer. Israel’s first modern fighter jets were the French Mirages.

But by 1967 the disposition toward Israel had shifted as radically in the Élysée as it later transformed in the White House, after Obama took up residence there in 2009. He was already imbued with pro- Arab/pro-Muslim/pro-Third World predilections. Obama sought to impress all these players, which were inter alia inimical to Israel, with his empathy toward them. He stressed at every opportunity (even when appointing a new NASA chief) that he aimed to reach out to Islam. He berated American exceptionalism and apologized for perceived American/Western slights. Since Israel is unequivocally part of the democratic West and is abhorred viscerally by Islamist forces, it was excluded from Obamaesque affections.

Likewise, de Gaulle found no pragmatic use for Israel after the close of the Algerian conflict. He was decidedly more interested in Arab oil than in Jewish valor and preferred to entice Arabs with French weaponry. Israel became a chronic pain in his backside.

This isn’t our conjecture or narrative. We have it directly from de Gaulle’s own mouth. In his infamous November 27, 1967 press conference, de Gaulle did more than characterize all Jews “an elitist people, self-assured and domineering.” He also fulminated on the personal affront which the Six Day War constituted for him.

Like Obama today, de Gaulle then cautioned Israel against launching any offensive. Like Israel today, Israel then did its absolute darndest to alert the nations of the world to the unparalleled peril facing it. Like today, the hope then was to squeeze out some sort of international action that would obviate the need for Israel to go it militarily alone.

De Gaulle noted that Israel sent its top diplomat to him, the suave and very dovish Abba Eban. In his supercilious manner, de Gaulle referred to their meeting: “I myself, on 24 May, had stated to Mr. Eban, Israel’s foreign minister, whom I saw in Paris: ‘If Israel is attacked we shall not let it be destroyed, but if you attack we shall condemn your action.’”

It was pretty much what Obama now tells Israel and every bit as vague – bone-chillingly so. Like Obama today, de Gaulle then gave no hint of any concrete measure with which he planned to prevent Israel’s destruction. All he had done on that same day, in his own words, was to “propose to the other three Major Powers to jointly forbid both parties from initiating the fight.”

These powers, he suggested, should hold an international conference in an attempt to restore tranquility.

Sound familiar? It should.

Obama and his international partners have been in the business of restoring ostensible tranquility for years. It’s no more likely to succeed now than it did then. In both cases Moscow gave succor to the villains of the piece. In 1967 it cosseted its protégés Syria and Egypt and spurned all efforts to keep them at bay, asserting that no crisis existed and that the hysteria was an intrinsic feature of Israeli war-mongering.

Today Moscow cossets Iran and charges that there is no reason to lean hard on the ayatollahs. Subtext: there is no crisis, only Israeli machinations. Russia helps Iran further its nuclear ambitions while dragging its feet on sanctions, if not altogether sabotaging them.

In his own memoirs, Eban recounted the glacial indifference with which he was received by de Gaulle in May 1967, when he rushed to Paris to hold an emergency meeting and emphasize precisely how precarious things were. All he heard from de Gaulle were repeated admonitions against starting a war. Netanyahu’s visits to Obama (especially those considerably before the elections, before make-nice obligations prevailed) match the humiliation and unresponsiveness.

On June 2, 1967, De Gaulle published an official communiqué in which he openly and unabashedly singled Israel out for rebuke and declared he’d terminate all arms deals if Israel doesn’t abandon the military option forthwith.

Obama, it needs be admitted, cannot be as unpleasant and as tactless as de Gaulle. While he adamantly refuses to draw red lines on Iran, he must abide by the rules of etiquette in his American playing field – well almost, leastways during sensitive campaigns. The flipside of this is that Obama can’t be as brutally honest as de Gaulle. Obama pretends a lot. De Gaulle didn’t.

De Gaulle didn’t let Israel down easy, despite the fact that lonely, vulnerable, affection-craving Israel always yearned for friends. It always also liked to kid itself that it has friends. Hence, during his state visit to Paris on June 14, 1960, David Ben-Gurion extolled French friendship for little, renascent, plucky Israel.

Israel’s first prime minister was standing next to De Gaulle, who was his unmitigated snooty self that day. With no compunctions, de Gaulle condescendingly doused BG’s heartfelt sentiments. “In international affairs,” he intoned disdainfully, “there are no friends, only interests.”

De Gaulle’s words may have been harsh but they still ring true and should temper our enthusiasm for Obama’s electioneering blandishments. Obama has his own interests and he wants us as submissive and passive in our hour of peril as de Gaulle did.

It’s not that we have better friends than America. We don’t. In fact, we have no friends. Pseudo-friends can be only comforting and useful occasionally, on condition that we maintain suspicious vigilance and put our own existential interests first.

14 thoughts on “Another Tack: Galling like de Gaulle

  1. Israel MUST do to Iran, what it did to it’s Arab enemies in 1967…
    The arrogant Obama is as bad now, as that arrogant de Gaule was back then.
    NOW or NEVER…if Israel will hold back on Iran, an Obama victory in November will be guaranteed and a reelected Obama will spoil Israels interests for the next four years.
    NOW is the time to act and to defeat Iran AND Hussein Obama !
    The American wimps are already trembling in their boots…like that military CLOWN Dempsey !!!!
    If Obama will not back up an Israeli military attack on Iran, he will look like a spoiled brat on the eve of election day…and YES HE WILL !

  2. Charles de Gaulle was profoundly and uncompromisingly Catholic therefore naturally predisposed [understatement] against Jews and Judaism, like most of the French people before the latter entered its current Islamist mutation.
    He inherited from his predecessors a situation where France had become a significant ally of Israel (Mirage aircraft, nuclear assistance, the 1956 Suez Canal campaign).

    He fulminated against Israel before, during and in the aftermath of the Six Day war. He put an embargo on arms supply, but he chose to look the other way: the semi-clandestine flow of vital spare parts for the Mirages and other items went through. As in all things political, French heads rolled (not related to Guillotine) for this unforgivable lapse.

    President Eisenhower was not pleased (another understatement) with the 1956 Sinai war, and didn’t mince his words to actually order Ben Gurion to get out of Sinai.

    Come 1973, president Nixon (in the throes of Watergate} ordered an airlift that I still remember. A very short time previously, H. Kissinger had twisted back Golda Meir’s am, when he demanded that Israel do not call in the reserves, when information (Intelligence) findings spotted Egyptian armed forces concentrations and movements towards the Canal.

    Now we have president Obama and some prominent personalities disagreeing with or downright dissociating themselves from Israel bombing Iranian nuclear facilities.

    Let’s say that we, Israel, have a knack with presidents.

    Wars have this thing about them that one barely knows how they start, but surely do not know how they finish, if at all.

    Happy New Year.

  3. You are refreshingly honest as always Sarah.
    We should remember that De Gaulle was also galling for the Allies in WWII.
    There is no comparison here with Obsma.
    Regarding the threat from Iran: I don’t know of course when a preemptive strike is mandatory.
    But there appears to be disagreement about where the Red Line is, and even whether actionable
    intelligence will be available. Meir Dagan, for one questions Netanyahu’s judgement.
    I fervently hope that Israel will not bite off more than it can chew and that Israeli pilots
    will not be lost in an effort to merely delay Iran’s nuclear progress.

    • There is a principle in Warning Intelligence that the greater the consequences of a particular threat (such as nuclear extinction) the less “warning” you need before taking action. I’m afraid that’s the position we in Israel are in. Whether we can totally obliterate the threat – or just “delay Iran’s nuclear progress” – is not really the question. We need to act. Do you want to play Russian roulette?

  4. It is high noon again…and a small western town has transcended into the world community…and Bibi is the marshal…I wish him nerves of STEEL !

  5. “Obama fears most, as he campaigns for reelection, is not the Iranian bomb but Israeli action against that bomb” – What should be stressed is not that Obama doesn’t care for Israel’s survival – that would sound terribly plaintive – but that he doesn’t care for the future of his own country, the flagship of our civilization as a whole. The vital interests of the US are totally subservient to his re-election goal, as a large number of American commentators (such as the sharply realistic and analytical John Bolton) have remarked. There are many vying for the post, but Obama is the chief gravedigger of the West.

  6. The scorpion, Islam hitched a ride across the river on the stupid frog Obama’s back and the frog was bitten in Benghazi,Libya.
    What we are seeing now is Obama’s/America’s outreach to his Muslim world at Israel’s expense has FAILED MISERABLY , Ain’t God good !
    That’s what happens when a fool checkers player messes with the ISRAEL of God.

    ‘There is nothing new under the sun’ is what King Solomon passed on to us around three thousand years ago from the Word of God.
    The same game plan that worked so well on the Jews of Europe during the Third Reich is being employed again by the Fourth Reich, New Word Order ‘presently’ being led by the USA.
    As President’s Carter, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama did so successfully, always keep Israel restrained and allow a rag tag Hamas and Hezbollah to become major threats to Israel.
    Use the fake peace process to keep Israel from defeating any Arab armies ever again and keep telling the naive fools in Jerusalem sweet little lies.
    As Bush before and Obama now; the lie ”We won’t let Iran get nukes’ has sold well to the suckers who look to America as ISRAEL’s God.
    As they board the latest express cattle cars to their proscribed final destination, America Babylon keeps sending emissary after emissary to restrain the Jews and get them to board the trains with little or no resistance.
    ‘Don’t fight back trust us’ is the Fourth Reich’s policy for Israel at the edge of the second holocaust.
    But God will repay America Babylon for her treachery!
    For the destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon, And her mighty men will be captured, Their bows are shattered; For the LORD is a God of recompense, He will fully repay.
    Jeremiah 51:55
    HAPPY NEW YEAR ISRAEL ,God gets the last laugh with His and your enemies !

  7. Brilliant Sarah……….Your article today needs to be ‘copy and pasted’ to as many in congress as possible, and to Gov Romney’s political website. ALSO, TO THE MAJOR JEWISH NEWSPAPERS AND JEWISH LEADERSHIP ALL ACROSS THE UNITED STATES.
    Hopefully, Israel will have the ‘backing of the American Voting public to put a stop to the Obama (and company) madness of continuing of the ‘screwing up America’ on voting day in November.
    Thanks again Sarah for your brilliance!.
    P.S. Anybody interested in the plight of Israel and the U.S. should ‘bombard’ the Romney website to APPOINT JOHN BOLTON AS HIS NEW SECRETARY OF STATE!…………….iSRAEL’S CLOSEST AMERICAN TALK SHOW HOST (AND MOST VOCAL IN FAVOR OF iSRAEL) IS SEAN HENNITY. He well deserves our ‘write in and vocal support’

  8. Very well thought out and well written article; brings out the many similarities between israel’s situation vis a vis France, in 1967; with Israel’s situation today, vis a vis the U.S. and our Islam-supporting, socialist enemy in chief, Barack Obama. However, there are some very important differences between Israel’s situation in 1967, and that of today. First, De Gaulle didn’t have an ideology; Obama does–Marxism and the promotion of Islam. Second, Israel’s situation is much more dangerous today. Egypt’s military is now American-trained and has the latest, most advanced military equipment–in fighter planes, tanks, and other technology; Iran is racing to build a nuclear bomb, and a means of delivering it.(Iran in 1967 was still under the rule of Mohammed Reza Pahlavi) These factors make a pre-emptive strike all the more imperative for Israel. If Israel waits until after the U.S. election, to strike Iran, and Obama wins; Israel is up the creek, with no way to walk back. On the other hand, with a pre-emptive strike, even if Obama wins, Israel will at least be temporarily ahead of the game. The alternative is a nuclear-armed Iran. If Obama wins, there are a few other countries that will support Israel; Canada, Australia, and Greece; and possibly India and Poland. But how much support these countries can offer is anybody’s guess.
    If ever there was a situation where Hashem could level the playing field in Israel’s favor, this is it.

  9. Ms. Honig, you are a wise woman, this is a great blog. Many thanks!! Also to Chris R. for sending me the link, you are awesome. Abba WILL protect His Chosen, He is with you. Abba WILL guide Bibi as he makes decisions. Please be assured that not all of us in the States agree with our “leaders” and their lapdog followers by any means!! Many, Many of us stand with you!!

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