Opinion

Obama puts Israel at risk

As he and Netanyahu prepare to meet, US-Israeli relations are sinking toward an all-time low.

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The May 18 meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is critical for both nations. US-Israeli relations are in danger of deteriorating to the lowest point since Dwight Eisenhower ordered Israeli troops to evacuate Sinai in 1956 – an event that contributed to the 1967 Six-Day War. The summit may define relations between these two democracies for the duration of the Obama administration and beyond.

The White House seems to be intentionally slighting Israel in advance of the summit, even as it raises the stakes. Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones appear to have linked US willingness to stop Iran's nuclear program to receiving Israeli concessions regarding the two-state solution.

This is both immoral and counterproductive. Immoral, because it is dangerously close to blackmailing the Jewish state with a nuclear holocaust, planned by the Holocaust denier-in-chief, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Counterproductive, because potential Iranian nukes would threaten American interests and allies in the Middle East, including the oil-producing Gulf states.

The Obama administration is advocating steps that would jeopardize Israeli security. There is concern that it might approve an Arab-backed plan that could compel Israel to withdraw to indefensible 1967 cease-fire lines. The late, dovish Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban, called these lines "the borders of Auschwitz."

The administration supports dividing Jerusalem to make a Palestinian capital. Such division was not a happy solution for Berlin decades ago. Jerusalem should not be cut in half by barbed wire fences.

It also wants Israel to join the ineffective Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The US had committed in a bilateral agreement not to tamper with the Israeli nuclear shield. At a time when Iran seems on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, this is like demanding that a man in a rough neighborhood give up his shotgun when the criminal next door is getting a Kalashnikov.

All this occurs at a time when the terrorist organization Hamas is gaining strength. Polls predict that it would win Palestinian elections. If "Hamastan" arises in Gaza and the West Bank, it will probably become the next terror state, one keenly interested in destabilizing the US ally Jordan, as well.

The bigger picture is even more alarming. The administration is spending precious time and political capital trying for a quick fix to an intractable conflict. Obama and his top officials are meeting with the kings of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, the Egyptian president, the Europeans, and the Russians to effectively develop a plan that Israel had no part in formulating – and which would be imposed on it by extreme pressure.

This grand design is based on the "Arab peace plan" penned by the Saudis. It envisions settling millions of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Israel, a country the size of New Jersey.

This would irrevocably change the nature of Israel and create an ever greater terror threat. In pursuing this track, the Obama administration risks repeating the mistakes of its predecessors who also eagerly embraced instant solutions. Consider Camp David II in 2000, after which Yasser Arafat triggered the second intifada that killed more than 5,000 overall.

The administration seems to be making three grave errors. The first is disregarding reality. The entrenched hostility of the Arab world and radical Muslims toward Israel is there for all to see. The core issue is that the Arab elites have not accepted Israel's existence in the region. This fundamental point cannot be overlooked.

A second major mistake is arm-twisting a staunch democratic ally to curry favor among a deeply anti-American Arab and Islamic world. Doing so would send a message of weakness. America's allies from Japan to India to the Baltics will take note. A new wave of anti-American attacks – in Iraq, in the Gulf, and even on American soil – may be the unintended consequence.

The third mistake is to reward terrorism. A seven-year barrage of rockets from Gaza has not broken the will of the Israelis. Neither have the terror attacks, which killed nearly 1,200 Israelis since 2000 – mathematically proportional to 50,000 deaths in America. We should not allow the threat of terror to break the will of America to stand up to terror masters and financiers.

Israelis would be delighted to live in peace with their neighbors. But that can't happen until Hamas and Fatah abandon terror and cease teaching hatred to their children, brainwashing them about suicide bombing, and driving Jews into the sea. Palestinians have a long way to go to develop civil society, the rule of law, and economic prosperity before being ready to run a state. Israel will be in grave danger unless Washington stands with its ally in this fight for survival. The Middle East needs US leadership, but not the kind of leadership that imperils Israel while creating a Hamas-controlled terror state.

Ariel Cohen is a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute.

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