Since 1967, American presidents have assured us that Israel is an “ally” of the United States while, simultaneously, maintaining an “evenhanded” stance between the Israelis and the Arabs. Despite the contradiction, it has been a given among foreign policy mavens that such an “honest broker” approach is the only one that could possibly lead to a peace agreement.
After 45 years, perhaps we can safely conclude that evenhandedness has not worked.
Which brings us to Mitt Romney’s trip to Jerusalem where he committed political incorrectness by praising Israeli “culture” and dissing that of the Arabs. Could it be that Romney was signaling a shift in American Middle East policy, were he to be elected President, which would reflect what most Americans, except the loony left, actually believe?: that Israel’s open democratic culture is vastly superior to the Arab tradition of authoritarianism, violence, and state sanctioned crimes against women, gays, and non-Muslims.
Maybe what Romney is saying is that Western “tolerance” of the Islamic world is a failure in the same way that Angela Merkel, David Cameron, and former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy have declared multiculturalism (read: tolerance of Islam’s medieval traditions) an abject failure.
So maybe telling the Arabs exactly what we really think of their “culture” along with increased efforts to develop all of our energy sources at home or from Western sources would work where sucking up to Muslims and energy dependence on the Arabs have clearly failed. That seems to be the message Romney is sending, that he would approach the Israeli-Arab conflict and relations with the Islamic world in a different, more honest manner.
As Brett Stephens writes in today’s Wall Street Journal, Romney’s honesty is a welcome contrast to Obama’s disingenuousness:
…When detractors think about Israel, they tend to think its successes are largely ill-gotten: Somebody else’s land, somebody else’s money, somebody else’s rights. It’s the view that Israel gets an unfair share of foreign aid from the U.S., and that it takes an unfair share of territory from the Palestinians. It’s also the view that, as the presumptive stronger party in its dealings with the Palestinians, Israel bears the onus of making concessions and taking the proverbial risks for peace. As the supposed underdogs, Palestinians are not burdened by any reciprocal moral obligations.
By contrast, when admirers of Israel visit the country, they typically marvel at everything it has planted, built, invented, re-imagined, restored, saved. Israel’s friends think that the country has earned its success the hard way, and that it deserves to reap the rewards. Hence Mitt Romney on Sunday: “You export technology, not tyranny or terrorism. . . . What you have built here, with your own hands, is a tribute to your people.”
Animating one side of this divide is a sense of admiration. Animating the other is a sense of envy. Could Mr. Obama have uttered lines like Mitt Romney’s? Maybe. But you get the feeling that scrolling in the back of his mind would be the words, “You didn’t build that.” …