American policymakers have ideological blinders on – opinion

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The Jerusalem Post 28.02.2024


American policymakers have ideological blinders on – opinion


Israeli and American policymakers keep speaking at cross-purposes. Even as the munitions continue to flow – and Israelis greatly appreciate American support – it’s stunning to hear American diplomats invoke the “two-state solution” like it’s the cure for cancer. To Israelis, this “solution” is as credible as the Theranos blood test that was supposed to diagnose many diseases from one drop of blood… but didn’t.


Similarly, Joe Biden’s hunger for a hostage deal and a ceasefire mistakenly pressures Israel far more than the Qataris, Hamas’s financiers . Biden – backed by Americans shouting in the street – should suspend business as usual with Qatar until Hamas accounts for every hostage – before negotiations continue – and vows to release everyone at once, or no deal.


To understand this growing disconnect, consider two documents. In 1776, Americans signed the Declaration of Independence . It begins “when in the course of human events,” telegraphs “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” then articulates a positive liberal-democratic vision for all, acknowledging that “all men are created equal.”


The Declaration reflects the Enlightenment’s faith in rationality and was expansive, so that “all men are created equal” eventually included all men and women. While imperfect, America’s founders built a can-do political system solving problems by tapping human reason while respecting humanity.


In 1988, 212 years later, Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, issued its “Covenant.” Invoking “the Most Merciful Allah,” the document is irrational, Islamo-supremacist, messianic.  “Ye are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind,” it begins. It warns about “transgressors… smitten with vileness,” in general, and Jews in particular. Early on, it thunders: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it.”  


Why would any rational person think such fanatics are simply fighting a border skirmish – or will tolerate a two-state solution?


By treating politics as transactional, Americans keep underestimating most Palestinians’ apocalyptic, all-or-nothing zealotry. At Camp David in July, 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak offered Yasser Arafat a sweeping compromise that their host, president Bill Clinton, said demonstrated “courage and vision.”


Arafat didn’t even counteroffer – but unleashed waves of Palestinian terrorism that killed more than 1,000 innocents. Twenty-three years later, on October 7, we know what Hamas terrorists did  to young and old, boys and girls, men and women, in a matter of hours – some of whom were “peaceniks” who had spent lifetimes wooing their Gazan neighbors, also assuming that the Palestinians just wanted some reasonable compromise.


Israelis have learned what happens when “Let’s Make a Deal” faces “Apocalypse Now”: the jihadists exploit Western naiveté, Americans toast the compromise while composing their Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speeches in their heads – and Jewish blood flows.


After the 1990s Oslo peace process and Camp David, 2000, triggered 1,000 terrorist murders; after the 2005 Gaza disengagement caused more than 1,200 murders, as well as rapes and maimings in 2023, it’s easy to understand why Israelis mistrust more negotiations – and resist rewarding Palestinian barbarity with another shot at statehood they’ll try to use against us.


It’s harder to understand how any self-respecting policy-maker, assessing the last 30 years, could approach Israelis repeating the same mantra, without adjusting, updating, acknowledging any lessons learned, then expect anything but “no.”


A silver lining: Americans are clueless, not antisemitic

STILL, FOR Jews, there’s a silver lining in this red-white-and-blue cloud that blinds Americans from recognizing the fundamentalist evil defining much Palestinian political culture. When many try to bully Israel into silly solutions; blast Israel for defending itself; or call Israel’s disciplined, morally-justified campaign of self-defense against Hamas “genocidal,” the fickleness feels antisemitic. Fortunately for Jews – but unfortunately for the Free World – America’s foolishness is clueless, not Judeophobic.


Americans self-destructively keep their transactional blinders on against all kind of apocalyptic enemies. Barack Obama, and now Joe Biden, have long downplayed the Iranian regime’s evil and chicanery, as America gets outfoxed, out-negotiated, out-played. That’s why Obama disappointed the Iranian street during the aborted Green Revolution of 2009 – although he did admit 13 years later that his silence “was a mistake.” 


More recently, Biden and his team have been irresponsibly soft on Iran – and Qatar – as America absorbs dozens of attacks from Iranian “proxies.”


Both Iran and Qatar are far more vulnerable to American pressure than these cowardly dictators admit – and Americans realize.


Meanwhile, Donald Trump is equally guileless regarding Russia’s messianic megalomaniac, Vladimir Putin. In February 2017, then-president Trump said: “I would love to be able to get along with Russia… I love to negotiate things, I do it really well, and all that stuff…” Presidents from both parties unknowingly encouraged Putin’s aggression by underestimating his ruthlessness and overestimating their abilities to “negotiate… stuff.”


In the 1930s, president Franklin Roosevelt also dreamed of being reasonable, transactional, and neutral – as godless but apocalyptic dictators spread their tentacles. Fortunately, FDR soon shifted before most Americans did. Still, only the Pearl Harbor surprise attack dragged America into that necessary war against totalitarianism.


Shortly after that assault, FDR proclaimed: “There has never been – there never can be – a successful compromise between good and evil. Only total victory can reward the champions of tolerance, and decency, and freedom, and faith.”


Most Israelis remain committed to fighting Hamas until we achieve “total victory” over their military capacity. We hope that even while seeking creative solutions for “the day after,” our American friends don’t forget that great Democratic president’s message – “There never can be a successful compromise between good and evil.”


A Distinguished Scholar in North American History at McGill University currently living in Jerusalem, Gil Troy is an award-winning American presidential historian and a leading Zionist activist. He is, most recently, the editor of the new three-volume set, “Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings,” the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People ( www.theljp.org )  . Two years ago he co-authored with Natan Sharansky Never Alone: Prison, Politics and  My People,  was published by PublicAffairs of Hachette. Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of  The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist. 




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Prof Gil Troy · 20 Derech Bet Lechem · Apt 2 · Jerusalem 9310925 · Israel