This week's column:
Phew. We can breathe easier now that the Obama administration has taken a tough-as-scimitars line with Israel, whose existentially threatening architectural blueprints for new housing, the administration says, pose a dire threat to U.S. troops and interests. Or, as Vice President Joseph Biden put it, referring to a new housing project in Jerusalem, as reported by Yedioth Ahronoth: "This is starting to get dangerous for us. What you're doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan." In other words, maybe it's not the Muslim-made IED planted in the roads of Helmand Province that's the problem; maybe it's the Jewish-built condo in Jerusalem. Such is the babble of the jihad-blackmailed. And the problem with giving in to blackmail is that it never ends.
The effects are as palpable as they are shameful. The same week the Israeli housing project launched diplomatic fireworks and blaring world headlines, the White House and most media ignored the Palestinian Authority's (PA) official commemoration of Dalal Mughrabi, a mass murderess who led an attack killing 38 Israelis in 1978. She now has a PA public square named in her honor (joining two PA girls high schools, two summer camps and other institutions so named). In its silence on this calumny, the U.S. government has acquiesced to the jihadist narrative that Jews building homes in Israel's capital is incitement; and Muslims naming public squares for killers of Jews in the PA is just peace-process-as-usual.
This is the policy of appeasement, Islamic appeasement, and, under the constant drip, drip, drip of oil dependence, it has been eroding our national security posture since long before 9/11, reshaping a world perspective that conforms with that of the Islamic world. This eruption over housing in Jerusalem -- an "insult," an "affront," said White House adviser David Axelrod, strangely using the language of offended Islam -- is just its most vivid political manifestation to date.
Gen. David Petraeus put a military gloss on this same policy in recent testimony before the U.S. Senate. Setting up a discussion of what he called "root causes of instability" or "obstacles to security," he led off with "insufficient progress toward a comprehensive Middle East peace," meaning the open-ended jihad against Israel (not that he put it that way). This, he went on to say, presents "distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the (region)."
Why? "The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel," he said. "Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the (region) ... and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world. Meanwhile, al-Qaida and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support."
Subtext: If Israel would shrink into nothingness, everything would be beautiful.
Petraeus' testimony about "Arab anger" echoes his concerns, as reported by Foreign Policy online this week, about Arab complaints on "the Palestinian issue," as a senior military officer put it to the blog. Petraeus, Foreign Policy writes, believes this anger is "jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region." Indeed, hoping "to be perceived by Arab leaders as engaged," Petraeus sought to place Israel under his command purview. (Request denied.)
Q: Since when is assuaging "Arab anger" and demonstrating "engagement" to Arab leaders the concern of U.S. war planners? A: Since U.S. war planners became U.S. counter-insurgency (COIN) planners -- and Petraeus helped write the book on COIN. Playing to Arab demands, Muslim demands, generally, is the heart of "hearts and minds" in CENTCOM land.
No wonder the general talks about "Arab anger" caused by Arab "perception" over "the Palestinian question" as hindering U.S. objectives. He is using the classic buzz terms for the Arabist slant on the jihad (not "Arab anger") against Israel. This jihad is now picking up a terrifying speed, particularly as the Obama administration, fresh from an apology to Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, "outreach" to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Iran, "population protection" at the expense of force protection in Hamid Karzai's Afghanistan (don't forget President Obama's bow last year to Saudi's King Abdullah), assists by bringing the hammer down on Israel.
What makes the blackmail unbearable is that the hammer is coming down on something all too symbolically close to Israel's very existence: building houses.