If only

Charles Krauthammer, neo-con editorialist extraordinaire, does his part for the Bush re-election campaign today in Sacrificing Israel, a piece that I suppose is meant to scare supporters of Israel into voting for Kerry. This is his premise:

Think about it: What do the Europeans and the Arab states endlessly rail about in the Middle East? What (outside of Iraq) is the area of most friction with U.S. policy? What single issue most isolates America from the overwhelming majority of countries at the United Nations?
The answer is obvious: Israel.
In what currency, therefore, would we pay the rest of the world in exchange for their support in places such as Iraq? The answer is obvious: giving in to them on Israel.
No Democrat will say that openly. But anyone familiar with the code words of Middle East diplomacy can read between the lines.


Krauthammer then does some deconstruction of Kerry's foreign policy, including his plans to re-energize the Middle East peace process. So when America will "re-engage" with the peace process, according to Krauthammer this really means turning your back on Israel, embracing Yasser Arafat and encouraging Palestinian terrorism. The entire argument is of course ridiculous, especially when you consider that the two candidates basically have no difference on Middle East policy and that Kerry has done everything to please American supporters of Israel. (See Kerry Tries to Out-Sharon Bush by Ron Chepesiuk and Bush and Kerry Dance to the Tune of Ariel Sharon by Simon Tisdall for some examples.)

Incidentally, the Krauthammer piece may be part of a coordinated campaign by pro-Israeli right-wingers to discredit Kerry: take a look at this ridiculous editorial by Zev Chafets accusing Kerry of faking tears while visiting the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel. Chafets relies on base manipulation of the Holocaust to spread the idea that anyone who doesn't fully support Ariel Sharon wants to see Israel destroyed. Take a look at the depths to which he goes:

But the threat facing Israel now isn't primarily military. Countries, including many Kerry prizes as members of "the international community," are waging diplomatic war aimed at turning the Jewish state into a pariah. This is not a threat you can discern from the cockpit of a jet fighter, but it is real enough. And its desired effect is on display at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
In a time of jihad, an American president who doesn't see that - and feel it - is a dangerous friend to have.


Joseph Lieberman has also raised the issue that Kerry is not taking a strong enough stance in Israel, particularly with the important Jewish population in Florida -- the fourth largest outside of Israel.

If only it were true that Kerry wanted to re-engage in the peace process and apply pressure on the Israelis to finally get out of the Occupied Territories that they've held for 37 years. The truth is Kerry's Middle East policy is uninspiring at best and as criminally negligent as Bush's at worst. The only hope is that a Kerry administration, at least, may not have neo-con Likudniks in positions of influence.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.