A collection of Republicans are lining up in opposition to Chas Freeman this week. While some of their complaints are couched in concerns over Freeman’s “brutal reality” stance on human rights in China and perfectly valid questions over financial concerns, they make it very clear that their primary issue is the NIC Chief’s stated positions on Israel. You can click through the jump above for the full serving of claptrap, but the issue has brought my mind back to an older question. We’ve had U.S. presidents attempting to broker a lasting peace in the Middle East for most of my adult life. I am in no way implying that the task is an easy one, but how has the most powerful nation in the world failed so dismally on this particular diplomatic front? A small hint may be found in a recent piece on the subject by Andrew Sullivan.
This is Freeman’s cardinal sin among his critics: to blame Israel, even in part, for the plight it finds itself in, and to ask that US foreign policy be more neutral with respect to the parties in the Middle East. This is the third rail no one is allowed to touch and have access to real power in Washington.
The common straw man erected during these discussions is that if you don’t toe the company line on U.S. Israeli relations (i.e. complete, unquestioning allegiance if not obeisance) then you must have a basement full of Third Reich flags and you wear jackboots to the park on Sundays. The thought of a more neutral stance on Israel seems to lie beyond the grasp of many critics. But why should it matter?
Imagine for a moment, if you will, the distressing situation taking place at the Acme Widget Company. Labor has been on strike for weeks seeking a new contract from management which includes some new concessions. The owners are standing fast, claiming that the union will drive them out of business entirely. The workers’ benefits are running out and the company’s profits for the year are evaporating. They have decided that a neutral arbitrator will need to be called in to save the day.
Would they call you if you were a member of the Board of Directors, a major shareholder and the author of a recent book on “Why All Unions Are Destroying America and Must Be Broken?” How about if you were a former union president who spends his weekends on the talk show circuit railing against corporate fat cats and how they are eradicating the middle class for their own evil, greedy plots? Unlikely.
Why, then, would we assume that the Palestinians would ever place any real faith in America’s position as a truly neutral agent in their affairs? We held a long standing record for the most vetoes in the United Nations, almost entirely employed when any other nation made a motion to sanction or condemn any action by Israel. Our public demeanor more than clearly states that our vision of a fair outcome in the Middle East is one that is in line with what Israel’s needs.
Before you break out in open revolt, I fully acknowledge that Israel has offered up remarkable concessions to their neighbors in the past, and Hamas – as the saying goes – never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity. But could part of the problem be that one of the parties involved isn’t completely confident in our neutral status as to the participants?
The real question is if this could ever be changed. It’s possible, but it would take a serious effort over a prolonged period. Let’s toss out an initial suggestion to get the ball rolling. We’re very fond of utilizing the services of the U.N. and sending the I.A.E.A. in to poke around in various countries, who frequently wind up being Muslim nations and members of the Arab Street. One of the latest targets, of course, is Iran. Here’s a thought. As a sign of good faith, why don’t we offer to send the I.A.E.A. into Israel with full access and some government representatives from Hamas, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Let them poke around for a while in every nook and cranny, satisfying everyone present that Israel doesn’t have any nuclear weapons. That might prove some good faith and show Israel’s opponents that they have no need for tactical weapons to level the playing field. It could possibly also be an earnest offer to show that we will treat everyone with an even hand.
Of course, that plan would fall apart if we actually had given a bunch of nukes to Israel and we’d been lying about it all this time. But since we clearly would never do that, who knows? We could be on to the first steps toward a lasting peace here.
Next week, we solve the hunger crisis in Africa.