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February 14, 2003 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-14

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Misunderstood Verdict

iv as America listening when

Israel spoke Jan. 28?
Ariel Sharon's second
consecutive election vic-
tory was noted and then brushed aside
by most of the mainstream media in
this country.
On the day following the vote, most
of the media's attention focused on
President Bush's State of the Union
address and its eloquent restating of
the case for action against Iraq. A few
days later, it was completely forgotten
as both the United States and Israel
were joined in shocked mourning over
the tragic loss of the space shuttle
Columbia, with its crew of six
Americans and one Israeli.
But to the extent that America's chat-
tering classes thought about the verdict
of Israeli democracy, their conclusion
was that the results meant nothing.
According to the wise men and
women who write editorials for daily
American newspapers, Israel's voters
can't be trusted to do what is in their
best interests. And their only advice

Jonathan S. Tobin is executive editor
of the Jewish Exponent in Philadelphia.
His e-mail address is

for the victor was to forget what he
has promised Israel's people and do as
they demand.
On the day following his re-election,
the New York Times insisted Sharon
reward the terrorists for their 29
months of bloodshed by agreeing to
negotiate concessions to them before
they stop their campaign of terrorism.
In a similar piece on the same day,
the Washington Post even blamed
Sharon for the breakdown of a peace
process that had actually collapsed due
to the Palestinian decision to choose
war over peace months before he was
first elected two years ago. Following
the lemming-like lead of Americans
for Peace Now, the Post demanded
that any additional aid to Israel be
linked to concessions.
The Chicago Tribune chimed in, say-
ing it understood why Israelis opted
for Sharon, but lamented that this
state of affairs will make it difficult for
Bush to press the prime minister.

One reason for this spin is the repeti-
tion of ambiguous poll results that
purport to show the majority of
Israelis oppose settlements and want
peace negotiations. This leads the wise

men and women of the press
So what else should
here to conclude that even
American observers glean
from the recent voting? First,
though Likud has won again,
the Israeli people don't sup-
it is time to forget the mis-
port them.
leading labels by which
Americans misunderstand
Does that make sense? Not
Israeli politics.
Polls do say the Israeli peo-
It is no longer possible to
ple would trade some settle-
JONA THAN pretend, as almost every
American newspaper and
ments for real peace.
But the same polls will also
broadcast outlet has long pre-
Spe cial
tell you that they no longer sup-
Comm entary tended, that Labor was the
port making any concessions,
moderate party of Israel's cen-
ter, and that the words Likud
let alone permanent territorial
surrender, in the absence of a complete
and Sharon could not be uttered or
printed without the phrase "right-
cessation of terror and a change in the
Palestinian culture of hatred that fuels it.
wing" or "hard-line" attached to it.
Israelis know Oslo was a failure and
Having been re-elected on a sensible
refuse to trade land for terror again.
combination of tough security policies
How do we know that? Because in
and centrist sensibilities on possible
peace plans, it is more than obvious
the last two years, the people of Israel
have gone to the polls twice, and each
that Sharon's Likud is the party that
best represents Israel's political center.
time they handed the parties of the
left a historic shellacking. In the sec-
At the same time, Labor, having run
under a leader, Amram Mitzna, who
ond vote, Jan. 28, Israeli voters gave
Labor its worst-ever showing.
pledged fidelity to the failed vision of
the Oslo process, is not only not cen-
Why? Because though most Israelis
aren't hard-core right-wingers, they are,
trist, it is today supported only by a
unlike the leaders of the defeated left,
minority of bitter-end ideologues. .
Indeed, for all of the talk in the
realists about the Palestinians. But it
seems as if two consecutive landslides
American media about the Israeli peo-
ple's rejection of settlements, in the
still aren't enough for most of the
American media to get this message.
TOBIN on page 36

Writing in the liberal-leaning Foreign
Affairs, he comments scathingly
about the reigning political culture
in the Arab countries: "the belliger-
=ence and self-pity in Arab life, its
retreat from modernist culture and
its embrace of conspiracy theories."
He sees in the vigorous exercise of
American power the best chance for
improvement: "No great apologies
ought to be made for America's 'uni-
lateralism'. The region can live with
and use that unilateralism."
Ajami wants American will and
prestige to tip the scales "in favor of
modernity and change" and calls on
Washington to aim high. "Above and
beyond toppling the regime of
Saddam Hussein and dismantling its
deadly weapons, the driving motiva-
tion of a new American endeavor in
Iraq and in neighboring Arab lands
should be modernizing the Arab
Only a successful U.S. military
campaign in Iraq will embolden
those Arabs who seek "deliverance

much as it does self-govern-
from retrogression and polit-
ment and the rule of law —
ical decay," so he hopes the
and they decline the pack-
war will be fought "with the
promise that the United
• Efforts to inculcate dem-
States is now on the side of
ocratic values will find few
allies from within Arab soci-
Over in the cautious cor-
eties, where "advocates for
ner stands strategist Andrew
liberal values constitute at
J. Bacevich, a retired Army
best a small minority."
colonel and now professor at
• Advocates for an ambi-
Boston University. His arti-
Sp ecial
program point to
cle, evocatively titled "Don't
Com mentary
Germany and Japan as mod-
Be Greedy!" appeared in the
els, forgetting the "protract-
conservative National Review.
ed, ugly, and unpopular" U.S. fail-
Bacevich admonishes the Bush
ures in the Philippines, Mexico,
administration to confine its atten-
Haiti, the Dominican Republic and
tion to Iraq itself and not make
South Vietnam. The Arab countries
grand plans to bring democracy to
will more likely fit the latter pattern
the Arabs.
than the former.
He dismisses these as "utterly pre-
Instead of trying to bring the
posterous" on four grounds:
Arabs into ideological sympathy
• "Arabs have little affinity for
with the United' States, Bacevich
democracy" due to historical, cultur-
argues, the goal should be to
al and religious factors.
improve their governments, behav-
• Arabs understand that freedom
ior. "Concepts like parliaments or
implies disposable marriages, sexual
license, and abortion on demand as
PIPES on page 36

Defining Israeli Moderation

Just Iraq?



utsiders wonder if the
U.N. Security Council will
endorse Washington's goal
of toppling Saddam
Hussein. But policy insiders assume
an American war and an American
victory, followed by Iraq's rehabilita-
For insiders, the main issue is the
extent of U.S. ambition in the
Arabic-speaking countries after that's
all done. This foreshadows the
debate likely to dominate foreign
policy circles for decades to come:
What should be America's role in the
Let's eavesdrop.
In the ambitious corner stands
Middle East specialist Fouad Ajami,
a Lebanese immigrant and professor
at Johns Hopkins University.

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum and author of the book
'Militant Islam Reaches America.''
His e-mail is Pipes@MEForum.org




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