May 19, 2009 | Commentary on Middle East, Missile Defense

Peace Undivided in Jerusalem?

Will the decades-long alliance between the United States and Israel fall victim to the Obama administration's naive quest for instant peace in the Middle East?

President Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are set to meet today. But the White House seems to be engaging in calculated alienation of the Israelis, shutting down communications with Israeli diplomats and media.

For example, when Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Mr. Obama at the White House, senior adviser David Axelrod - not Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton - sat in. Mrs. Clinton, it seems, is "too pro-Israel." When the meeting ended, there was no press conference for the Nobel-winning Israeli elder statesman.

In another diplomatic slight, Israel is not on the itinerary for the president's June trip to the Middle East. Mr. Obama will go to Egypt to deliver a major speech to the Muslim world and swing through several other states in the region. Jerusalem doesn't rate a visit.

Not all moves have been as subtle. In public statements, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and National Security Adviser Gen. James L. Jones appear to have linked U.S. willingness to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program to Israeli willingness to make concessions on the two-state solution.

Such linkage is both immoral and counterproductive. It is immoral because it is dangerously close to extorting concessions with the threat of a nuclear holocaust, which may be initiated by the vitriolic Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. It is counterproductive because Iranian nukes will threaten not just the Jewish state, but other allies and U.S. interests in the Middle East.

The administration wants Mr. Netanyahu to retreat fully to the June 4, 1967, cease-fire lines, including partition of Jerusalem. A vast majority of Israelis oppose such an untenable scenario. Those lines are widely considered indefensible. The late, dovish Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban called them "the borders of Auschwitz."

The White House also advocates carving up Jerusalem to make it the Palestinian capital, which never existed before. This would be a nightmare for the generation that witnessed the Berlin Wall falling and freedom soaring.

We should not want Jerusalem cut in half by barbed-wire fences and Jews and Christians barred from their places of worship as they were before 1967.

The Obama administration also wants Israel to join the dangerously ineffective Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The United States committed in a previously signed bilateral agreement not to tamper with the Israeli nuclear shield. This is like demanding a man in a bad neighborhood to trade in his shotgun when the criminal next door is getting a Kalashnikov.

As the White House concentrates on pressuring Israel, its archfoe - the terrorist organization Hamas - is gaining strength. Polls predict Hamas would win Palestinian elections. If Hamastan arises in the West Bank as it did in Gaza, it likely will become the next failed terror state, keenly interested in destabilizing our ally Jordan as well as eliminating Israel.

It's unfortunate that the administration is spending precious time and political capital trying for a quick fix to an intractable conflict. Mr. Obama and his top officials are meeting with world leaders to develop a solution to the Palestinian problem that can only be imposed on Israeli under massive pressure.

Based on the Saudi "Arab peace plan," it envisions settling millions of the 1948 Palestinian refugees and their descendants in Israel, attempting to turn Israeli over time into a Muslim state through the use of demography.

Good intentions pave the way to disasters, especially in the Middle East. Consider the Camp David II negotiations. When their instant solution failed, it precipitated Yasser Arafat's terror war, which killed about 6,000.

The administration seems to be making three grave errors. The first error is disregarding reality. The entrenched hostility of the Arab world and radical Muslims toward Israel is there for all to see. The core issue, as summarized by a former German foreign minister, is that the Arab elites have not accepted Israel's existence in the region.

A second major error would be arm-twisting a staunch democratic ally to curry favor among a deeply anti-American Arab and Islamic world. Doing so would send a message of weakness to U.S. friends and foes alike. It even might embolden a new wave of anti-American attacks.

The third mistake would be to reward terrorism. A seven-year barrage of rockets from Gaza has not broken the will of the Israelis. Neither have the suicide attacks, which have killed more than 1,000 Israelis since the year 2000 - the equivalent of 60,000 deaths in America. Our country should not pressure others to give way to terrorists.

Israelis will be delighted to live in peace with their neighbors. But that can't happen until Hamas and Fatah abandon terror and cease teaching their children to hate Jews.

Palestinians have a long way to go to develop civil society, the rule of law and economic prosperity before being ready to run a state. And Hezbollah-supporting, hatred-spewing Syria should not get the strategic Golan Heights until Damascus proves it wants real peace.

Israel will be in grave danger unless we stand with our ally in its fight for survival. The Middle East needs U.S. leadership but not the kind of leadership that imperils Israel while creating a Hamas-controlled terror state.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Security at the Allison Center of the Katherine and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute at The Heritage Foundation.

About the Author

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D. Visiting Fellow in Russian and Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy, a division of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation
Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy

First Appeared in The Washington Times