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White House pressure: battered wife syndrome?

Reader comment on item: Interview: ‘I watch with frustration as the Israelis don't get the point'

Submitted by Steve Klein (United States), Jun 12, 2006 at 14:42

I think the following critical point in this interview is worth exploring from an historical perspective:

The Jerusalem Post: "How would the White House have responded after President Bush's June 24, 2002 speech, had Sharon gone to Washington and, instead of proposing disengagement, requested that the PA be treated as an enemy that had to be defeated militarily as part of the war on terror?

Dr. Pipes (in part): "Israeli leaders did not make the case ----- that as the US government is engaged in an asymmetric war, where the vastness of the US is arrayed against al-Qaida, so, too, in a lesser disproportion, Israel is arrayed against the PLO, Hamas, Islamic Jihad ---- because it is not their view. Instead, Sharon agreed with Bush in principle....."

Yet Prime Minister Sharon did make this case --- in the days and weeks following September 11, 2001 --- that Israel was engaged in the same struggle against the same radical ideology, the same enemy as America. Sharon's initial reaction to the President's call for a Palestinian state only days after the September 11, 2001 atrocities was anything but conciliatory or agreeable:

Sharon: "I call on the Western democracies and primarily the leader of the free world, the United States: Do not repeat the dreadful mistake of 1938 when enlightened European democracies decided to sacrifice Czechoslovakia for a convenient temporary solution. Do not try to appease the Arabs on our expense. This is unacceptable to us. Israel will not be Czechoslovakia. Israel will fight terrorism." (emphasis mine)

Zalmon Shoval, Sharon Foreign Policy Advisor, noted that "it was a word of warning to everyone, including to ourselves, that appeasement, whether it was Nazi Germany in 1938 or Palestinian terrorists at this time, is really counterproductive and could bring further violence in the future."

CNN's JOHN KING: "What angered Washington most was Sharon's comparison to Europe ceding parts of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, suggesting that in its aggressive effort to court Arab nations for the coalition against terrorism, the United States was turning its back on Israel's security."

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN: The president believes that these remarks are unacceptable. Israel can have no better or stronger friend than the United States, and better friend than President Bush.

KING: Secretary of State Colin called Sharon once to voice the president's displeasure, then again later, after the prime minister agreed to issue a conciliatory statement.

In a statement issued only a day later, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon noted the, quote, "deep friendship and special relationship" between the two nations and saluted President Bush for a, quote, "bold and courageous decision to fight terrorism."

What happened to Ariel Sharon? Initially he did not agree with Mr. Bush in principle. "Israel will fight terrorism." Yet he feared offending President Bush as does Mr. Olmert.

Why? Why are Israel's leaders afraid to offend their American ally? We know the president is wrong to exert immoral pressure on Israel only to appease the Muslim-Arab world, united in their hatred of Israel. This lack of confidence, low self-esteem, whatever, on the part of Israel's leadership along with the comforting words of affection from this president are reminiscent of the battered wife syndrome. It appears to be an unhealthy dependency when the leadership of a nation betrays its fundamental trust to protect its citizens.


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