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Jewish Journal

Failure to Elect Kerry Will Hurt Israel

by Daphna E. Ziman

May 20, 2004 | 8:00 pm

I am a sabra, a native Israeli. I am also an American. I grew up with the Israeli and American flags crisscrossing my wall. They symbolized freedom to me.

Throughout my life I've loved Israel, always appreciating the American Jewish community's commitment to my homeland. My husband and I have made the well-being of Israel a major part of our daily lives. And never before have I been as terrified as I am now about the future of the United States and Israel, as it pertains to the growing hatred for both.

On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I remember my husband saying, "They have awakened a sleeping giant." Indeed, the whole world watched President Bush at ground zero. All Americans, Congress and the world were united to declare war against terrorism.

So how did we transform from victims to predators? How did the world begin to view the United States as a bigger threat to world peace than Saddam Hussein? And why is Israel blamed by so many alongside the United States for all the instability and violence?

Bush says that "freedom" will prevail, the world understands it to mean that America will prevail. Consequently, a large majority throughout the world opposed Bush. One and a half million Europeans took to the streets in mid-February 2003 in opposition to the war.

Such attitudes influenced the elections in Germany, South Korea and recently in Spain, continuing in current elections. An anti-Bush political campaign has become a winning formula in foreign elections.

Even in Britain, our greatest supporter, Tony Blair, has been a target of the mounting American resentment by the British people. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that the percentage of the British population holding favorable views of the United States had declined drastically from 75 percent to 38 percent.

The Middle East anger against the United States has risen -- at first, because there were no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq, but mostly because the U.S. "liberators" became the "occupying forces."

As the harsh blowback from American occupation grew, Bush clearly felt that he needed to score points with American Jews. Consequently, he stood shoulder to shoulder with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, suddenly endorsing his plan of retaining settlements on the West Bank and no right of return.

But this attempt to cozy up to American Jews served only to transfer an additional amount of hatred for Bush onto the State of Israel. Furthermore, Bush reneged on this commitment to Sharon when he stood microphone-to-microphone with King Abdullah, stating, "All is subject to negotiation."

Meanwhile, anti-Semitism has been growing all over the world. Strangely, many Jews feel that Bush is the best friend Israel has ever had. In truth, the Bush administration's lack of aptitude in foreign affairs is damaging, because even the "road map" for peace was created but never pursued.

Furthermore, Bush stepped into the Middle East's most dangerous hornet's nest -- Iraq, brought down Hussein's statue, then claimed "mission accomplished," while in fact there was no exit strategy in the center of such immense danger and unrest, which reflects an out-of-touch-with-reality approach to war.

It is clear that the U.S. president's failure to build a coalition of any relevance is at the core of this dilemma. Israel's safety and security is at stake as long as Bush is in the White House.

World leaders will not aid the United States at the risk of losing their own credibility and electability. Israel's security depends to a large extent on America's credibility abroad -- a credibility that Bush has brought to new lows.

We need an American president who understands foreign policy and can unite the world once again to recognize that the real threat is terrorism. It has never been Iraq. A president who recognizes that Israel must survive as a Jewish state, not an Arab-dominated state, where Jews are the minority.

John Kerry, the son of diplomats, was raised all over the world, speaking several languages -- including the language of diplomacy -- and has served with distinction on the Foreign Relations Committee for two decades. Not to mention the fact that he has worn a naval uniform and still carries shrapnel in his body from having fought in a war.

Kerry knows what happens when diplomacy fails. Kerry knows how important international opinion can be. Kerry -- who has a perfect voting record on issues related to Israel -- will be a committed, serious leader who all parties to these conflicts will respect.

I believe that Kerry can help Israel achieve peace. And I believe that if he is not elected, the situation in Israel will deteriorate. Bush doesn't understand that Israel is not a bargaining chip to be used to raise American Jewish money -- it's the ray of hope in that entire portion of the world.

Daphna Ziman is founder and chair of Children Uniting Nations.

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