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Obama’s morally confused Mideast policies endanger Israel

by Newt Gingrich, JTA

June 21, 2011 | 12:16 pm

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Israel and America are at a dangerous crossroads in which the survival of Israel and the safety of the United States both hang in the balance.

Year after year, the forces of terrorism become stronger, and the claims of terrorists become more acceptable to our European allies and more powerful in the United Nations. Year after year the Iranian dictatorship, with its openly stated desire to annihilate Israel and defeat the United States, moves closer to having nuclear means to do so. Year after year, Hamas grows stronger in Gaza and Hezbollah grows stronger in Lebanon.

Today the greatest obstacle toward achieving a real and lasting peace is not the strength of the enemy or the unwillingness of Israel to make great sacrifices for the sake of peace. It is the inability on the part of the Obama administration and certain other world leaders to tell the truth about terrorism, be honest about the publicly stated goals of our common enemies and devise policies appropriate to an honest accounting of reality.

Moral confusion that cannot see for what they are attacks that fit into a carefully defined ideology of radical Islamist terrorism is sadly typical of this administration’s elevation of political correctness above common sense. The Obama administration’s policy towards Israel has been a victim of this dangerous confusion.

In his May 19 State Department speech, President Obama rightly stated that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with a terrorist organization that denies its right to exist. But he then went on in the same speech to pressure Israel to do exactly that.

President Obama wants Israel to enter into negotiations with a Palestinian Authority that is now in league with the terrorist organization Hamas. The president said that applying this pressure on Israel was not the politically savvy thing for him to do, and that the safe thing to do in an election year is nothing.

He is essentially telling us that he is doing the brave thing by pressuring Israel to negotiate with terrorists who want to destroy it. President Obama and his State Department should recall some basic facts.

Hamas was founded as a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Its charter openly calls for Israel’s destruction and instructs its followers to kill Jews wherever they find them. Hamas goes well beyond words in its effort to destroy Israel. In 2010, more than 200 missiles were fired into Israel from Gaza.

No country can be expected to conduct peace negotiations with a terrorist organization dedicated to its destruction, or with a Palestinian governmental authority that joins forces with such a terrorist organization.

Twenty years of hopes for the modern peace process cannot change this fundamental reality.

It also means that entering into peace negotiations with any organization that includes Hamas is a fool’s errand.  It is something that no friend of Israel should ever ask Israel to do. I certainly hope this administration doesn’t resort to the meaningless exercise of trying to artificially distinguish between the military and political wings of Hamas as a way of justifying pressure on Israel to negotiate with the latter.

In his recent speeches, President Obama also called for Israel to accept the 1967 lines as the beginning of peace negotiations. He went to great lengths to have us all believe that what he said at the State Department and later at AIPAC was no different than what other American presidents have declared as official policy.

Unfortunately, that’s just not true. President Obama has in fact called for a remarkable shift in U.S. policy regarding the peace process. He wants Israel to accept the indefensible lines of 1967 as the starting point of negotiations.

Accepting such a proposal would be a suicidal step for Israel. Fortunately for Israel, that proposal is a non-starter with the American people.

Like Israel, we are committed to seeing a peace agreement that protects Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the Jewish state. After all, it has only been under Jewish authority that religious freedom, including access to holy sites, for people of all faiths—Christian, Jewish and Muslim—has been protected.

Meanwhile, we must readily see the president’s policies for what they are: the dangerous accommodation of Middle East dictators, and worse, the accommodation of terrorist groups like Hamas.

President Obama’s policies represent a sharp break from the post-World War II American political consensus of providing unwavering support to the State of Israel.

The decision to adopt a policy of accommodation, using the political objectives and code words of those who wish to drive Israel into the sea, affirms the administration’s radicalism in its headlong flight from the legacy of U.S. presidents—from Truman to Bush—and is leading Israel and the Western democracies toward ever increasing danger.

President Obama’s focus on Israel as the obstacle to peace is particularly disturbing considering the existence of a true threat to the peace of the world: the threat from Iran. Today Iran is watching whether the United States keeps its promises with its ally Israel and how we deal with Iran’s proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah. The Iranian regime will also be watching how America and our allies treat Israel at the U.N. General Assembly this September.

We need to acknowledge that 20 years of trying to negotiate peace with evil regimes and organizations dedicated to the destruction of Israel—and in many cases our own destruction—has been a failure, and the time has come to clearly and decisively take the offensive against them.

This begins with a firm and consistent commitment by the United States—in the Reagan tradition—to speak plainly and truthfully about the nature of our enemies.

Next, our policies must reflect the fact that there is no moral equivalency between terrorist regimes and a legitimate self-governing country that abides by the rule of law.

We must reverse the Obama administration’s dangerous policies of incoherence and accommodation and implement instead a foreign policy that is clear about the evil that we face and committed to the actions necessary to overcome it.

(This Op-Ed was adapted from a speech Newt Gingrich, a Republican candidate for president, delivered to the Republican Jewish Coalition on June 12, 2011.)

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