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“Eradicating the ‘Little Satan'” and Commentary Magazine in the Obama Years

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Powerline’s Scott Johnson directs our attention to the lead article in next month’s Commentary, “Eradicating the ‘Little Satan'” by Ze’ev Maghen.

It is sober reading for a sober time, and concludes by noting that the temptation will occur sometime soon to leaders in the west that peace with Islam can be purchased at the price of Israel:

Among theorists of international conflict resolution, the belief is widely held that the removal of one party’s “enclaves” or “outposts” from territory claimed by a rival party can not only help create mutually satisfactory borders but can inaugurate the kind of equilibrium that will eventually allow foes to become friends. In Europe, the great example is the post-World War II territorial adjustments that, however painful, put an end at last to the centuries-old enmity of France and Germany. In the Middle East, on a purely local scale, the same logic underlay Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s policy of evacuating Israel’s Gaza settlements and handing over the territory to the Palestinians, as it did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s projected “consolidation” of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.

The specter that now haunts the state of Israel is that the West may some day adopt this logic, deeply problematic as it has proved to be locally, and apply it internationally vis-?-vis Iran and the “Little Satan” as a means of resolving the larger conflict between fundamentalist Islam and the “Great Satan.” For no agenda is being pushed more energetically by today’s Islamists worldwide than that, for the sake of Muslim-Christian rapprochement, and on pain of terrible consequences otherwise, America and Europe agree to offer up the Western imperialist enclave or outpost known as Israel on the altar of “accommodation.”

Certainly within the American left there are voices that condemn Israel at every turn. Hopefully the president-elect will refuse them office at any level, and will insist from day one on the same unswerving support for Israel that the outgoing president has demonstrated.

Throughout the Carter years, Commentary played a crucial role in the public debates about American foreign policy. If you haven’t subscribed for a while, now is the time to re-up, for the magazine is almost certainly going to have to play the same role again in the Obama years.

Another timely piece on the Middle East is Walter Russell Mead’s “Change They Can Believe In: To Make Israel Safe, Give Palestinians Their Due,” from the current issue of Foreign Affairs. Mead is an optimist about the possibility of a peace deal, and puts the responsibility for engineering it on the president-elect:[# More #]

Washington can change the way that a peace deal is framed and thus make it more appealing to both sides. The Obama administration needs to accomplish a kind of Copernican shift in perception: looking at the same sun, moon, planets, and stars that others have seen, it must reconceptualize the relations among them. In the past, U.S. peacemakers have had an Israel-centric approach to the negotiating process; the Obama administration needs to put Palestinian politics and Palestinian public opinion at the center of its peacemaking efforts.

This will fall well short of a revolution. The United States’ goals, and many of its policies, will not change. Its relationship with Israel will stay strong; if anything, it will deepen. But despite their military weakness and their political factiousness, the Palestinians hold the key to peace in the Middle East. And if the United States hopes to create a more secure and stable environment for Israel, it must sell peace to Israel’s foes.

How does Mead propose the Obama Administration accomplish this? Mead very nearly demands that Israel accept “the right of return,” but then trails off into language that seems to suggest a sufficient amount of money can buy peace:

When he reiterates the United States’ support for an independent, viable Palestinian state with borders based on the Green Line, that is, the pre-1967 borders (with minor and mutually-agreed-on modifications), Obama must go further than his predecessors. He must overcome the skepticism created by the Bush administration’s empty rhetorical support for a Palestinian state. He must declare that the United States is committed not only to an independent Palestine but also to acknowledging the wrongs the Palestinians have suffered, compensating them for those, and otherwise ensuring a dignified future for every Palestinian family.

The means to this end:

The U.S. government should build on this historical reality [of injustice done to Palestinians in 1948] to craft an international body that can assume all claims arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adjudicate them in accordance with existing international precedents and law, and pay appropriate compensation to the claimants. Claims would include the losses suffered by Palestinians as well as those sustained by Jews forced to flee their homes in the region, but the system should be set up so that Jewish and Palestinian claimants do not compete for limited funds. This entity should be funded by the international community, with Israel making a substantial payment as part of whatever negotiated legal agreement creates the new body.

Mead pegs the cost of this process as high as $85 billion. But that’s not the bottom line on the bill. “The right of return” remains to be negotiated, writes Mead, and it is clear that Mead believes some Palestinians will be returning to their 1948 homes, though some will be chosing to emigrate to the U.S.:

The key is to assure the Palestinians that the refugees and their heirs will be given several viable options. Palestinians who choose not to exercise their right of return or whose right is in some way restricted in the final Israeli-Palestinian agreement should be substantially compensated by the international community (including Israel) to acknowledge that the right to return is indeed a right and that its loss or restriction entitles the holder to just compensation.

Additionally, the United States and its partners around the world should take steps to ensure that at the end of the process, no Palestinian is stateless and all Palestinians enjoy full economic, social, and political rights. Programs need to be designed to integrate Palestinians in the diaspora into the communities in which they now live, allow them to emigrate within or from the Middle East, and ensure appropriate opportunities for them. Such programs should in no way prejudice negotiations on the right of return, but as Palestinians await the outcome of those talks, the world community must move decisively to create dignified choices for them.

The effort to provide a future for the Palestinians should not be restricted to Arab countries. The United States, Canada, Australia, and European countries, as well as other states around the world, should be prepared to offer immigration visas to Palestinians. Developing countries that agree to receive Palestinians should receive appropriate assistance from the international community; the citizens of poor countries should not feel that their governments are diverting resources in order to house newcomers. Countries such as Jordan and Syria, which have already set the example, should receive compensation as recognition for their past efforts.

Read the whole thing, as Mead’s influence among foreign policy elites of the center-left is significant, and this piece should be read as an excellent predictor of the Obama Administration’s approach to the region. Mead’s proposals are nothing like the sort of abandonment Maghen worries over, but they are a significantly more burdensome starting point for Israel than what has been the policy of the U.S. to demand of the Jewish state for the past eight years.

Elections have consequences, and the U.S. election of 2008 has enormous consequences for Israel and its supporters in America.


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