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Thank Bush for Backing Israel? It's His Fault We're in This Fix!

August 3, 2006 By:
Leonard Fein
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 There are those who are telling American Jews that we owe President Bush a vote of gratitude for his steadfast support of Israel in its current conflict with Hezbollah.

Israel's position is clear: "Give us the tools [i.e., time and early delivery of precision-guided bombs], and we will finish the job." And the Bush administration is doing exactly that.

Others will say at this time and in this place, Bush is as good as it gets.

Yes, but.

Yes, but we would not be in this time or place were it not for the wretchedly ill-informed and ill-managed policies of the Bush administration.

Here's a partial catalogue: Foremost, there's America's willful diversion from the battle against terrorism to the killing streets of Baghdad and Basra, Kirkuk and Mosul, Fallujah and so on and so forth throughout Iraq -- a bloody diversion that's sapped our nation's strength and badly tarnished its reputation.

Bush triumphantly announced that we would make the Mideast not only safe for, but actually welcoming to, democracy, as if totalitarian Saudi Arabia and authoritarian Egypt -- our friends in the region -- would welcome the prospect.

He chose to maintain our policy of zero contact with Iran, and he chose not to talk with Syria either, as if turning our back on them would lead them to make nice to us or render them impotent.

It has done neither.

He joined Israel is dismissing Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine Authority, as too weak to warrant our attention, as if that in itself would not ensure Abbas' weakness.

And he indulged Israel's Ariel Sharon in his foolhardy insistence on withdrawing from Gaza unilaterally rather urging Sharon to undertake a real effort at bilateral agreement with the Palestinians, as if the Hamas whirlwind that followed were not a clear and present danger.

Most of all, there's been the Bush administration's peculiar passivity regarding Israel's conflict with the Palestinians, a passivity that has characterized the six years that President Bush has been in office, the absence of a sustained effort of the sort that distinguished his predecessors in office.

Every now and then, a glancing nod to the road map, but no attention paid when the parties pulled onto side roads, bumping and bumbling along there, on rutted one-lane roads to nowhere.

Kassam rockets in Gaza? Well, the United States isn't talking with Hamas, remember? Israeli soldiers taken prisoner by Hezbollah? Well, America doesn't talk with Hezbollah, Syria or Iran.

It is as if the administration's doctrine of "abstinence only" has infected our foreign policy.

Grateful to President Bush? Our misadventure in Iraq is celebrated nowhere so much as in Iran, which now threatens to become the leading power in its region -- which is also Israel's region.

So now the president needs Israel to accomplish in Lebanon what the United States has been unable to manage in Afghanistan and Iraq. He needs a win in the war against terror.

We could all use such a win. There really are terrorists out there, and they really mean to do us and our friends evil.

And Iran really does encourage and support them. But there is something deeply unsettling about a war conducted through surrogates, Iran's Hezbollah and America's Israel.

Israel has every right to seek to weaken Hezbollah and blunt Iran, and there's nothing wrong with American help in that effort -- as long as we remember that but for America's follies, Iran would have been far less adventuresome, Hezbollah consequently more quiescent, the cities of northern Israel unscathed, the citizens of Lebanon at home and alive.

In Israel's conflict with Hezbollah, the president may be on the right side of geography. But in his unending series of calamitous ineptitudes, he's surely on the wrong side of history.

No matter how the conflict in Lebanon ends, it cannot right the damage that Bush's false grit has done America; in the debit column of history's ledger book, his foreign-policy failures will be counted as a stunning loss. The Bush legacy involves not merely passing errors of judgment that can be easily corrected by his successors; it involves a deficit that will burden generations to come.

Does he deserve thanks for supporting Israel against Hezbollah? No thanks, Mr. President!

Leonard Fein is a Boston-based columnist.

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