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Morris J. Amitay

RULES YOU CAN BELIEVE IN

With so much happening both in and around the Middle East nowadays, how can Israel’s real friends make sense of it all? The solution might be to follow a set of commonsense rules that have served me well during my years here in Washington.

The first rule is: WHENEVER THINGS LOOK BAD, THEY CAN ALWAYS GET WORSE – AND USUALLY DO. For instance, if you were troubled that our new president’s first phone call to a foreign leader was to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, it got even worse when he sent his “why can’t we all be friends” video to Iran. And then came the president’s deep bow to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a new low. A follow on rule to the first: ANYONE IN THE MEDIA, CONGRESS OR THE WHITE HOUSE WHO DENIGRATES OR APOLOGIZES FOR THE UNITED STATES INVARIABLY IS NOT A FRIEND OF ISRAEL. The two countries share so many values, interests and goals, that this self-abnegation is invariably perceived as weakness and exploited by the enemies of both.

Another general rule to follow is: EVERYTHING IS RELATIVE AND SHOULD BE COMPARED TO SOMETHING OR SOMEONE ELSE. For instance, compared to Arafat, Abbas doesn’t look so bad - literally and figuratively. And compared to Chas Freeman, Zbigniew Brzezinski could almost pass for a Zionist. But aside from comparison of personalities, compared to the Saudi “peace plan”, the Road Map almost looks terrific.

A rule which often can predict the competence of Washington policymakers is: IT’S NOT WHAT YOU KNOW, OR WHO YOU KNOW, BUT WHERE YOU’VE BEEN. Applying this to a first term senator’s quest for the presidency, it should have resulted in a “slam dunk” victory for John McCain. However, another political rule seems to have trumped the first: YOU CAN FOOL SOME OF THE PEOPLE SOME OF THE TIME, BUT NOT ALL OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME. Only time will tell if the second half of this rule applies to the current occupant of the White House.

Another useful rule to apply: DO NOT TRUST THE STATE DEPARTMENT TO DEFEND AMERICAN INTERESTS. The operating philosophy of our State Department (or as President Kennedy referred to it, the “fudge factory”) is when in doubt—obfuscate. Should this fail—appease. And finally—concede. The latest obfuscation has our country no longer fighting a “Global War on Terrorism,” but involved instead in “overseas contingency operations”. Taking a page from State, our Department of Homeland Security is no longer concerned about terrorist attacks, just “man-caused disasters” (both Bernie Madoff and Osama bin Laden come to mind here).

An easy rule to follow: DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT YOU READ OR HEAR ABOUT ISRAEL IN THE NEW YORK TIMES OR NPR. This rule not only applies to editorial commentary, but to the uncritical reporting of Arab “eyewitness accounts” as facts, when experience shows these statements have to be taken with a whole pound of salt. Unwarranted and erroneous criticism of Israel also unfortunately emanates from a misguided (at best) minority of Jewish Americans who always blame Israel first. From the “Breira” movement of forty years ago to the J St. “it’s all our fault” supporters of today, there continues to be fringe groups blinded by their own self-righteousness.

Santayana’s famous quote, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, underscores yet another one of my rules: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE SELF-DELUSION AND THE IGNORANCE OF HISTORY OF OUR MIDDLE EAST POLICYMAKERS. From the “Rogers Plan” of 1969 (the beginning of my own hands on experience), to the Mitchell mission of today—and a long list of failed peace initiatives in between, reality has consistently taken a back seat to wishful thinking. While Israeli leadership may be more reluctant to speak truth to American peace processors, Israel’s adversaries have fewer compunctions. It is not only Hamas and Iran that demonstrate by word and deed that under no circumstance will they ever recognize the “Zionist entity”. We recently have heard a favorite (and reportedly well paid) “moderate”, Muhammad Dahlan, declare on PA television, “I want to say in my own name and in the name of all my fellow members of the Fatah movement, we are not asking Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Rather, we are asking Hamas not to do so because Fatah never recognized Israel’s right to exist.” So while the Obama administration parrots the mantra of two democratic states living side by side in peace, who are they really kidding? It seems obvious that you won’t find Santayana’s admonition included in the president’s current Middle East briefing book.

A final rule to keep in mind looking at the Middle East is: ALWAYS LOOK AT THE BIG PICTURE. Simply put, it is that the Israelis are the good guys, while their Arab enemies are not. Keep this is mind and you should be on the right track at least 95% of the time! And a final comforting thought—WHY WORRY? In the end (depending, of course, on one’s age and health), we will all meet the same fate. So in the absence of divine intervention during our lifetimes, we will have to leave real peace in the Middle East to future generations. Hopefully, they will be guided by at least some of my rules.