Tom Friedman is rarely original when it comes to Israel. His mantra for several decades has been that Israel was the primary obstacle to peace with the Palestinians, because of its policy of expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Friedman seems to be unaware of, or doesn't care to consider, the inconvenient fact that Palestinian terror attacks designed to kill Jews and destroy Israel, preceded by decades Israel's victory in the six day war, which first brought these territories under its control.
The failure of Bill Clinton's Camp David summit in 2000, and the near immediate decision by the Palestinians to begin the murderous intifada, also puts the lie to Friedman's argument. Barak offered to return 97% of the West Bank and all of Gaza, and an equivalent slice of land within pre—1967 Israel to match the 3% of the West Bank Israel would annex. If Sharon were the problem, or settlements were the problem, why couldn't Barak get the Palestinians to make peace?
Friedman seems constitutionally unable to blame the Palestinians for their self—inflicted misery. At best, he casts a pox on both houses. But with Ariel Sharon, Friedman knows only loathing. Friedman is the kind of liberal who believes that all problems are resolvable by Men of Goodwill.
Since Sharon does not seem to be following the Master Thinker's advice, Friedman has decided to unload on him again. In his February 5, 2004 New York Times column, Friedman vented his frustration that neither Bush nor Sharon is paying attention to his dictums. But then Friedman went further, disqualifying himself as a serious, if generally mistaken analyst.
"... Mr. Sharon has the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat under house arrest in his office in Ramallah, and he's had George Bush under house arrest in the Oval Office. Mr. Sharon has Mr. Arafat surrounded by tanks, and Mr. Bush surrounded by Jewish and Christian pro—Israel lobbyists, by a vice president, Dick Cheney, who's ready to do whatever Mr. Sharon dictates, and by political handlers telling the president not to put any pressure on Israel in an election year — all conspiring to make sure the president does nothing."
So let us understand this claim of Friedman: Cheney and Bush are Sharon's puppets. Bush can't think independently about the Middle East because of political pressures from key constituencies.
Forget for a moment that only 19% of Jews voted for Bush last time. That percentage hardly seems like a strong argument for Jews and Israel holding a political chokehold over the President. As for Christian conservatives, is the White House really concerned they will march en masse into the Kerry camp? I guess Friedman thinks they would be so angry with Bush over pressuring Israel, that they would want John Kerry to be President, so he can appoint more liberal judges like the ones in Massachusetts who just legalized gay marriage.
It is Israel, conversely, which should and does appreciate the strong support Bush has given them. This support comes because the President understands that Israel is an ally, and that the two countries share a common fight as democracies and civilized nations fighting barbaric terrorist death cults. Israel can no more make peace with the Palestinians today, than America can with al Qaeda. The Palestinians are committed to destroying Israel. There is no overlap between that objective, and Israel's desire to achieve peace with security.
Friedman paints a picture of an overly cautious Bush, boxed in by Sharon. Does this square with the man who ignored millions of demonstrators around the world, and stiff opposition from European allies and the UN, and took the country to war with Iraq, risking his presidency in the process? Bush, of all recent Presidents, seems less risk averse and more resolute in following his instincts. He is not controlled by anybody. So Friedman is wrong.
But far worse than being wrong, is the way Friedman embraces the anti—Semitic canard that the US is a puppet of the Zionist state. This kind of language from the Pulitzer—winning journalist is appalling. Coming at a time when anti—Semitism is raging on every continent, it is not only shameful, but dangerous.
The enemies of America and Israel will now have the imprimatur of Tom Friedman and the New York Times that the Zionists do in fact control America. Friedman has adopted the language of the conspiracy theorists, of the neo—Nazis, of the far left, and of the Arabs — all of whom have always found hatred of Jews and Israel as a common denominator.
If the New York Times had any dignity, Friedman would apologize or be gone. Instead, the Times printed a letter from Mort Klein of the Zionist Organization of America today, attacking Friedman for his article. That, sad to say, is enough for the paper of record, which apparently does not see a problem with this.
So long as the villains are Bush and Sharon, the Times agrees.