The Ruins of Byblos

Imagine, for a moment, that Iran and Syria had begun feuding publicly over the fate of the ruins in Byblos, Lebanon. Imagine that some Syrian-backed party in the Lebanese government had begun restoring the buildings of the early Islamic period, leaving evidence of Persian rule for a time of greater budgets and ambitions. Imagine, then, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had taken to the airwaves to denounce the Syrian insult.

What would we think, as outsiders with a vested interest in weakening Syria's alliance with Iran? We would, of course, seize the moment. We might take the opportunity to topple the brutal Syrian regime -- or, more likely, offer inducements to dictator Bashar al-Assad to encourage him to open his country to the Western world. Either way, we would see a superficial spat over a few buildings as evidence of a deeper, emerging divide.

Imagine further that a prominent Syrian figure on the international stage -- or someone of Syrian descent, like Syrian-American novelist Mona Simpson, for argument's sake -- had stepped forward to lead a U.N. fact-finding mission on Syria, which aimed to document "brutal violations of human rights and suppression of democracy." Barred from entry by the regime, the mission would still interview dissident exiles and international NGOs.

Now imagine that in the wake of the lengthy, strident report produced by Simpson and approved by the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Human Rights Council had passed five resolutions condemning Syria and established a new U.N. body to monitor compliance with the Simpson report. Would we not feel a sense of momentum, an expectation that the regime would soon crack? Would we not try to ratchet the pressure ever higher?

That is exactly what Israel's enemies feel at the moment, watching President Barack Obama join international condemnation of Israel over a housing project in Jerusalem, watching a prominent Jewish intellectual like Richard Goldstone accuse Israel of crimes against humanity, watching the U.N. Human Rights Council devote the bulk of its efforts to attacking Israel's right to defend itself from genocidal terrorist groups on its borders.

The motives for anti-Israel hatred are surely irrational, but the encouragement that anti-Israel forces are drawing from the events of recent weeks is surely rational. And with the Obama administration's emerging hostility towards the Netanyahu government, anti-Israel groups and governments see the dawn of the longed-for day when the U.S. would stand aside, no longer willing to help Israel for moral or even strategic reasons.

Barring regime change in Iran -- which would deny Israel's enemies the weapons, money, and inspiration they need to keep fighting -- the Obama administration's disastrous policy towards Israel has created an impression of weakness that will be extremely difficult to undo. Not even another decisive Israeli victory in a war with Hamas or Hezb'allah will be enough to contradict prophecies of her destruction as they acquire a force of their own.

In retrospect, Israel's own actions -- the Lebanon withdrawal, which was followed by the Second Lebanon War; the Gaza disengagement, which was followed by the Gaza war -- helped create an impression of weakness. At the time, many Israelis saw these steps as necessary sacrifices for peace. But Israel's enemies saw them as retreats -- as did that part of the West so easily convinced of the irrationality of Israel's existence to begin with.

Israel very nearly made peace with Syria in 1999. Back then, the question was always whether an agreement that Israel made with a dictator would be upheld by his inevitable successor. Few thought to question whether agreements made with one U.S. president would survive into the administration of the next. The potentially cataclysmic transfer of power in a third-world dictatorship worried us more than routine democratic transitions.

It turns out that the 2008 election was anything but a routine transition for the U.S.-Israel relationship. An unconditional friendship has become a conditional entente, just as the "special relationship" with Britain has been transformed into something ordinary and dispensable. That may not have been what many Americans thought they were voting for, but it is certainly real change. Our enemies, quite reasonably, have taken note.

Joel B. Pollak is the GOP nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 9th district of Illinois.
Imagine, for a moment, that Iran and Syria had begun feuding publicly over the fate of the ruins in Byblos, Lebanon. Imagine that some Syrian-backed party in the Lebanese government had begun restoring the buildings of the early Islamic period, leaving evidence of Persian rule for a time of greater budgets and ambitions. Imagine, then, that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had taken to the airwaves to denounce the Syrian insult.

What would we think, as outsiders with a vested interest in weakening Syria's alliance with Iran? We would, of course, seize the moment. We might take the opportunity to topple the brutal Syrian regime -- or, more likely, offer inducements to dictator Bashar al-Assad to encourage him to open his country to the Western world. Either way, we would see a superficial spat over a few buildings as evidence of a deeper, emerging divide.

Imagine further that a prominent Syrian figure on the international stage -- or someone of Syrian descent, like Syrian-American novelist Mona Simpson, for argument's sake -- had stepped forward to lead a U.N. fact-finding mission on Syria, which aimed to document "brutal violations of human rights and suppression of democracy." Barred from entry by the regime, the mission would still interview dissident exiles and international NGOs.

Now imagine that in the wake of the lengthy, strident report produced by Simpson and approved by the U.N. General Assembly, the U.N. Human Rights Council had passed five resolutions condemning Syria and established a new U.N. body to monitor compliance with the Simpson report. Would we not feel a sense of momentum, an expectation that the regime would soon crack? Would we not try to ratchet the pressure ever higher?

That is exactly what Israel's enemies feel at the moment, watching President Barack Obama join international condemnation of Israel over a housing project in Jerusalem, watching a prominent Jewish intellectual like Richard Goldstone accuse Israel of crimes against humanity, watching the U.N. Human Rights Council devote the bulk of its efforts to attacking Israel's right to defend itself from genocidal terrorist groups on its borders.

The motives for anti-Israel hatred are surely irrational, but the encouragement that anti-Israel forces are drawing from the events of recent weeks is surely rational. And with the Obama administration's emerging hostility towards the Netanyahu government, anti-Israel groups and governments see the dawn of the longed-for day when the U.S. would stand aside, no longer willing to help Israel for moral or even strategic reasons.

Barring regime change in Iran -- which would deny Israel's enemies the weapons, money, and inspiration they need to keep fighting -- the Obama administration's disastrous policy towards Israel has created an impression of weakness that will be extremely difficult to undo. Not even another decisive Israeli victory in a war with Hamas or Hezb'allah will be enough to contradict prophecies of her destruction as they acquire a force of their own.

In retrospect, Israel's own actions -- the Lebanon withdrawal, which was followed by the Second Lebanon War; the Gaza disengagement, which was followed by the Gaza war -- helped create an impression of weakness. At the time, many Israelis saw these steps as necessary sacrifices for peace. But Israel's enemies saw them as retreats -- as did that part of the West so easily convinced of the irrationality of Israel's existence to begin with.

Israel very nearly made peace with Syria in 1999. Back then, the question was always whether an agreement that Israel made with a dictator would be upheld by his inevitable successor. Few thought to question whether agreements made with one U.S. president would survive into the administration of the next. The potentially cataclysmic transfer of power in a third-world dictatorship worried us more than routine democratic transitions.

It turns out that the 2008 election was anything but a routine transition for the U.S.-Israel relationship. An unconditional friendship has become a conditional entente, just as the "special relationship" with Britain has been transformed into something ordinary and dispensable. That may not have been what many Americans thought they were voting for, but it is certainly real change. Our enemies, quite reasonably, have taken note.

Joel B. Pollak is the GOP nominee for the U.S. House of Representatives from the 9th district of Illinois.

RECENT VIDEOS