Mr. Secretary: Cool Your Jets!
President Obama did not want to "meddle" with Iran's internal affairs. So, in 2009, when thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran to protest the fraudulent re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the White House and the State Department largely took a hands-off posture. The mullahs took that as a signal they could shoot down the demonstrators and that President Obama would not interfere. So, they went about shooting and clubbing the democracy activists and the hopes for regime change by peaceful means largely evaporated. Our best prospect of stopping Iran's lunge for nuclear weapons passed with the blood on real martyrs on those turbulent streets.
Later, in 2011, Egypt erupted in protests against the 30-year authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian dictator had closed his border with Israel to jihadists and had maintained at least a cold peace with the Jewish state. But Mubarak was a despot who combined a secret police apparatus with attempts to appease Muslim mobs with state-sponsored anti-Semitism. A century earlier, the Tsarist secret police had concocted The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a supposed plan for world domination by the Jews. This ugly anti-Semitic work of fiction didn't work to keep the Tsar on his throne. Mubarak's television producers gave the world a dramatized version of the Protocols libel. This TV series helped stoke flames of Jew hatred throughout the Arabic-speaking world, but like the Tsar's creation, it failed to keep Mubarak in power.
As the Muslim Brotherhood arose in Egypt and threatened to take power at the ballot box, President Obama did not want to meddle here, either. So his administration kept shoveling U.S. aid to Egypt, even as it became clear that the so-called Arab Spring would bring to power the Muslim Brotherhood's man, Mohamed Morsi. As soon as he was installed as Egypt's first "elected" president, Morsi made it clear that his highest goal in a planned visit to Washington was to persuade President Obama to release Omar Abdel-Rahman. This is the Egyptian-born "Blind Sheikh" who plotted the first attack on the World Trade Center. The Blind Sheikh is serving a life sentence for the murders of U.S. citizens he instigated in 1993.
That Morsi would publicly avow his hope to gain the Sheikh's release is a measure of the deep contempt this new dictator had for the United States. Why not be bold, Morsi doubtless thought. He had seen the Obama administration continue to give money to Libya's Muammar Qaddafi, even after Qaddafi publicly welcomed the convicted bomber of PanAm 103. This mass murderer was given a hero's welcome when he came back to Tripoli. So, why not expect similar treatment for the Egyptian cleric?
It was the Egyptian military leaders who could no longer bear Morsi's dictatorial conduct. They overthrew him in a coup. Tens of millions of Egyptians -- many who had unwisely helped put Morsi and the Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood, in power -- took to the streets to demand change. These people looked to their U.S.-trained military to save them. At grave risk to themselves, Egypt's Coptic Christians took a public stand in favor of the military action.
And the Obama administration cut off U.S. aid to that Egyptian military.
Now, we see Israel's defense minister browbeaten into offering a public apology to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. A remark by Minister Moshe Yaalon was picked up and broadcast throughout the world. Yaalon reportedly said Kerry had a "Messianic" drive to interfere. He should get his Nobel Peace Prize and "leave us [in Israel] alone."
Yaalon's remarks were viewed by the by the Obama White House and State Department as an insult. "Offensive and inappropriate," was the quick response of the Obama administration to the minister's comments. And nobody suggested that hammering Yaalon would be "meddling" in Israel's affairs. Everyone called it a "gaffe."
Still, the comment brings to mind New Republic editor Michael Kinsley's definition of a gaffe: It's when a political leader inadvertently blurts out the truth. So, Moshe Yaalon has been disciplined. And he has had to apologize to Kerry.
We Americans are still free to comment on this incident. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat had pretty much worked out their agreement in 1978 when President Jimmy Carter summoned the Israeli and Egyptian leaders to Camp David. They got the Nobel Peace Prize, but Carter had to wait nearly thirty years for his.
Then, there was the famous 1993 "handshake" on the White House Lawn presided over by a buoyant Bill Clinton. Israel's Yitzhak Rabin and PLO boss Yasser Arafat got the Nobel Peace Prize for that. Bill Clinton's still angling for his.
It's hard not to agree with Yaalon's gaffe. And there are doubtless many Israelis and Americans who wish John Kerry could go off, like Al Gore, and embrace an endangered polar bear, rather than endanger the Jewish state by demanding more territorial concessions to the PLO.
Why can't Secretary Kerry save the time in the air, and help the environment, too? Why doesn't he tell Arafat's political heirs to show they are sincere by recognizing the Jewish state of Israel and by ceasing their incitement of Palestinian youth to Jew hatred and violence? When you do that, Mr. Kerry could tell the PLO, I'll come back. For now, for us, the word is: "Mr. Secretary, cool your jets!"
Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison are Senior Fellows at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C.