Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plans for withdrawal from much of the West Bank is leading to erosion of political support within the one American group — the conservative, primarily Christian right —that had been most supportive of Israel, and reportedly the root of President Bush’s support, as well.
Those conservatives who most cheered Israel’s history of defying Islamic terrorists are now the most disappointed by what they’re calling Israel’s “appeasement,” as exemplified by its policy of unilateral withdrawal; giving guns to a Palestinian security unit under PA President Mahmoud Abbas, even though such weapons were used in the past against Israel; and giving millions of dollars in medical assistance to Palestinian hospitals to thwart what is being called a “humanitarian crisis,” even though Olmert told the New York Times (May 19) that the “humanitarian crisis” was nothing but “total propaganda.”
Several writers pointed out that Olmert was once again living up to his doctrine spoken at the time of the Gaza disengagement: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.” Joseph Farah, editor of World Net Daily and once as enthusiastic a defender of Israel as anyone in the media, finally threw in the towel, writing, “I Give Up On Israel.”
World Net Daily is something like NASCAR, unknown to most New Yorkers but wildly popular in the heartland. Alexa, the Internet tracking service, ranks WND (worldnetdaily.com) as the No. 1 Internet site for conservative news, with more online readers than either National Review or The Weekly Standard. The site has considerable Christian advertising and readership and, since its 1997 founding by Farah, a Christian of Arab-American heritage, WND has offered a drumbeat for Israel that previously earned Farah a journalism award from the right-wing Zionist Organization of America. Farah also writes a syndicated column for the Jerusalem Post, among others, and has co-authored a book with Rush Limbaugh. His Zionist and conservative credentials are impeccable.
So hundreds of thousands of readers took notice when Farah wrote in WND (May 15), “I am through defending Israel — at least the regime currently in power in Jerusalem, this useless coalition seemingly hell-bent on committing national suicide.”
Farah said Olmert’s plans for a unilateral West Bank withdrawal is nothing but “retreat” and “appeasement.” Olmert, said Farah, “does this fully knowing that last summer’s evacuation of the Gaza Strip has been an unmitigated disaster for the Jewish people, Western Civilization and freedom in general,” with Hamas wanting nothing more than to “establish a Taliban-like state” in “territories ethnically cleansed of Jews.”
The West Bank, writes Farah, will become, like Gaza, a terrorist base threatening not only Israel but also Jordan and Lebanon. If that is Israel’s choice, “I’m through making excuses for Israel. I’m through trying to understand the incomprehensible moves of a self-flagellating nation. I’m through trying to point out the moral rightness of a state and a people who themselves fail to discern right from wrong.”
Farah added, “I know I speak for many Jews and Christians throughout the world who see Israel’s surrender as a cowardly betrayal, a sign that the Jewish state puts more faith in Washington and ‘international diplomacy’ than in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Compromise with evil is evil. And that’s what Israel is doing. As for me and my house, I will not be a part of it. I will continue to serve the Lord and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Bringing God into the conversation struck a sour note with some in the conservative camp such as Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, who’d written articles of his own on why “Israel is losing the war.” Pipes told The Jewish Week that he and Farah “share similar feelings of frustration at the wrong-headedness of Israeli policies,” but said Pipes, “I look at it in purely political terms.”
In an interview with The Jewish Week Farah maintained, “I hold the U.S. and the international community responsible [for] the massive pressure exerted on Israel, when the pressure ought to be applied on her enemies.” Nevertheless, “I really do believe the Jewish state — at least in terms of its elite leadership — has lost its moral bearings.”
Jeff Jacoby, columnist for The Boston Globe and a vocal supporter of Israel, told us via e-mail that Farah’s piece inspired him to write one of his own (May 24), “Tough Love From Israel’s Friends.”
Jacoby noted that the Center for Security Policy, a Washington think tank that supports Israel, placed a television ad during Olmert’s visit, directed at Israel: “Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Jacoby writes, “Wars are not won by evacuations, as Winston Churchill told his British countrymen in 1940. Israelis, weary after so many years under siege, wish to pretend otherwise? Then it is up to their friends to tell them the truth.”
Andy Wolf, a columnist for The New York Sun told The Jewish Week that he was “sympathetic with Farah’s position… but it is my policy not to be overly critical of an Israeli government that has been democratically selected by the people who run the daily risks.”
But Jacoby, who is Jewish, refused to see Olmert’s policy as a risk for Israelis alone, pointing out that an American tourist, Daniel Wultz, was among the victims in last month’s suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.
Caroline Glick, of The Jerusalem Post, pointed out that The Wall Street Journal did not run op-eds against the Gaza withdrawal but they’ve started to against Olmert’s policies, with former CIA director James Woolsey writing that a Hamas state on the West Bank threatened American interests in the region.
Robert Novak, in the Chicago Sun-Times (May 25) reported that Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill), chair of the House International Relations Committee and a veteran supporter of Israel, wrote a letter to President Bush, in conjunction with Olmert’s visit, asking that Israel be held responsible for the Palestinian Christian communities that are imperiled by Israel’s retreat to within its security fence.
Although American papers focused exclusively on the alleged Palestinian humanitarian crisis, Israeli papers were noting a humanitarian crisis facing Israeli citizens. Maariv headlined (May 22), “Drugs for intestinal cancer [were] not put into [the government’s] health basket” for its national medical insurance. Some cancer patients held a hunger strike outside the Knesset.
The Jerusalem Post (May 22) editorial said the strikers “represent thousands of people” with other health problems, “quietly suffering from the lack of a panoply of critical drugs that our health insurance system, if it is to be worthy of the name, should pay for.”
An editorial in Yediot Aharonot declared, “Tears are being shed by many who would like so much to help their sick parents and suffering children but who cannot. This is a country in which the word ‘compassion’ has been erased.”
The Israeli medical crisis has been galvanizing Israeli conservatives against Olmert’s aid to Palestinian hospitals.