Ah, 1995, when terrorists were statesmen and Rudy Giuliani, in the words of Ed Koch, had "behavioral problems dealing with other people."
I refer to that glorious time following Yasser Arafat's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, when His Excellency Arafat arrived unannounced at Lincoln Center, and Rudy Giuliani had him unceremoniously booted.
No one complains about that today.
At the time, of course, the circus was in full swing, with world leaders, former New York mayors, the U.S. State Department, and many ordinary Americans in agreement that Arafat deserved courtesy as a foreign leader on the brink of ushering in a new era of peace. This despite the fact that only shortly after spouting flowery words to the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, Arafat was inciting his people to war in Arabic, as he would continue to do throughout the seven year circus that was the Oslo Peace Process.
It became one thing to grudgingly acknowledge Arafat's duplicity around 2002, after the interception of the Karine-A, the ship bound from Iran to the Palestinian territories loaded with weapons in violation of Oslo. But at the height of Oslo, Giuliani, who as a U.S. attorney had investigated the murder of American Jewish businessman Leon Klinghoffer by Arafat's thugs, knew better.
"Not only do I not regret it, I'm proud of it," Giuliani told reporters in the midst of the controversy that followed his decision to eject Arafat. "What I did to Mr. Arafat I believe in, I'd do it again. Yasser Arafat is a terrorist, a criminal and a murderer."
I was in the room when Giuliani addressed a group of Jewish activists in the days after he made this decision. He told us that someday, when he writes his memoirs, he'll look back on booting Arafat as one of the proudest moments of his life.
If he had simply demonstrated that shining moral clarity in the face of the world's condemnation, it would have been enough for me. But long after Bill Clinton and the U.S. State Department had finished condemning him for it, long after David Dinkins and Ed Koch had wrapped up their joint press conference blasting him for it, Giuliani continued to demonstrate the character that lead him to that decision.
In 1996, when Israel was being rocked by suicide bombings, he traveled there to show his support, riding the No. 18 Jerusalem line, the bus route that bombers had attacked twice in the preceding days.
Asked if he was afraid, he replied, "No, that would be precisely the reaction terrorists would want someone to have."
And in the aftermath of September 11, when Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal offered him a check for $10 million along with the suggestion that the U.S. "re-examine its policies in the Middle East and adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause" Giuliani ripped it up.
Giuliani's recent statements demonstrate that as president he would not engage in one-sided "peace" negotiations that amount to pressuring Israel into strategic concessions while Palestinian and other Arab leaders fail to meet their commitments.
On the issue of Palestinian statehood, Giuliani wrote in the September/October 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, "It is not in the interest of the United States, at a time when it is being threatened by Islamist terrorists, to assist the creation of another state that will support terrorism. Palestinian statehood will have to be achieved through sustained good governance, a clear commitment to fighting terrorism, and a willingness to live in peace with Israel."
In some regards, times are better for Israel than they were in 1995. But if you listen closely, you can still hear circus music.
While all the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination profess their support for Israel, voters should keep in mind that none of them has demonstrated the commitment and sensitivity to Israel that Rudy Giuliani has through not just words, but deeds including during times when doing so earned him no popularity on the world stage.