Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review April 24, 2001 / 2 Iyar, 5761

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Jeff Jacoby
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Sharon should have said no -- SECRETARY OF STATE Colin Powell rebuked Israel last week for sending tanks and bulldozers into Gaza following Palestinian mortar attacks on the Israeli town of Sederot. "The Israeli response," he said, "was excessive and disproportionate." Of his own "Powell Doctrine," which prescribes overwhelming force when there is a military objective to be achieved, he made no mention. He was almost as reticent about the Palestinian violence that triggered the Israeli move, describing it merely as "provocative." Would he be similarly understated, one wonders, if Mexican terrorists, abetted by the Mexican government, began shelling Laredo and El Paso?

What was "excessive and disproportionate" last week was Powell's slap at Israel, not Israel's attempt to protect Jewish communities from Arab artillery. Unlike the Palestinians attacking them, the Israelis did not aim their weapons at civilians or deliberately set out to shed as much blood as possible. They entered Gaza only to stop the shelling, and made it clear that they had no intention of reoccupying territory that has been turned over to the Palestinian Authority. If he had to say anything, Powell should have praised them for their restraint.

In any case, his slap had its effect: Within hours, Israel's forces withdrew. Jerusalem claimed that the decision to retreat had been made before the US reprimand, but no one was fooled. Least of all Yasser Arafat, who understood that Washington had just given him a green light to keep trying to kill Jews.

Sure enough, the shelling resumed as soon as the Israelis were out. Early Wednesday morning, Palestinian mortars began hitting Israeli targets on both sides of the Green Line; two landed in the schoolyard at Nevei Dekalim, just before the children showed up for class. By mid-afternoon, Israeli tanks were back in Gaza, briefly, to demolish a Palestinian "police" station from which explosives were being fired. When that failed to stop the shelling, the tanks returned yet again on Saturday.

These hokey-pokey operations -- you put your ground troops in, you pull your ground troops out -- will do nothing to enhance Israel's security, and less than nothing to deter Palestinian violence. As if to prove the point, a suicide bomber killed one Israeli and wounded 41 more in a rush-hour blast near Tel Aviv on Sunday morning.

Israelis overwhelmingly elected Ariel Sharon prime minister because he vowed to be tough: to shut down Arafat's terror campaign and to rehabilitate Israel's reputation for fearsomeness. If he were still the leader of the opposition, he would bellow with outrage at last week's cave-in to Powell. His failure to insist on Israel's right to protect its population from acts of war came across as a dismaying lack of backbone.

To be sure, no Israeli official wants to pick a fight with the United States. But Powell does not speak for all Americans. At times he doesn't even speak for the Bush administration.

Powell's call to continue the Clinton administration's approach to North Korea, for example, was repudiated by President Bush. So was his pitch for easing the sanctions against Iraq. In other policy areas -- China, Russia, missile defense -- the administration is plainly divided between the accommodationist State Department and the conservative hawks led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Powell's views on the Middle East may reflect conventional State Department wisdom. But it's a safe bet that not everyone in the Bush inner circle shares them.

After all, the administration has already made it clear that settling the Arab-Israeli conflict is not its top priority. Bill Clinton made a fetish of the "peace process," but Bush, Rumsfeld, and Vice President Dick Cheney understand that America's real interests in the Middle East do not revolve around Israel's borders or Arafat's promises. Washington has more pressing concerns: hostile dictatorships, Islamist extremism, terrorism, threats to pro-Western governments, the danger of regional war.

Of all the nations in the Middle East, only Israel stands with America on each of those issues, just as it is the only one that shares America's democratic values. Israel is such a key American ally because of its strategic importance to US security interests. That importance does not depend on Jerusalem's consent to everything Washington says about the Arab-Israeli conflict. It *does* depend on Israel's remaining a potent military power with a deterrent capacity feared by its enemies. And that in turn sometimes means saying no to the United States.

In 1948, David Ben Gurion resisted US pressure not to proclaim Israeli statehood. In 1967, Levi Eshkol, defying US wishes, launched a preemptive strike against Egypt. In 1981, Menachem Begin braved American fury to bomb the Iraqi nuclear plant at Osirak. In each case, saying no to Washington led to short-term tension in US-Israeli relations. Yet today even Washington would agree that in each case Israel was right.

What makes Israel so valuable to America and the free world is its steadfastness, its strength, and its readiness, when necessary, to stand alone. Colin Powell may not understand that. But shouldn't Ariel Sharon?

Jeff Jacoby is a Boston Globe columnist. Comment by clicking here.

04/02/01: The Inhumane Society
03/30/01: To have a friend, Caleb, be a friend
03/27/01: Is Chief Wahoo racist?
03/22/01: Ending the Clinton appeasement
03/20/01: They're coming for you
03/16/01: Kennedy v. Kennedy
03/13/01: We should see McVeigh die
03/09/01: The Taliban's wrecking job
03/07/01: The No. 1 reason to cut taxes
03/02/01: A Harvard candidate's silence on free speech
02/27/01: A lesson from Birmingham jail
02/20/01: How Jimmy Carter got his good name back
02/15/01: Cashing in on the presidency
02/09/01: The debt for slavery -- and for freedom
02/06/01: The reparations calculation
02/01/01: The freedom not to say 'amen'
01/29/01: Chavez's 'hypocrisy': Take a closer look
01/26/01: Good-bye, good riddance
01/23/01: When everything changed (mostly for the better)
01/19/01: The real zealots
01/16/01: Pardon Clinton?
01/11/01: The fanaticism of Linda Chavez
01/09/01: When Jerusalem was divided
12/29/00 Liberal hate speech, 2000
12/15/00Does the Constitution expect poor children be condemned to lousy government schools?
12/08/00 Powell is wrong man to run State Department
12/05/00 The 'MCAS' teens give each other
12/01/00 Turning his back on the Vietnamese -- again
11/23/00 Why were the Pilgrims thankful?
11/21/00 The fruit of this 'peace process' is war
11/13/00 Unleashing the lawyers
11/17/00 Gore's mark on history
40 reasons to say NO to Gore

© 2001, Boston Globe