Thank Hashem for Bush and Blair
Our Sages tell us that HaKadosh Baruch Hu sets in place the cure prior to the blow. The story of Purim, in which Esther was ensconced on her throne before Haman could set into motion his fiendish plan to kill every single Jew, remains the paradigm. Sometimes, even today, we are privileged to witness this process of Divine benevolence.
Should Israel yet succeed in snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in Lebanon, the crucial day in the military campaign will turn out to have been November 2, 2004 -– the day that George W. Bush was re-elected president of the United States.
From the day Hizbullah launched an unprovoked attack on Israel, Bush has never deviated from a few basic principles. The first is that Israel has the right to defend itself, and that means taking action to ensure that Hizbullah is no longer in a position to attack Israel at will. That is what the Bush administration means when it says that a return to the status quo ante is both pointless and unacceptable.
Moreover, Bush has recognized that Hizbullah is acting at the behest of its Iranian and Syrian patrons, and therefore its defeat is crucial to deterring Iranian ambitions to lead a global jihad against the West.
Even after the deaths of 28 Lebanese civilians at Kfar Qana, Bush did not lose sight of the larger context or join the braying of the “civilized” world for an immediate “halt to the madness.” In a speech that day, Bush noted that the civilian casualties in Kfar Qana were “awful,” but no less awful was the fact that “million Israelis” have had to flee their homes because of missiles from the North.
The “but” in the New York Times headline the next day captured the paper’s amazement at the intransigence of the cowboy president in refusing to follow Europe’s humanitarian impulses: “Bush calls attack on Qana ‘awful,’ but refrains from calling for an immediate cease-fire.”
Bush recognized what the Times could not: Delivering a serious blow to Hizbullah, which is a forward division of the Iranian army, is far too crucial to the West to stop the campaign because of the type of civilian deaths that take place in every war (and which in this case were fully attributable to Hizbullah).
Indeed, if the Bush administration has been critical of Israel at all, it is for the feckless and tentative conduct of its military campaign against Hizbullah. After three weeks of fighting, Israel had still captured no territory, killed none of Hizbullah’s top leadership, and failed to eliminate Hizbullah’s capacity to launch 200 missiles or more in a day.
America has paid a high price for Israel having conducted its military campaign as if it had all the time in the world, including a simmering Shiite rebellion, engineered by Iran, against U.S. forces in Iraq. And Israel has lost crucial credibility in the United States for failing to have proven itself the powerful strategic asset in the fight against world jihad, which it had heretofore been assumed to be. That is the case even if Israel succeeds in reversing the momentum and delivering a significant body blow to Hizbullah in the fourth week of fighting.
Had John Kerry won the 2004 presidential campaign, the opportunity for Israel to do reverse course would have already passed. And we can be sure that the U.N. Security Council would have long since imposed a ceasefire in Lebanon –- a ceasefire that would have constituted a historic defeat for Israel.
That ceasefire would have left Hassan Nasrallah standing, his power to rain over 200 missiles a day on Israel undiminished, and in a position to plausibly claim victory in a frontal showdown between 1,000 or so Hizbullah fighters and the combined might of IDF.
Israel’s deterrent posture vis-à-vis its Arab neighbors would have been left in tatters, and Israel doomed to a situation in which Iranian and Syrian-sponsored terror groups, on all its borders, could keep the country in a state of perpetual mobilization, thereby destroying its economy and deepening its diplomatic isolation.
Kerry, the liberal internationalist, would have inevitably lined up with the Europeans. Any doubts on that score were put to rest by Kerry’s questioning of John Bolton, in Senate hearings on the latter’s appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kerry criticized Bolton again and again for the fact that the United States is consistently the “odd person out” at the U.N. For Kerry, European opinion is the benchmark against which American policy is judged.
Israel’s U.N. ambassador Dan Gillerman points out that if the Knesset, rather than the United States Senate, were voting on Bolton’s appointment (after his original interim appointment), he would win unanimous support. Bolton has surpassed any Israeli spokesperson in making mincemeat of the claim that Israel is employing disproportionate force in Lebanon. “In the face of the kidnapping of two of its soldiers from its own sovereign territory, is Israel permitted only to capture two Hizbullah fighters in return?” he asked.
More important, the famously forceful Bolton has worn down even the obstinate French, and come up with a draft Security Council resolution deemed by Jerusalem to be favorable to Israel.
THE FACT THAT TONY BLAIR is today prime minister of Great Britain is less significant than that George W. Bush is president of the United States. And it is, in its way, even more miraculous. In America, at least, there is broad popular support for Israel. That is not the case in England.
“A hysteria towards Israel is rising within the media and so-called educated classes of Britain, which increasingly mimics and even rivals, in its intensity, irrationality and bigotry, the prejudices and libels cursing through the Arab world,” writes Melanie Phillips. That the British Prime Minister should, at devastating cost to his own personal popularity and political future, remain so steadfastly at America’s (and Israel’s) side almost beggars belief.
Too many Europeans, Blair said in Los Angeles last week, have completely lost any understanding of Israel’s predicament, surrounded, as it is, by enemies bent on its eradication. If they don’t forthrightly declare their support for suicide bombers, they nevertheless view as legitimate all the grievances of what Blair terms Reactionary Islam. For his part, Blair rejected those grievances, and even wondered aloud how any half-sentient person could believe in them.
That Bush and Blair should lead the Atlantic Alliance at this particular moment in history is nothing less than clear Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence).
Notwithstanding the things we should thank the Bush administration for:
Over the last few years, we have often heard these contradictory messages from the US Government concerning Israel:
1. Restraint, restraint, restraint no matter what. Retreat or lose US support.
2. We’re so disappointed that Israel failed to mash its opposition within X number of days. Advance or lose US support.
Was it not the US that continually mixed into Israeli politics to guarantee the most dovish leadership available there? And tried to make Abbas and others out to be moderate statesmen to be cultivated by one-sided concessions?
We’re again going through this schizo message cycle.
At the moment, Israel’s actions are thought to advance US policy vis-a-vis Iran, so Israel is encouraged.
At another moment, Israel’s identical actions (or tamer actions) are thought to threaten the US relationship with Arab oil states, so Israel is pushed back.
Until President Bush and his employees have the same coherent vision, these mixed messages and the accompanying failures of their policy will continue to confuse friends and foes.
I also notice that Israel is still telegraphing its military punches. This seems to be a continuation of its recent habit of asking “Mother, may I?” before dealing with terrorist threats. And how did this habit develop? Because the US has been openly and not-so-openly trying to micromanage all Israeli responses.
I dont understand your point.If Bush and Blair are evidence of Divine Providence, then so is Nasrallah and the leadership of Iran,Syria and rest of that infernal group.Nor can we yet judge the efficacy the cure .”Al tivtichu benedivim …” (Do not put your trust in the mighty).
I once heard Dr. David Luchins say that America’s relationship with Israel is one of sharing complementary and overlapping interests, rather than exact identical interests. I think that this is also true in the more specific sense regarding the Christian Right, which is the part of the United States that is most dedicated in its support.
This leads to a paradox. The statements made by both Israeli and American leaders that “Israel can have no better friend than America” is certainly true, despite the fact that there are traditionally differences between the State Department and the White House on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But it is also true that America, like any other country, acts first and foremost in its own interest. Regardless of the nature of the American-Israeli relationship, the fact that Israel’s ultimate friend is Hashem remains true: “ain lanu l’heshaien ela b’Avinu s’Bashomayim”.
Nevertheless, it is essential to display gratitude and not take such support for granted, whether to entire countries or to specific leaders. First, because only a fool will throw away the gift of friendship and a positive diplomatic alliance. Secondly, because displaying gratitude is a Torah value, whether or not this leads to further benefit.
Mixing religion with this sort of politics is a dangerous approach. It is a serious conclusion that is not so easy to draw, nor should it be drawn.
Sharon’s reply to the Chief Rabbi of Haifa regarding the disengagement from Gaza was simply, “This is what the U.S. State Department is demanding that I do, and I must do it.”
There are other important Bush issues that may not be good for Jews, such as the recent South Dakota abortion law, which gives precedence to the unborn baby over the mother, even when her life is in clear danger. The halakhic concept of rodef (has v’shalom) is one that is now at odds with the law of (some of) the land.
One of the main consequences of America’s misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan has been to strengthen Iran. America’s energy policy has furthered that in spades, and has facilitated making Iran and Saudi Arabia enormously wealthy (as well as America’s own industries).
The Democratic platform on Israel was basically the same as the Republican – G-d is above these sorts of politics, and America is a kind country.
The ideal solution for Israel is not about a Republican or Democrat – it is more about teshuva and tefilah and tzedakah.
You will probably recall the famous conservative William Buckley’s words, in a recent interview about Bush, “If you had a European prime minister who experienced what we’ve experienced, it would be expected that he would retire or resign.”
The case could be made that Bush and Blair have been given to the Jews as a challenge, to make life harder. With work, we will succeed in these challenges as well.
But G-d is much bigger than this, and attaching a political leader like this with him seems simply to slight G-d. Whether the withdrawal from Gaza and strengthening Iran is good for the Jews are things that will require a bit more time and perspective. They are surely the result of hashgacha pratis, but are they openly for the good??
I was disturbed recently by media reports that Jonathan Rosenblum, Yitzchok Adlerstein, William Kristol, Daniel Pipes, Charles Krauthammer, Jeff Jacoby, Jonah Goldberg and Daniel Jonah Goldhagen had not been seen in public for some time. Then, while reading Jonathan Rosenblum’s August 9 Crosscurrents posting “Thank Hashem For Bush and Blair,” I clicked on the link to read the full text of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s recent address here in Los Angeles, and was astonished to discover that the above-named persons had actually been meeting in an OU safe house in Big Bear Lake to write Blair’s speech.
Who ever could have imagined a world leader saying so many uncompromisingly true and reasonable things, with such clear vision and such commitment to real moral values, in one speech, on the most important issues of our age, and without sounding at all apologetic?
What is happening to the world? In his famous recent speech (or speeches) before the Kenesset, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert mentioned G-d, quoted Yermiyahu and even said a Mi’she’berach, which is already pretty far into the unimaginable. He even reportedly said “I have never been more proud to be an Israeli.” When things start getting really bad, perhaps he will be able to bring himself to use the “J” word. (Even now, it is interesting how the term “G-d of Israel” whom Olmert called upon has a double resonance.)
It is an amazing irony that Tony Blair, George Bush’s biggest booster in Afghanistan and Iraq, is of Britain’s Lunatic Left Labor Party, while Jacques Chirac, who was hoping to see Saddam Hussein y”sh defeat the US and UK and was working to make the dream a reality, is of the French Right.
(As another irony, Blair’s speech received about 4% as much press coverage as Mel Gibson’s LA speeches, wet and dry, that same week).
At the same time, Bob Miller is entirely right about the “schizo message cycle” syndrome. I have been saying for a long time now, and I continue to say, that George W. Bush is far and away the least anti-Israeli president America has had since they began keeping records in the 1950’s. That is the most one can say. While giving Sharon the green light to clean up after the Netanya Seder Massacre he was pushing the Road Map as the successor to the Oslo Assisted Suicide Pact for all he was worth. And I will never forget the fierce scowl on the face of Condoleeza Rice in a photo from an occasion when she was telling the Israelis exactly where they or are not allowed to live in their own ancient homeland and what they may or may not do there. The term rodefes instantly came to mind.
If one can believe the Arutz-7/Israel National News website (and I am coming to realize that the Right has its own Ministry of Propaganda), Washington was employing satellites not long ago to take detailed photographs of the Land of Israel so it could spot Jews building homes on the wrong side of the street, and is giving Israel lists of Jewish settlements (or outposts) it expects to see demolished.
Maybe I have an irrational streak but it makes me angry to think of a country which enforces laws against anti-Jewish discrimination in selling homes on its own soil trying to make parts of our ancient homeland Judenfrei (or Judenrein).
In just this same vein, Tony Blair’s people seem to have slipped some language of their own into his otherwise sensible speech:
“However, there was one cause which, the world over, unites Islam, one issue that even the most westernised Muslims find unjust and, perhaps worse, humiliating: Palestine. Here a moderate leadership was squeezed between its own inability to control the radical elements and the political stagnation of the peace process. When Prime Minister Sharon took the brave step of disengagement from Gaza, it could have been and should have been the opportunity to re-start the process. But the squeeze was too great and as ever because these processes never stay still, instead of moving forward, it fell back. Hamas won the election. Even then, had moderate elements in Hamas been able to show progress, the situation might have been saved. But they couldn’t.
“So the opportunity passed to Reactionary Islam and they seized it: first in Gaza, then in Lebanon.”
“Moderate leadership”? “Moderate elements in Hamas”?! The main problem with the moderates in the “Palestinian” leadership—Jeffersonian democrats and agrarian reformers all, with no further territorial demands in Europe—is that, unfortunately, they are non-existent, which, you have to admit, is a considerable liability for any political class.
I wish I could remember which writer it was who years ago referred to the fundamental distinction then being made between moderate Arab revolutionary terrorists like Yassir Arafat y”sh and radical Arab revolutionary terrorists like Abbu Niddal y”sh.
It seems that Hamas’ tayna (claim) against the PLO “moderates” was that the Oslo piece-by-piece process, the ultimate Trojan Horse, was already giving too much recognition and legitimacy to the Zionist entity. This is political Islam for the Me Generation: “I want all of Palestine and I want it now.”
I would like to be dan l’chof zechus (give the benefit of the doubt) here and assume that Blair is just being a knave and not a fool. But Blair’s language here is consistent with what he has been saying since the invasion of Iraq, that Israel will have to be made the whipping boy for the audacity the US and UK showed in defending their own existence over the outraged cries of the Guardian and the average Pakistani man in the street (of Whitechapel).
(How’s this for glory? Soon after rushing to write the above words I continued reading Blair’s speech and came across the following:
“I want to explain why I think this issue [“re-energising” the MEPP] is so utterly fundamental to all we are trying to do. I know it can be very irritating for Israel to be told that this issue is of cardinal importance, as if it is on their shoulders that the weight of the troubles of the region should always fall. I know also their fear that in our anxiety for wider reasons to secure a settlement, we sacrifice the vital interests of Israel.
“Let me make it clear. I would never put Israel’s security at risk.
Instead I want, what we all now acknowledge we need: a two state solution. The Palestinian State must be independent, viable but also democratic and not threaten Israel’s safety.
“This is what the majority of Israelis and Palestinians want.”
The majority of “Palestinians,” the people who just voted to put Hamas into power, want a state which does not threaten Israel’s safety?! Mr. Blair, “there you go again.”)
Reading these words, like reading about Olmert’s reported approval for having the Wehrmacht (sorry, Bundeswehr) on the Israeli border, reminds me of a talk by Rabbi Motti Berger not long after September 11 in which he pointed out that Gog, King of Magog, is not necessarily such a bad guy. In Sefer Yechzkel 38:4, the prophet is told to tell Gog: “I shall lead you astray and I shall affix hooks to your cheeks and lead you out with all your army, horses, and rider…” Said Motti Berger, when the time comes, George Bush or whoever may not want to do anything but will be forced by circumstances (no doubt quite desperate) to come against Yerushalayim at the head of the last great coalition.
A final irony. Bush and Blair have had two primary foreign policy goals: to prevent radical Islamic homicidal-suicidal terrorists from having a country or safe haven of their own anywhere in the world, and to give radical Islamic homicidal-suicidal terrorists an independent state of their own in the heart of the Middle East.
(BTW Rabbi Rosenblum or Rabbi Adlerstein, what does the excerpt from the Zohar say? I’m afraid I don’t understand Targum Lashon so well, and I left my ArtScroll Zohar in Big Bear.)
Whatever contradictions exist in US policy are being pushed forward by the President and his Secretary of State jointly. He is 100% responsible for the actions of his cabinet officers.
Somebody please explain what is gained today by the US holding up expanded Israeli miltary activity, and what is gained by Israel’s acquiescence. I imagine that Prime Minister Olmert sits pining for an encouraging word from Mommy, while the moment calls him to lead like a man. Exactly which foreign diplomats and foreign armies does he expect to end the misery of his failure?
I also want to address the idea that we have heard at various times in various contexts, that the US had given Israel the \”green light\” to do a bold campaign, but Israel then pulled its punches. I think some of this talk is disinformation, and that multiple lights (\”red\”, \”yellow\”, and \”green\”) can beam out of Washington at the same time, some of these lights being decoys for the public. This is not to excuse PM Olmert, but to clarify his situation.