April 22, 2010 | Scripps Howard News Service

More Than Usual Suspects Taking Shots at Israel

It really is open season on Israel, isn’t it? While Iran’s jihadi rulers continue their drive for nuclear weapons, while Syria transfers thousands of missiles to Hezbollah, while leaders of the Palestinian Authority glorify Islamist terrorists, the New York Times finds President Obama’s “willingness to challenge Israel . . . refreshing.”

“The question,” Times editorial writers add, is whether Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu “is able or willing to lead his country to a peace deal.” That’s the question?

Meanwhile, the Simon Wiesenthal Center is building a “Museum of Tolerance” in Jerusalem. Who could criticize such a project — except perhaps on the grounds that most of those living in or passing through Jerusalem already value tolerance? By contrast, a Museum of Tolerance in, say, Riyadh (where churches and synagogues are outlawed), or Cairo (from which Egyptian Jews have fled and where the ancient Christian community is increasingly oppressed), or Tehran (where the Baha’i are among the religious minorities most brutally persecuted) might push the envelope.

Nonetheless, the fraudulently named U.N. Human Rights Council claims that the museum is being constructed on sacred Muslim soil. Never mind that the building site — in West Jerusalem, not “Arab” East Jerusalem — has been used for decades as a municipal parking lot by Jewish, Muslim, and Christian motorists alike, with Muslim religious authorities voicing no objections.

But the cruelest cut in recent days was made by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who called on Israel to “continue building momentum toward a comprehensive peace by demonstrating respect for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians, stopping settlement activity, and addressing the humanitarian needs in Gaza.” She implored Israeli leaders “to refrain from unilateral statements and actions that could undermine trust or risk prejudicing the outcome of talks.”

To reveal the razorblades embedded in this diplomatic apple, begin with this question: What “momentum toward a comprehensive peace” could Clinton possibly have in mind, considering that since President Obama came to office no senior Palestinian leaders have been willing to sit at the same table with Israeli leaders — as they had in the past?

As for Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations,” in 2000 and again in 2008, Israeli leaders offered a grand bargain: an independent Palestinian state in all of Gaza, more than 95 percent of the West Bank, and a capital in East Jerusalem. In exchange, Israelis asked only for an end to the conflict and guarantees of future security. Palestinian leaders turned them down cold.

Then there’s Clinton’s reference to “humanitarian needs in Gaza,” a territory ruled by Hamas, designated a terrorist entity by the U.S. government and closely allied with the theocrats in Tehran. Hamas’s leaders have said — repeatedly and unambiguously — that they intend to use all and any means to exterminate Israelis. They believe this to be their religious obligation. Despite that, Israel supplies fuel, food, and medicine to Gazans. What other nation has ever done that for an entity waging a genocidal war against it?

Finally, Clinton talks about Israelis undermining trust. On what basis are Israelis supposed to trust people who say they want to slaughter them — and do so whenever they get the chance? As for Mahmoud Abbas, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, his “moderate” Fatah political faction continues to celebrate jihadi terrorists including, recently, Dalal Mughrabi, a bus hijacker who massacred 37 Israeli civilians — 13 of them children. Abbas’s government television station recently broadcast a sermon calling Jews “enemies of God and humanity.” The sermon continued: “The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them. . . . Thus, this land will be liberated only by means of Jihad.’”

When Clinton was a U.S. senator representing the state of New York, she seemed to appreciate the existential threat Israel faces day after day. When she was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, she seemed to grasp that, as a matter of both principle and policy, the United States needs to stand up to its enemies and stand up for its allies.

But as President Obama’s secretary of state, Clinton has conducted Middle East diplomacy in a way that can be described as, at best, lacking coherence. At worst — borrowing a phrase from scholar Bernard Lewis — she is helping make America appear “harmless as an enemy and treacherous as a friend.” How can any good come of that?

Editorial writers at the Times may not understand. Often, they think they are taking positions when they are merely striking poses. The U.N. Human Rights Council has its own agenda — which is self-evidently anti-Israeli and anti-American. But a woman as smart and tough-minded as Hillary Clinton ought to know better.

– Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.