One aspect of the recent resolution passed by the American Reform movement calling upon President Bush and Congress “to set a time table for phased and expeditious withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq” should be of particular concern to Israelis: Israel is virtually unmentioned in the long Reform statement supporting the resolution, and the impact of withdrawal on Israel appears to have played no role in the deliberations. One meaningless statement that the phased withdrawal should be done in a manner that “best enhances stabity in Iraq – and we would add … Israel” is the only substantive mention of Israel.
Of all the reasons adduced for American withdrawal only one – the high level of American and Iraqi casualties – has any relevance. The others – the failure to find Saddam Hussein’s arsenals of WMD’s; the humiliation of prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison; President Bush’s failure to secure U.N. Security Council support for a military invasion – look to the past, but have nothing to do with the consequences of withdrawal now that America is in Iraq. (The Reform movement supported the invasion in a 2002 resolution.)
Even the high level of civilian casualties is only an argument for withdrawal if one believes that those casualties will decline after withdrawal. But the Reform statement does not and could not make that claim. According to the most recent National Intelligence Estimate an American withdrawal in the near future “almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq. . . . Massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable.”
Nowhere does the Reform statement mention the threat of Islamofascism to the West, including the United States and Israel. Yet what we are seeing in Iraq today is the playing out of the strategy enunciated by the late Abu Musab al Zarqawi in an intercepted letter to Osama bin Laden in 2004. To prevent the evil principle of democracy from taking hold in Iraq, Zarqawi proposed to trigger a civil war by terrorist attacks on Shiites, which would lead to Shiite retaliation against Sunnis, which would then force all Sunnis to join the battle.
If that murderous strategy succeeds, the jihadi historical narrative of Islam ascendant, ever since the expulsion of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan by Islamist mujhadeens, and the West in flight would gain further corroboration and draw more to the banner of worldwide jihad.
The implications for Israel are immense. As Vice-President Cheney told the recent AIPAC Convention, “It is simply not consistent for anyone to demand aggressive action against the menace posed by the Iranian regime while at the same time acquiescing in a retreat from Iraq that would leave our worst enemies dramatically emboldened and Israel’s best friend, the United States, dangerously weakened.” Prime Minister Olmert echoed those sentiments two days later, and they are shared almost unanimously by Israeli policymakers. Yet the Reform statement has nothing to say about the Iranian threat to Israel or the West, or the implications of a withdrawal from Iraq on that threat.
Amazingly, the principal source cited by Reform statement was the report of the Iraqi Study group headed by former secretary of state James Baker III. Yes, the same Baker who as secretary of state directed harsh epithets at Israel and publicly offered Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir his phone number to call when he became “serious about peace.”
The Study Group made almost no concrete recommendations about how America might achieve its policy goals in Iraq. But it did put its imprimatur on the single most dangerous idea from Israel’s point of view: that the Israel-Arab conflict is the source of all the other conflicts in the Middle East.
The Study Group proposed to convene an international conference to which dozens of states would be invited, with the notable exception of Israel, even though only Israel’s concessions were specified in advance: “Israel should return the Golan Heights.”
Finally, the Reform statement makes the U.N. Security Council the final arbiter of the legitimacy of military force. Yet President Bush’s failure was the result of French determination to prevent any U.S. military action, just as China and Russia use the Security Council today to prevent any serious sanctions against Iran.
The U.N. has become a debating society for the passage of anti-Israel resolutions, and its Human Rights Commission has even gone so far as to sanction terrorism against Israeli civilians. Yet the Reform statement turns the U.N. into the sole source of international legitimacy.
It’s time to ask: When did the American Reform movement stop caring about Jews in Israel?