Wednesday, September 22, 2004

For a Better Middle East Policy: Elect John Kerry

American voters concerned about Israel find themselves in an enviable position during this election. One choice is an incumbent President who has shown himself to be a friend of Israel who has not minced words in condemning Palestinian terror. He also clearly understands that U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338 never called on Israel to return to the 1949 armistice line and that the Green Line was never an acceptable or secure border. The other choice is a Senator who has been one of Israel's staunchest supporters for two decades. His campaign platform on Middle East issues, as detailed in his book with Senator John Edwards, "Our Plan for America", makes the same points the President makes but then goes farther, pledging support for keeping Jerusalem a united city as Israel's capital and has repeatedly supported moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, a promise also made but subsequently broken by President Bush. Senator Kerry also pledges himself to combating anti-Israel propaganda in the media.

In an interview last week with IBA News anchor Yochanon Elron, former Foreign and Defense Minister Moshe Arens, a member of the ruling Likud party, stated that Israel's special relationship with Washington and the alliance between the U.S. and Israel will remain strong no matter who is elected President in November. I agree with Dr. Arens that this is true. One might conclude that pro-Israel voters can safely concentrate on other issues when making their choice in November. I, however, still believe there is a significant difference in how the foreign policies of President Bush and Senator Kerry will impact Israel, and I have come to the conclusion that it would be best for Israel if Senator Kerry is elected.

We cannot really know if President Bush decided to invade Iraq based on poor intelligence he received or if he was determined to make a case for invading Iraq from the start. We do know the consequences to date of the invasion and the subsequent decisions the President has made: Iraq is in a state best described as a civil war and has a very uncertain future. The invasion has flamed the fans of already strong anti-Americanism in the region. The United States is viewed as an aggressor and an occupier of an Arab state. While the invasion of Iraq may have been supported by the Israeli government I fear it has, in effect, made Israel far less secure and threatens to destabilize the entire Middle East.

In addition, President Bush and the United States as a whole are now mistrusted not only by Arab and Islamic states but by many of our traditional allies as well. The advantage Senator Kerry would have as President is that he will be in a position to rebuild trust and rebuild alliances in a way that is now impossible for President Bush. A Kerry administration would have the ability to open dialogs and resolve issues in a way the current administration simply cannot.

Equally important is Senator Kerry's placing a high priority on ending American dependence on Arab oil and developing alternative energy sources. That dependence forces the U.S. government to tread lightly when dealing with totalitarian, despotic, corrupt Arab regimes who often support terrorism. Senator Kerry writes:

We must insure that our dependence on Middle East oil no longer hampers our ability to act as a strong moral force in the world.

He also specifically addresses the issue of Saudi funding of terrorism, stating that as President he will:

End the Bush Administration's kid-glove approach to the supply and laundering of terrorist money in Saudi Arabia and demand that Riyadh shut down Saudi-based "charities" that finance al Qaeda and other terrorist networks."

Considering that over 50% of Hamas funding comes from Saudi Arabia this change in policy would, if implemented, have a dramatic effect in helping Israel fight Palestinian terrorism. There is no doubt that the constant need to avoid offending the Saudi royal family has hindered the wider war on Islamic fascism and radicalism as well.

It is abundantly clear that President Bush has had a pro-Israel foreign policy. However, there is a real question if that policy has been as effective as it can be in promoting and safeguarding American interests. I firmly believe that a strong, secure Israel is in America's interests . Senator Kerry's stated policies will enhance Israel's security. He may even be able to help bring about a situation in which the Palestinians may finally realize that continuing their war of terror will get them absolutely nowhere.

In the November election we have a choice between a President who has the best of intentions but a flawed policy and a Senator who has an approach to the Middle East which is extremely promising for those who desire stability. It offers a new hope for peace based on a realistic understanding of the politics and problems in the region. Electing John Kerry in November is, to me, the best thing for America's security and for Israel's as well.

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