Nothing has been more “too good to be true” than the fantasy that the war in Iraq might somehow give Israel a genuine Arab ally in the Middle East while undermining the need to trade land-for-peace with the Palestinians.
That goal did not cause America to invade Iraq on March, 2003, but it was a principle hope of the war’s architects.
What a fete it might have been, though. After all, dreams of an Israel-Arab friendship never quite materialized despite “peace accords” with Egypt and Jordan that remain chilled.
Israel’s snake oil lobbyists in the Bush administration believed that transforming Iraq into an Israeli ally would eclipse the need to compromise with Palestinians and instead create a new movement to energize the international front against Iran, Syria and the new Islamicism.
But alas, nothing pulled the magic carpet out from under that pipe dream faster than the Iraqi Study Group report released last week. Not only did it trash the Iraq war as doomed to failure, but it urged the Bush administration to finally turn its attention towards reviving Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
Rather than a bulwark against international terrorism and extremism, Iraq today is the most prolific recruiting ground for al-Qaeda terrorists, suicide bombers and international jihadists.
Everyone in the Bush administration had a stake in believing the fantasy could come true.
Foremost was the cabal of Bush administration strategists who earned their titles as Israel’s most hawkish neo-conservative cheerleaders. They included Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton.
They exploited conservative media friendships with the sorts of Judith Miller of the New York Times who helped falsify the Iraq case. Dovetailing Israel’s interest into the pre-war lies came easy as they exploited the naïve and inexperienced Bush.
Bush wanted to believe, pushed by his grudge against Saddam Hussein. So too did the Israelis, who tired of endless violence, failed peace and realization Palestinians will not knuckle under to occupation or chintzy peace proposals.
Who in Israel could forget that Iraq was the only Arab country in any past conflict to lob missiles into Israel? Though the Scud missiles were relatively ineffective, they represented a huge psychological Arab victory overshadowed only by the successes of Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Israel should consider better plan
What drove the strategy was not some “Protocols-like conspiracy” of Jews, but rather, the enthusiasm of the powerbrokers who had a genuine love – or bias – for Israel. Some were Jews but many more Christian Evangelists and Neo-cons from the conservative Right driven by blind devotion.
They oppose Israel’s returning land for peace and they advocated a military victory, something more moderate strategists believe is impossible.
And it began long before Sept. 11th.
Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Rumsfeld and Bolton believed Iraq was a perfect place to begin the transformation of the Arab World. They said so in public speeches and letters during the Bush administration, urging the president to invade Iraq.
Perle was a director of the conservative Jerusalem Post. Feith was the number 3 man at the Pentagon, repeatedly investigated for allegedly passing US information to Israel. Wolfowitz became Iraq’s first post-invasion “Governor” and along with Rumsfeld was the chief architect of the invasion. Bolton later became its chief advocate in the United Nations, where he was eventually forced to step down.
But re-crafting Iraq into a pro-Israel Arab bastion hinged on one crucial event: Winning the war in Iraq. Rather than transforming Iraq into a safe haven for Israel, the war has instead destabilized the entire Middle East, emboldened the jihadists to broader goals, and exposed Israel to a more violent and bleaker future.
The Iraq war has transformed from a “War on Terrorism” to a more frightening “civil war.” And both sides of that war hate Israel.
The bi-partisan report released last week bluntly declared that the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz strategy of “staying the course” that Bush clings to like a life-preserver in an Atlantic hurricane is leading the region to greater disaster.
The group even raced across Israel’s Maginot-line urging Bush reach out to two of Israel’s staunchest enemies, Syria and Iran, for help.
The panel revived the dormant proposal that real peace depends on Israelis reaching a lasting peace accord with Palestinians.
Bush publicly rejects the recommendations to begin a withdrawal from Iraq or to negotiate with Syria or Iran, but that’s only because his Republican Party has been seriously damaged by the war effort and he needs to stand tough as the next presidential election campaigns begin in earnest next year.
If I were Israeli, I wouldn’t wait to see if Bush is playing politics or is rigid in his opposition to Syrian and Iranian talks.
Israelis should consider a better plan: Compromise with Palestinians, use that to add substance to treaties with neighboring secular Arab nations like Jordan and Egypt, and form one front that might stop the religious jihadists who steadily are building a base in the Middle East that threatens more than just Israel.
Ray Hanania was named “2006/2007 Best Ethnic Columnist by the New America Media. He can be reached at www.hanania.com