Bush’s cozying up to Israel

04.21.04

Bush’s cozying up to Israel in the last couple of weeks came to a peak today, when he said that the world should thank Ariel Sharon for proposing a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and most of the West Bank:

President Bush on Wednesday rejected international condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and said world leaders owed him a “thank you” for his plans for the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Bush blasted the Palestinian leadership as having “failed the people, year after year after year” by not preventing terrorism against the Jewish state.

Many pro-Israel bloggers, like LGF and Damian Penny, are commending Bush for having the guts to speak the truth. And I certainly won’t argue the veracity of Bush’s statements.

But the cynic in me notes two facts: 1) The Israelis aren’t exactly impressed and 2) it’s an election year.

Israel is skeptical. The tiny country has learned the hard way that relying on your friends – even your best friends – can only take you so far. Sooner or later they all turn on you and you have to be able to rely on yourself. Bush is only a friend to Israel as long as it’s politically savvy to be one.

And in an election year, Bush has no doubt calculated that his core base of the religious right is staunchly pro-Zionist. And he may even be thinking that some of the votes he’ll lose to Kerry over the Iraq war might be recouped by stealing some of the traditionally-Democratic Jewish votes, though this is less likely (despite what the conspiracy freakazoids will tell you) because, well, the Jewish vote isn’t that big and most of them will vote Democrat anyway.

In any case, the battle lines were drawn a long time ago, but now they’re digging in at the trenches. The U.S. and Israel are lined up against – well – pretty much everyone. The United States is a great friend to Israel but at the same time, the pariah status that Israel has enjoyed is now also shared by Bush and his government.

This just brings to mind the strange bedfellows caution: be careful who you get too close to. Despite Bush’s recent statements, Sharon isn’t exactly going to win any popularity polls in the Arab world, or even in Europe. And, for that matter, neither is Bush. For the enemies of the U.S. and Israel, this is just the same old song. If Israel wants to score some points in world opinion, it needs the endorsement of more than just the United States.

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