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Kristof: US should stop biting tongue on Israel
Published: Saturday March 17, 2007
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Whether they have "learned to muzzle themselves" or they "just don't get it," US politicians should stop biting their tongues when it comes to Israel, New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof argues in Sunday's paper.

"Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Bush's crushing embrace of Israel," Kristof writes.

And since "[t]here is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians," Kristof believes, the "silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself."

"Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories," Kristof notes. "Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper."

According to Kristof, "Hard-line Israeli policies have profoundly harmed that country's long-term security by adding vulnerable settlements, radicalizing young Palestinians, empowering Hamas and Hezbollah, isolating Israel in the world and nurturing another generation of terrorists in Lebanon. The Israeli right's aggressive approach has only hurt Israeli security, just as in much the same way that Bush's invasion of Iraq ended up harming U.S. interests."

Discussing what happened after Hezbollah kidnapped and killed Israeli troops last summer, Kristof believes that "Bush would have been a much better friend to Israel if he had tried to rein in Olmert," after the prime minister "invaded Lebanon and thus transformed Hezbollah into a heroic force in much of the Arab world."

"So let's be better friends -- and stop biting our tongues," Kristof argues.

Excerpts from op-ed:


One reason for the void is that American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves. In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries, Howard Dean said he favored an "even-handed role" for the United States -- and was blasted for being hostile to Israel. Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say: "Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people." In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton has safely refused to show an inch of daylight between herself and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

A second reason may be that American politicians just don't get it. King Abdullah of Jordan spoke to Congress this month and observed: "The wellspring of regional division, the source of resentment and frustration far beyond, is the denial of justice and peace in Palestine." Though widely criticized, King Abdullah was exactly right: from Morocco to Yemen to Sudan, the Palestinian cause arouses ordinary people in coffee shops more than almost anything else.

You can argue that Arabs pursue a double standard, focusing on repression by Israelis while ignoring greater human rights violations by fellow Arabs. But the suffering in Palestinian territories, while not remotely at the scale of brutality in Sudan or Iraq, is still tragically real.