Thursday, March 4, 2004

For many American Jews, anyone who writes disapprovingly of the policies of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and of his Dionysian neo-conservative backers in Washington is evidence of “classic anti-Semitism.” The mere reference to “neo-cons” is interpreted to mean an attack against a “Jewish cabal.” This is particularly galling to someone who is entitled to live in Israel under the Law of Return and who has been covering the Middle East on and off for half a century — and is the fortunate recipient of 10 major journalism awards for Middle Eastern reporting. Israeli newspapers — particularly Ha’aretz, the New York Times of Israel — make our own critiques tame by comparison.

What one reader described as “overtly anti-Semitic screeds” were columns that described the grand design of the Bush-Sharon doctrine “meritorious if it works.” The creation of a democratic state in Iraq, we explained, was the opening phase of a policy designed to surround Israel with democratic states, thus guaranteeing the Jewish state a generation of security. We also expressed doubts that thisworthyobjectivewas achievable, witness the current situation in Iraq and a cursory examination of contemporary Iraqi history.

What seems to be particularly vexing to American Jews is to be reminded that this grand design originated in a paper written in 1996 by Richard Perle and Douglas Feith for the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank. The document was titled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” It was intended to be a blueprint for the incoming government of Benjamin Netanyahu. The complete break with the past was to be a new strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism.”

Israel, according to this 1996 Perle-Feith paper, would “shape its strategic environment,” beginning with the removal of Saddam Hussein and the restoration of the Hashemite monarchy in Baghdad (Iraq and Jordan, prior to May 1958, shared a joint monarchial system).

The rebuilding of Zionism, the paper urged, must at the same time abandon any thought of trading land for peace with the Arabs, which it described as “cultural, economic, political, diplomatic and military retreat.” This strategic road map, we wrote in February 2003, which had been followed faithfully by Mr. Netanyahu and his successor, Mr. Sharon — called for the abandonment of the Oslo accords “under which Israel has no obligations if the PLO does not fulfill its obligations.

“Our claim to the land (of the West Bank) — to which we have clung for 2,000 years — is legitimate and noble,” the paper said, adding, “only the unconditional acceptance by the Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, is a solid basis for the future.”

For the strategy to succeed, Mr. Perle and Mr. Feith wrote, Israel would have to win broad American support for these new policies. And to ensure support in Washington, the Israeli prime minister was advised to use “language familiar to the Americans by tapping into themes of past U.S. Administrations during the Cold War, which apply as well to Israel.” Which is exactly what Mr. Sharon did after September 11, thus convincing President Bush that his war on terrorism and Israel’s were one and the same.

The column that described the Perle-Feith paper was scrolled on the screen when NBC’s Tim Russert was interviewing Mr. Perle on “Meet the Press.” Mr. Russert asked him what he had to say about it. Mr. Perle replied, “What’s wrong with that?”

Mr. Russert is not anti-Semitic. Nor is this writer. Nor is The Washington Post’s Bob Kaiser, who wrote on Feb. 9, 2003, Washington’s “Likudniks” — shorthand for Mr. Sharon’s powerful backers in the Bush administration — have been in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East since Mr. Bush was sworn into office.

If the Perle-Feith geopolitical medicine cures the Arab patient and democracy sprouts in Iraq, Syria, Egypt and the Gulf states, we will be among the first to applaud.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and United Press International.

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