Former National Security Council Deputy Elliott Abrams visited Israel last week, and gave an interview to his sister in law, Ruthie Blum of the Jerusalem Post. It is a long feature that covers a lot of ground and is worth reading in full – but I’ll just quote here one part that caught my eye.
When Blum asks Abrams about prospective Israeli-Syrian negotiations, Abrams – no admirer of the Assad regime – takes a notably cool and circumspect approach. While he does say, “It’s really hard to envision a government worse than Assad’s, for Israel or for the people of Syria,” he refrains from criticizing Israel for choosing the path of renewed negotiation:
Israel is in a very different situation from that of the US. Your margin of security is smaller. And you don’t live between Canada and Mexico and two big oceans. So, while we can sort of experiment with Syria – and if we get it wrong, so we get it wrong – you, obviously, can’t afford to get it wrong with a place like Syria.
Americans can afford a certain luxury of theoretical absolutes that Israel cannot so easily put into practice. And while this doesn’t necessarily mean that those criticical of a “peace process” with the Syrian regime get it all wrong – Noah‘s disapproval is one example, and his point is well taken – it does make the necessary distinction between policies devised by those who can take a more philosophical long-term view and those tasked with preventing the short-term danger of bloodshed.