Commentary Magazine

Message in a Missile

Message in a Missile

Vladimir Putin bolstered his Syrian ally, Bashar al-Assad, last month, but that wasn’t the only important and recent example of Moscow’s flexing its muscles in the Middle East. Putin also acted to ensure that an ally of Damascus would feel more secure against the possibility of Western attack. The Russians approved the sale of advanced S-300 antiaircraft missiles to Iran in September and promised to build the ayatollahs yet another nuclear reactor. This sale, as well as the threat to send even more arms to Iran, showed that Putin intends to rebuild the old Soviet sphere of influence in the region by exploiting the instability and perceived weakness of the Obama administration. And while the administration has sought to “reset” relations with Putin in order to gain his support for isolating Iran, the assumption that he fears a nuclear Iran as much as the U.S. may be incorrect. At the very least, the Russian gesture makes it even more unlikely that Iran will negotiate in good faith on the nuclear issue with an eager Barack Obama. At worst, it may convince the Iranians they can go nuclear with impunity.

Talk Peace or Pressure Israel?

John Kerry managed to pressure both Israel and the Palestinian Authority to take part in a new round of peace talks that convened in August. The initial reports from the negotiations, however, illustrated the reason why many thought the idea was a fool’s errand. First, the Palestinian team objected to being left alone in the room occasionally with their Israeli counterparts. The PA negotiators preferred to hide behind the United States in the hope of being spared the embarrassment of having to say yes or no to direct Israeli offers. Just as telling was their call for Americans to force the Israelis to bend to Palestinian demands on every conceivable point. Though the talks continued, the PA seemed as eager as ever to keep up the conflict.

Peace Through Profits? No Way

Since the earliest days of Zionism, Jews have dreamed of effecting peace with the Arab world through goodwill and joint business ventures that could bring prosperity to both communities. The latest iteration of this effort comes from the burgeoning high-tech sector of Israel’s economy. Many firms are looking for Palestinian partners for projects that will not only be profitable but will also promote coexistence and peace. But a Forbes magazine cover story on the “profits for peace” trend prompted a hysterical reaction from those Palestinian businessmen whose activities were profiled.

Though not averse to publicity for their firms, these Palestinians were horrified at being linked in any way to the idea of peace with Israelis. As a follow-up story in Forbes related, they fear the deadly consequences of being branded as “collaborators” with Jews. If even entrepreneurs eager to do business with Israelis see any such associations as a threat to their lives and livelihoods, what does this say about the chances of selling peace to other Palestinians? Despite assurances from the Obama administration, it appears Palestinian culture remains stuck in a cycle of hatred from which there is no escape.

About That Turkish Reconciliation

The fall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt and the subsequent violent attacks on Islamists by that country’s military sparked a debate about the wisdom of continuing U.S. aid to Cairo. But one of the most interesting reactions to events in Egypt came from Turkey, an erstwhile U.S. ally whose leader was touted by President Obama as among his best friends. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a staunch ally of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and took his overthrow very badly. But rather than concentrate his fire on the Egyptian army and those who supported the coup, Erdogan blamed a familiar scapegoat: Israel and the Jews. According to the Turkish leader, the collapse of the Brotherhood government was the result of an Israeli plot.

This demonstrated just how strong anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are in the Turkish ruling party. It also brought to mind President Obama’s twisting of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s arm in order to manufacture an end to hostile relations between Israel and Turkey earlier this year. Despite Israel’s unnecessary apology for its actions during the Gaza flotilla incident, the Turks have done nothing to normalize relations between the two countries—as Obama said they would. Like much else that has happened during the last five years, the faux reconciliation illustrates the gap between the president’s expectations and reality.

Banning the Truth About the UN

In August, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon admitted something that was not exactly a secret: Israel is subjected to bias and discriminatory treatment by the world body. The admission came during a speech Ban gave to university students at the UN’s Jerusalem headquarters, and it wasn’t long before the UN chief realized he had committed the unpardonable sin of telling the truth. Only a few days later, when he was asked about his pronouncement that “Israel has been weighed down by criticism and suffered from bias and sometimes even discrimination,” Ban simply contradicted himself and said no such discrimination existed. But subsequent to that, Ban’s spokesman told Israel Radio that the retraction wasn’t a retraction and that the UN leader stuck by what he originally said.

While confusion about the issue is a little better than outright denial, the walk back of Ban’s truthful confession tells us all we need to know about the problem. Many UN agencies, including those supposedly devoted to promoting human rights, dedicate much of their resources to bolstering the war against Israel in a manner that crosses the line into open anti-Semitism. If Ban is serious about combating this despicable trend, he’ll have to do more than just talk about it in Israel.

About the Author

Jonathan Tobin is senior online editor of COMMENTARY.

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